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The Effect Of Self-Esteem On Romantic Relationships – Based On Recent Psychology Research




Self-esteem, a sense of personal value, affects every aspect of our lives. Our level of self-esteem influences the way we see the world and how we interpret each situation we find ourselves in. Self-esteem is therefore crucial for our everyday well-being, but yet few people are aware of its importance. We complain about not achieving the results we want in our careers, with our bodies or with our friends. Most of all, we complain when our most intimate relationships do not work the way we would like them to. In these situations it is easy to blame our partners, but perceived relationship difficulties may instead be due to our own low levels of self-esteem. Without a high level of self-esteem, romantic relationships can become frightening disappointments rather than sources of security, support and happiness.


Mental wellbeing

Flourishing relationships are to a large degree dependent of positive moods and attitudes of the partners involved. For example, Srivastava, McGonigal, Richards, Butler and Gross (2006) found that optimism is an important contributor to relationship long-term success and satisfaction. Unfortunately, people with low self-esteem experience negative emotions more often than people with high self-esteem (Conner & Barrett, 2005; Wood, Heimpel, & Michela, 2003), and they are less motivated than people with high self-esteem to repair their negative moods (Heimpel, Wood, Marchall, & Brown, 2002). Likewise, low self-esteem individuals have poorer mental and physical health, worse economic prospects, and higher levels of criminal behaviour, compared with high self-esteem individuals (Trzesniewski, Brent Donnellan, Moffitt, Robins, Poulton, & Caspi, 2006). In contrast, high self-esteem promotes happiness, mental health (Taylor & Brown, 1988) and life satisfaction (Kwan, Harris Bond, & Singelis, 1997). Thus, at least a moderate level of self-esteem seems to be a prerequisite for healthy human functioning, which in turn is a prerequisite for prospering romantic relationships.


Selection of partner

Level of self-esteem seems to be implicated, not only in how we behave in our relationships, but also in our selection of partners. By comparing participants’ attachment style dimensions, Collins and Read (1990) found that individuals tend to be in relationships with partners who share similar feelings about intimacy and dependability on others. However, people do not simply choose partners who are similar on every dimension of attachment. For example, individuals with low self-esteem and high levels of attachment anxiety do not choose partners who share their worries about being abandoned. Similarly, Mathes and Moore (1985) argued that individuals with low self-esteem seek to fulfill their ideal selves by choosing partners who they believe have the qualities they lack. Consequently, people choose partners with attachment styles that compliment their own.



Coping with problems

Level of self-esteem affects the kind of personal feedback people seek. On the one hand, some studies have found that people prefer to interact with others who view them as they view themselves. Hence, individuals with high self-esteem seek positive feedback and therefore prefer to interact with people that see them positively, whereas people with low self-esteem seek negative feedback and therefore prefer to interact with people that see them less positively (e.g. Swann, Griffin, & Gaines, 1987; Swann, de la Ronde, & Hixon, 1994). On the other hand, Bernichon, Cook and Brown (2003) found that high self-esteem participants seek self-verifying feedback even if it is negative, but low self-esteem participants seek positive feedback, even if it is not self-verifying. The truth behind these conflicting findings seems to be that people with low self-esteem are more hurt by negative feedback and therefore try to avoid it. However, to successfully avoid negative feedback they first have to find it, and they therefore constantly look out for it. For example, Brown and Dutton (1995) found that personal failures make low self-esteem participants feel worse compared to high self-esteem participants, probably because low self-esteem participants are less apt than high self-esteem participants to use effective coping mechanisms such as making external attributions for their failures (Blaine & Crocker, 1993) or emphasise their strengths in other domains (Dodgson & Wood, 1998). Furthermore, people with low self-esteem tend to over-generalise the negative implications of failure (Brown & Dutton, 1995), and they are more likely to make internal, global, and stable attributions when they encounter negative life events (Tennen, Herzberger & Nelson, 1987). As a result, people with low self-esteem adopt a more self-protective approach to life by aiming to avoid negative feedback.


