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What is the relationship between low self-esteem and emotional dependence?

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Social relationships are a source of emotional well-being as long as they are healthy and are based on respect and equality. We are social animals, so we need the company and acceptance of others to have good mental health.

Unfortunately, there are people who establish dysfunctional relationships, with high emotional dependence, because they have the belief that they are absolutely nobody if they are alone.

The relationship between low self-esteem and emotional dependence greatly influences psychological well-being and it is the origin of toxic and asymmetric relationships. Let's find out how it happens.

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The link between low self-esteem and emotional dependency

Human beings are social animals, which makes our mental health highly dependent on the quality of our interactions with others. We have a need to like others and spend time with other people. We need to be part of a collective, a group in which we share our values, tastes and emotions

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. Whatever they say, everyone needs to be in the company of other people, even just a little bit.

However, the excessive search for the approval of others can turn into a problem of pathological level. We all need other people to accept us, but if we make it our main motivation, believing that if we do not have social acceptance we are worth nothing, it is clear that we are facing a behavior problematic. This is where we can come across the relationship between low self-esteem and emotional dependence.

Some people need to feel like everyone absolutely likes them. Because they have very low self-esteem, they are very sensitive to criticism and the opinions of others, which can greatly influence your mood. If they flatter them, they will feel very good, but at the minimum that someone says something bad about them, even if it is something that is not true, their humor will be on the ground.

People with low self-esteem and high emotional dependence have significant emotional deficiencies, which push them to try to please others in any way. They have a negative assessment of themselves which, when combined with affective deficiencies, have the enormous need to try to be accepted by others, even if it means humbling yourself or doing things denigrating. In case of not being accepted, these people may be unable to find the meaning of their existence.

The importance of emotional dependence

We cannot understand the relationship between low self-esteem and emotional dependence without first understanding what we mean by this type of dependence. We can say that people with emotional dependence almost uncontrollably need the affection and attention of others. Because of this they feel a true phobia of abandonment and loneliness, which makes them become people who are subordinate in their personal relationships, to avoid at all costs doing something that displeases those who want to please and that they leave their side.

People with emotional dependence cannot meet their emotional needs on their own. account, with which they want to cover them by establishing dysfunctional emotional ties with other people. This means that they can develop parasitic and asymmetric relationships, that is, unequal relationships in which they sacrifice for others. They are willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship last forever.

The combo of low self-esteem and emotional dependence makes people crave relationships where they feel protected and loved.. They do not care about the quality of the relationship, they just want to feel accepted within them, which is why they establish very intense but also unstable emotional ties. As we have mentioned, they are people who will do everything possible to feel loved even if it can even hurt them.

How does dependency affect?

One of the problems with emotional dependence on others is that, in case the attention or the "affection" that the person is looking for is not received, they will begin to have irrational doubts about their own worth. In his mind the idea of ​​not being valued by a specific person can be interpreted as synonymous with uselessness, little importance and not being necessary. They value their existence based on how much appreciation they receive from others. Of course, this affects the self-esteem and well-being of the emotionally dependent person.

As a result of this, the emotionally dependent will begin to feel very bad, sadness being a feeling that is very present in the lives of emotionally dependent people. Because of this you can enter a vicious cycle of emotional emptiness and chronic dissatisfaction, a loop from which it is very difficult to get out without the proper professional help and which can lead to depression.

Dependent people who do have friends or people who give them the feeling that they accept them cannot avoid having an irrational fear of loneliness, a fear that produces a very high anxiety. This anxiety arises from constantly thinking about the possibility of being alone, despite the fact that objectively the person they have by their side would not have to abandon them. Likewise, they cannot avoid getting out of this anxious state, and in order to prevent the dreaded situation from happening at all costs, they will accept without complaint any type of gesture that they make, including mistreatment.

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Improve self esteem

In the relationship between low self-esteem and dependence, we cannot clearly identify one as the cause and the other as the effect, since both really feed off each other. A low self-esteem will make the person, to the minimum that he finds someone who accepts him with his “defects” (even if they are unreal) will stick like a limpet to that person showing a high emotional dependence, while if we look at it from the other side, a person closely linked to another may begin to have an increasingly worse view of himself and develop the belief that without her friend or partner he is nobody.

Although we are social animals as we have already commented, it is clear that the person we are going to spend the most time with is with ourselves. The main "social" relationship in life is the one we maintain with ourselves and for it to be healthy we must see ourselves well, accept ourselves just as we are, knowing that we have our strengths and our weaknesses but that we can improve in what we let's propose.

When we try to like other people when we do not even like ourselves, it is normal to end up falling into a relationship of dependency. Therefore to avoid falling into toxic relationships we must improve our perception of ourselves, improve self-esteem and make an effort to feel good emotionally and psychologically, regardless of what others may think about us. We have to treat ourselves as we would like to be treated, and not the other way around.

Bibliographic references:

  • Hirschfeld, R. M, Klerman, G. L., Chodoff, P., Korchin, S., & Barrett, J. (1976). Dependency — self-esteem — clinical depression. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 4 (3), 373–388.
  • Iancu, I., Bodner, E., & Ben-Zion, I. Z. (2015). Self esteem, dependency, self-efficacy and self-criticism in social anxiety disorder. Comprehensive psychiatry, 58, 165–171. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.comppsych.2014.11.018
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