The Self-Esteem Rule: One Simple Way to Recognize Abuse


Abuse is a sneaky little thing. Often times, it creeps into relationships without either person really understanding what’s happening. Sure, there are warning signs, but unless you know exactly what those are, it’s easy to overlook abusive behavior or even justify it.  And the tricky part is – even in healthy relationships – people can slip up. Especially during hard times. So how can you tell if you’re in an abusive relationship?  

I had someone in  my life that I thought was incredibly nice – they always seemed so sweet. But as I spent more time with them, I slowly started questioning my every thought. I stopped feeling confident enough to have my own opinion – I started hating myself. I realized something was wrong. This person was affecting me in a negative way. I watched for clues and soon discovered that every time I voiced something, this person would belittle my comment and answer me like I was dumb.

Often, it’s hard to distance ourselves enough from the situation to see those clues. 

That’s why I came up with one simple rule that’s helped me know if a relationship is heading down the wrong path – even if I can’t see the signs in front of me.


I like to call it “The Self-Esteem Rule.”

What’s the Self-esteem Rule?

As a general guideline, relationships, especially romantic ones, should make you feel like you can take on the world. Yes, there might be times where one person accidentally lowers your confidence, but overall your self-esteem should grow through your relationship, not diminish.

The Self Esteem Test

So if you are in a relationship or about to be in one, ask yourself the following simple questions:


  1. How do I feel about myself?


  1. On a scale of 1-10, how awesome am I? (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest)


  1. What are 5 things I’m really good at?


Based on your answers, you should be able to tell where your self-esteem is at.


If you answered the above questions fairly positively–you feel good about yourself, you rated yourself between an 8-10 on the awesomeness scale, and you can name 5 things you’re good at– then your self-esteem is pretty high. Congratulations! Odds are you’re in a healthy relationship.


If you answered the above questions fairly negatively–you don’t feel so good about yourself, you rate yourself below an 8 on the awesomeness scale, and you can’t name more than 3 things you are good at– then your self-esteem is pretty low. It might be time to look deeper into your relationship.

Now sometimes I get into moods where I spiral into depression and self-hatred where regardless of how awesome the people in my life are, I still dislike myself. There’s a super easy way to check if this is because your relationship (or not) – go ask your partner to answer those same three questions for you. If you’re in a healthy relationship, your partner should be able to come up with some pretty positive answers, even if you’re having a hard time feeling good about yourself.


If your partner has a hard time coming up with answers, belittles or degrades you, something’s not quite right.


In the end, the Self Esteem Rule is all about finding out if your partner is your number one fan.

Your partner should be your number one cheerleader and if he/she can’t get you pumped about life, it’s time to find a new cheerleader.

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