Are you sabotaging your relationship because of a negative self-concept? While we often hear about relationship issues that stem from a particular action or inaction—an affair, a lack of intimacy, a fight—some relationship problems start with an individual’s perception of their own self.

First, let me explain what I mean by the term ‘self-concept.’ Your self-concept is the way that you see yourself; it consists of what you believe about your abilities, characteristics, the things that you are ‘worthy of,’ and more. It can be different than your self-image, which is how you believe others perceive you.

Your self-concept and your self-image together make up your self-esteem, which affects your emotional state and the way you interact with the people around you. For example, if you see yourself as being unworthy of love, your negative self-concept will influence your self-esteem which will in turn influence your actions (you might hold back in your relationship because you feel like you don’t deserve your partner’s affection).

Your self-concept is entirely internal (someone who is convinced that they are unattractive may continue to believe that even if their partner tells them they find them attractive), which means that it’s up to you to make a change if you have negative beliefs about yourself. It’s entirely possible to train yourself to have a more positive self-concept, but it takes effort.

4 Ways to Improve Your Self-Concept

Say no to negative self-talk.  Self-talk is the internal monologue that you carry on throughout your day, and when your self-talk becomes negative, it affects your mood and behavior. The next time you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself, stop and reflect. Ask yourself what your reasoning is for thinking that way, whether your way of thinking will help you achieve your goals or whether it is self-defeating, and whether you can come up with a solution to think differently.

Remind yourself than only you can affect the way you feel. You can’t control the things that other people do, but you can control the way you feel and react. Recognizing this can help you feel like you have more power in your own life.

Think about your strengths. Nobody is perfect, but everybody has their strengths. Remind yourself what yours are and celebrate them. It may help to actually write down the things that you like about yourself and look back at this list when you start thinking negative thoughts.

Be who you truly are. You shouldn’t force yourself to act a certain way for your partner or for yourself. Being comfortable with yourself will help you gain confidence, and confidence is incredibly attractive and empowering.

If you believe that your poor self-concept, self-image, or self-esteem is beginning to hurt your relationship, consider scheduling a session with a Houston relationship counselor. Learn how to think more positively about yourself and your partner in order to build a healthier relationship.