Four self esteem assessment questions to ask yourself

Is what other people think of you important? Most of us would answer “yes.” But then on further consideration most of us might also say, “it depends.”

There was an interesting study conducted a few years ago in which college students were asked to interpret an ambiguous message about why a potential romantic partner could not spend time with them.

Students who had low self esteem tended to put too much weight on what others thought of them and not enough on what they thought of themselves and, as a result, blamed themselves for the rejection.

In Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy—Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships, I discuss the sponge effect where a woman tends to soak up negativity from the other and blames herself for whatever may be going wrong in a romance. Instead of objectively seeing the relationship as it is, she may spend her time focusing on what she may or may not have done wrong to warrant her partner’s distance.

Continually blaming yourself and wondering what you have done wrong to cause your love interest to not pursue you perpetuates dysfunctional romance.

When someone you are interested in is not pursuing you, asking yourself what you are doing wrong is an ineffective strategy. Instead, consider if over-focusing on your flaws is causing an under-focus on how you experience your partners from your own perspective.

Excessively worrying about his perception of you, too often, may form an axis around which a couple’s relationship erratically circles. How does a woman break this circle?

First, recognition is helpful. For many, just recognizing the destructive pattern opens the door to change.

Second, self-recognition can grow with practice. Remind yourself over and over again to see the world, your relationships and yourself through your own eyes and deemphasize perceived judgments issued by others.

Third, ask yourself what you like or dislike about your love interest separate from wanting to make sure he likes you. Do you enjoy spending time with him? Does he show a genuine interest in wanting to know you on various levels? Is he reliable? Do you feel calm in his presence? Does he do what he says he is going to do?

Fourth, notice if you are adopting the perspective of someone else even when you feel differently. Work to keep your own perspective alive through openly discussing your point of view.

Here are four questions from a longer self-assessment in my book that can help you determine if you lean too far in the direction of gauging your self-worth based on how others see you.

1. I am worried people will see me as a fraud, and I will be exposed.

2. Sometimes after a social event, I feel great about myself, but within a few hours or a day, I feel depleted.

3. I want to stay just as I am, but I am unhappy where I am

4. Even when I do achieve a goal, I immediately begin to feel anxious about the next task on my list.

If you answer “yes’ to these questions, stop and consider if you give your feelings and self-opinions high enough priority.

I have discussed women here. Of course, men too have a role to play in one-sided romantic relationships. However, women in these circumstances who choose to wait for their partner to positively change and cure the problem are waiting for a bus that never arrives.

Take the initiative—that in itself signals that you value yourself.


Ford, M.B. & Collins, N.L. (2010). Self-esteem moderates neuroendocrine and psychological responses to interpersonal rejection. Journal ofPersonality and Social Psychology, 98, 405-419.

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