No self-esteem following a betrayal

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I am 21 years old, and lately I’ve been experienced a lot of anxiety. My childhood was a normal childhood, I am the oldest of four children, my parents are married, and both work and I grew up in a small town and had a really happy normal childhood. Since I was little (about 12) I lacked self confidence, but then I started gained it, and by the time I was 15 I was in a pretty good place in my life, I loved it, I had many friends a happy and great life, and that year I met my current boyfriend. After a year of being together, he cheated on me with another girl, that killed me he was the first person I had ever truly loved and he did that to me, he apologized and begged for me to take him back so I did; and we’ve been together since then. A year or so after that, he moved out of the country and we broke up, I was devastated, because I felt like after all the years spent with him nothing counted, and it was when this whole paranoia and lack of self confidence started. Not so long ago he asked me to get back together, I was really happy but then again my situation of low self-confidence and self-esteem got worse each day. Currently I feel like I have no control over my actions, I feel like in my past I was really outgoing and could make friends easily, now I can’t, I feel as if I am boring and I rethink a million times everything I want to say or do, which as a result brings having a difficult time meeting new people. I feel paranoid all the time thinking people are going to talk bad about me behind my back or will think I look bad or I’m fat or ugly, I feel as if I have lost all of my personality. I get really furious at myself almost everyday when I see pictures of other girls my same age or even younger than me that I know partying, traveling and having a great time, while I’m sitting at my house not enjoying my youth, because my paranoia of not being good enough won’t let me. These problems have affected my relationship with my boyfriend and my family. My boyfriend constantly tells me that I have changed, that I am not as fun and adventurous as I used to be, that I acted as if I had lost my personality, the one which he fell in love with, and I feel he is right, I also feel scared all the time that he will leave me any time and find a girl that is happier and more fun than me. Rewarding my family, I’m always moody I treat my brothers and sisters very bad, by getting easily irritated by them and I find myself screaming and yelling at them all the time, as if I had no patience with them and could not stand their site. Not only has my personal life has been going down the drain I have also been getting bad academic reports, in the past year I have failed 2 classes, and my grades have decreased incredibly. I mentioned the fact that my boyfriend cheated on me before, because I feel that in a way this has to do with everything that I am going through right now, after that happened my life started going down the drain and it hasn’t stopped. Every single aspect of my life was affected by the fact that the person I loved and trusted the most betrayed me, cheated on me, with a girl I even knew! I forgave him because he demonstrated he cared, and he showed me in so many ways he loves me and he was so extremely sorry. What makes me more mad it is not the fact that he cheated on me, but the fact that this girl with who cheated on me with had everything going for her, even though she is a horrible mean person she seems to have everything in a perfect way, perfect hair, perfect car, perfect body, perfect friends, perfect everything and I don’t. I feel like myself is in ruins, literally. Another thing that makes me so uncomfortable is my boyfriend’s family; because of my low self esteem and the fact that I am so different in every way from them, I feel as if they hate me; I’m paranoid about what they might think of me, when I’m with them I’m afraid to speak or say something, because of the fear of making a fool out of myself, so I come off as rude and shy, so I have no idea what to do. I feel so alone because I have no one to talk to, no one to express myself with, I have no friends, I have gotten FAT I have gained more than 10 pounds from eating so much (anxiety), my boyfriend lives in another country and currently reminds me of how much he’s noticed that I have changed, my academic has been awful, I am depressed, I cry every single night hoping my attitude will change. Please help me, I have tried to change but I feel lost, I feel as if something is missing, I am not satisfied with my life, I feel as if my best years are going by and I’m in my room crying and eating. Please help me I feel as if I have no control over my life, what do you think I should do?

A: I am glad you are taking care of yourself by reaching out to us here. Your self-esteem has taken a hit because you are too dependent on your boyfriend as a barometer for your own emotional wellbeing. This isn’t a very functional relationship, from what you are telling me, and I can understand why you would feel insecure and anxious. Your trust in him is shaky (at best). He is living in another country, and his criticism of your changes doesn’t help. It is time to reclaim yourself and become more self-reliant and resilient.

I am not suggesting you end the relationship, but I am asking you to put it in perspective. It sounds like you are drawn to his potential rather than his reality. Obviously you get something out of the relationship, but don’t confuse what you want him to be with who he is.

I would begin reclaiming your life and work on getting yourself back. Start a program of taking care of your body, your intellectual development and your emotional wellbeing. Your boyfriend cannot do these things for you. You have to take care of yourself. If you do this it is a win-win situation. If the relationship survives then you will be less needy and more capable and happier in it. If the relationship doesn’t survive you will be able to move on with confidence.

A therapist during this time is a good idea. If you don’t already have one you may want to begin and create some emotional support. The college you are going to will have a counselling center with a number of qualified therapists.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). No self-esteem following a betrayal. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/21/no-self-esteem-following-a-betrayal/