This self-protective attitude and lack of appropriate coping mechanisms have important implications in romantic relationships. As people with low self-esteem are less able to cope with negative feedback, they are also less able to cope when problems arise in their relationships. In three studies, Murray, Rose, Bellavia, Holmes, & Kusche (2002) led participants to believe that there was a problem in their relationships. Although the methods for doing this are questionable for the first two studies, the last study led participants to believe that their partners (who were physically present) spent an excessive amount of time listing qualities in the target participants that they disapproved of. As indicated on questionnaires completed after this threat inducement, low self-esteem participants read too much into the perceived problems, seeing them as signs that their partner’s affections were waning. In contrast, participants with high self-esteem showed increased confidence in their partners’ continued acceptance. The authors thus concluded that people with low self-esteem perceive signs of rejection too readily when threatened by relatively mundane difficulties in their relationship. A suggested reason for this is that low self-esteem individuals’ occasional failures activate an ever-present worry that their partners will eventually discover their “true” selves and their affections might then diminish. This way in which low self-esteem individuals over-generalise consequences of minor difficulties apparently inhibits the development of trusting relationships. These findings therefore indicate how important self-esteem is for successful romantic relationships.


Protection against rejection

Murray et al. (2002) found that low self-esteem participants reported less positive views of their partners and diminished feelings of closeness after perceiving a threat to the relationship. Instead, high-self esteem participants coped with the problem by embellishing the positive qualities of their partners and drawing closer to the relationship. The same results were found by Murray, Holmes, MacDonald, & Ellsworth (1998). Consequently, it seems that people with low self-esteem attempt to protect themselves against potential rejection by devaluing their partners and thus downplaying the significance of what they stand to lose. By finding faults in their partners, the prospect of rejection appears less threatening because the partner is now seen as less desirable (Murray et al., 1998; Murray et al., 2002). Obviously, this strategy of coping with difficulties has detrimental effects on relationships. It is therefore understandable that dating partners of low self-esteem individuals report decreasingly positive perceptions of their partners, less satisfaction and greater conflict as their relationships progress (Murray, Holmes & Griffin, 1996). By devaluing their partners, low self-esteem individuals may thus bring about the end of the relationship, which is what they are trying to protect themselves against.


Interestingly, in the study by Murray et al. (1998) it was also found that low self-esteem participants devalued their partners and doubted their partners’ affections after an experimental manipulation intended boost to self-esteem. The authors suggested that this phenomenon might be because when low self-esteem participants received positive feedback (high scores on a questionnaire said to measure how considerately they behaved towards their partners) they activated thoughts of conditionality. In other words, low self-esteem participants might have started to think that their partners’ continued acceptance was dependent on their possession of specific virtues, rather than who they are intrinsically. This hypothesis is supported by findings by Schimel, Arndt, Pyszczynski, and Greenberg (2001), who found that positive social feedback based on what one considers to be intrinsic aspects of oneself reduces defensive reactions (such as distancing oneself from a negatively portrayed other), whereas positive social feedback based on one’s achievements does not. Thus, well-meaning attempts to soothe insecurities in low self-esteem partners by pointing to their virtues may instead exacerbate the insecurities.


