As the Houston marriage counselor, I’ve found that there’s one piece of relationship advice most have my clients have heard before: you must love yourself before you can love another. But what does it really mean? It’s simple: in order to build a healthy relationship, you need to begin with you. If you have an unhealthy relationship with yourself, it’s difficult – maybe even impossible – to develop a positive connection with someone else. What it boils down to is self-esteem.

This piece of relationship advice isn’t about narcissism or selfishness; it’s learning how to love yourself at no one else’s expense. It’s not about ignoring your flaws or imperfections; it’s about accepting them and practicing self-forgiveness and self-compassion.

If you have positive self-esteem, it means you have a good opinion of yourself regardless of what others think. Your self-image isn’t dependent on others’ compliments or insults. You know your own intrinsic value.

Houston Marriage Counselor on How to Develop Better Self-Esteem

If you find yourself struggling with low self-esteem, there are exercises you can do to work on building a more positive self-image. As a Houston marriage counselor, I tell my clients to sit down and make a few lists when they run into a situation where they feel bad about themselves.

  1. Write down three things you can do to improve how you’re feeling – that aren’t dependent on others. For example, you can take a warm bath, go for a walk, or listen to music.
  2. Write down three people you love and feel connected to in a warm, caring way.
  3. Write down three things you have done that are compassionate or to support and protect others.
  4. Write down three things that you think are beautiful, and make a plan to appreciate those things more often, whether that means taking a trip to enjoy an ocean view or spending more time with your child.

Take the time to do this every time that you are feeling down about yourself. It will remind you about your positive attributes – your compassion and strength. It will also empower you to slow down and appreciate the things in life that really matter, the beauty that surrounds us and the people we love. And it will also provide you with a list of activities and ways that you can help yourself to cope with negative feelings in a productive way.

Many of my Houston marriage counselor clients admit to feeling silly doing this exercise at first. What can words on a page really do? It turns out, they can do a lot! Studies have found that reflecting in this way on a regular basis does have an effect on your outlook. Over time, you may find that you take more joy from your life, enabling you take – and give – more joy in your marriage.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Relationship Advice

If you are struggling with low self-esteem and the marriage issues it causes, I encourage you to seek help from the Houston marriage counselor.