The ways in which people with low self-esteem react to self-esteem threats can also be understood in terms of the sociometer theory (Leary et al., 1995). A threat to their self-esteem indicates a threat of social exclusion, and thus requires measures to eliminate this threat. As a result, individuals devalue their partners and distance themselves from them to make a potential rejection less threatening. This theory is also supported by the types of feedback people with high and low self-esteem seek following a threat to their self-esteem. As demonstrated by Vohs and Heatherton (2001), high self-esteem individuals seek feedback relating to their personal competence (e.g. intelligence) after a threat, whereas low self-esteem individuals seek feedback relating to whether or not others accept them. High self-esteem individuals become more independent after a threat, but low self-esteem people become more interdependent. Hence, level of self-esteem influences people to focus on different self-aspects after a self-esteem threat, so that high self-esteem individuals focus on personal aspects and low self-esteem participants focus on interpersonal self-aspects. However, although the sociometer theory states that a threat to self-esteem indicates a threat of exclusion, it does not say that people with low self-esteem automatically feel excluded when they encounter a self-esteem threat. Feelings of exclusion lead to lower self-esteem, but low self-esteem may not necessarily lead to feelings of exclusion, merely the anticipation of feeling it. For example, Leary et al. (1995) only found that exclusion leads to lower self-esteem and that perceived exclusion and low self-esteem are correlated. They did not demonstrate that low self-esteem leads to perceived exclusion. Consequently, it seems that low self-esteem per se may not necessarily make individuals feel excluded, but by constantly anticipating it, individuals with low self-esteem react in ways that eventually make their partners more likely to reject, and thus exclude, them.


The anxieties that low self-esteem individuals hold about being rejected can also be understood in terms of their anxious or avoidant adult attachment styles. Adult attachment researchers, such as Collins and Read (1990) and Srivastava and Beer (2005), have found that low self-esteem is correlated with high levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance. Anxious and avoidant adult attachments are thought to spring from inconsistent or avoidant care-giving throughout childhood, during which individuals learnt that love and support is not constantly available. Participants with these attachment styles therefore have relationships marked by emotional highs and lows, jealousy, and either less intimacy or obsessive preoccupation with their partners as they are afraid of losing them. People with secure attachments styles, on the other hand, have relationships characterized by happiness, trust, and friendship (Collins and Read, 1990). Hence, the insecurities and consequent inadequate coping strategies demonstrated by low self-esteem participants in the studies by Murray and her colleagues (e.g., Murray et al., 1998; Murray et al., 2002) may be due to anxious or avoidant attachments established during their childhoods. Attachment styles of partners in a relationship also predict relationship satisfaction. Collins and Read (1990) found that greater anxiety in women was associated with lower satisfaction in their male partners. Because anxious women are less trusting and more jealous, their partners feel more restricted and therefore less satisfied. In contrast, women showed higher satisfaction when their men were comfortable with closeness and intimacy. Men are often stereotyped as less comfortable with intimacy, so a man’s willingness to become close may be particularly valued by women (Collins and Read, 1990).


Perceptions of partner’s affections

People with low self-esteem assume that their partners see them in the same negative light as they see themselves. Consequently, they cannot understand why their partners would love them. On the other hand, people with high self-esteem assume that their partners see them as the great people they believe themselves to be, and their partners’ affections are therefore no mystery to them. In a study by Murray, Holmes and Griffin (2000), couples described themselves, their partners and how they thought their partners saw them. The results revealed that low self-esteem participants dramatically underestimated how positively their partners saw them. Participants who underestimated their partners’ regards also had more negative perceptions of their partners. The converse was found for high self-esteem individuals. Consequently, perceived regard seems to be the link between self-esteem and relationship satisfaction, so that self-esteem influences perceived regard and perceived regard influences relationship perceptions. However, it seems that even low self-esteem individuals want to be positively seen by their partners. For example, Murray et al. (1996) found that individuals are happier in their relationships the more positively their partners see them. Thus, although low self-esteem individuals wish to be positively regarded by their partners, their own negative self-perceptions prevent them from feeling this positive regard.


To get a clearer understanding of this issue, Murray et al. (2005) investigated the effects of pointing out strengths in the self or flaws in the partner. For example, when low self-esteem participants were led to believe that their personality traits fit easily with many potential partners, and hence, were in high demand, they reported higher self-perceptions, greater security in their partners’ positive regards and more commitment to the relationship. This finding is interesting because it goes against earlier findings by Murray et al. (1998). As discussed earlier, these researchers found that pointing out specific virtues in low self-esteem individuals made these individuals doubt their partner’s affections, probably because they felt that their partners’ positive regard was dependent on their continued possession of certain virtues. The reason why the first study found different results seems to be because they focused on specific personal strengths (considerateness) rather than on general interpersonal strengths (more intrinsic characteristics) as in the later study.


Furthermore, Murray et al. (2005) found that low self-esteem participants felt better about themselves and valued their partners and their relationships more when flaws in their partners were pointed out. As a result, this study suggests that the reason why low self-esteem people underestimate their partners’ affections is not necessarily only because they assume that their partners see them as they see themselves, but also because they feel inferior to their partners. That is, seeing faults in their partners gives low self-esteem individuals reason to expect greater tolerance from their partners of their own faults. Moreover, by emphasising own interpersonal virtues, the feeling that the partner is out of their league diminishes. Perceived security in a partner’s continued positive regard and commitment thus depends on the perception that each partner is bringing comparable personal strengths and weaknesses to the relationship.




Self-esteem plays a very important role in romantic relationships. People with low self-esteem experience more negative emotions, whereas people with high self-esteem experience more happiness and life satisfaction. Level of self-esteem influences who we select as partners and how we view them. Individuals who have negative perceptions of themselves also have more negative perceptions of their partners. Also, because they feel inferior, they cannot see any reason to why anyone would like them. Low self-esteem individuals therefore doubt that their partners actually love them, and consequently they take minor relationship difficulties or failures as signs that their partners’ affections are waning and that they will put an end to the relationship. At the face of such problems, people with low self-esteem distance themselves from their partners and devalue them even further, because the prospect of rejection becomes less threatening if the partner is seen as less desirable. On the other hand, people with high self-esteem value their partners more highly and even in situations of difficulties they maintain their confidence in that their partners will continue to love and support them. Consequently, low self-esteem poses a serious threat to successful relationships.



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Why a Six Sigma Based Quality System May be the Answer for Pharmaceutical Companies

Life science companies experience no lack of quality system ideas, quality system conversation, quality system arguments, quality system implementation methods, etc.

After all, even the required systems of quality management such as the FDA’s GMP, GCP and GLP regulations and guidelines are specified to a certain extent but still don’t determine all of the whens, hows, whys and whats of in-house quality system management. As a result, life science companies are left with a few decisions to make:

1) On what system(s) should a quality system be based?

2) How will the quality system’s data be managed?

3) How will the quality system’s documentation be managed?

4) What will be the KPIs (key performance indicators) of the quality system?

5) How will a need for improvement be justified?

Note: The first of these questions will be the focus of this article although questions #2 and #3 will also be discussed as auxiliaries to discussion regarding #1.

What Quality System is the Right Quality System?

First of all, it is essential for life science companies to realize that every quality system is nothing more than stated limits of discipline and a successful quality system is made of stated limits of discipline that are followed. Those stated limits of discipline however must originate from a specific mentality or template for a “starter quality system.” The quality system that a life science company selects will of course continue to evolve but upon the initiation of a new or revised quality system it is important to choose the “quality system mentality” best suited to any given company.

This can be difficult.

After all, some say lean manufacturing must be adhered to; others vouch for PAT and still others Six Sigma. Some say a combination of these systems work best and all of them are probably (at best) only partially right. So, how will pharmaceutical companies make the best decision for the unique needs of their own company?

Could Six Sigma be the right starter quality system?

This article posits the idea that as a starter quality system, Six Sigma is ideal for the pharmaceutical industry. This position does not exclude lean manufacturing or PAT systems of management, but instead recommends Six Sigma as the initial system of practice. Why? For starters, Six Sigma ideals are based on intense statistical analysis and serious data collection, and the pharmaceutical industry just happens to have colossal amounts of data and documentation. This data and documentation, with the appropriate amount of time, could be analyzed according to Six Sigma methods and then used to adjust less-than-stellar aspects of the quality system. The Six Sigma system also focuses on the near obliteration of deviation or nonconformance events which for pharmaceutical companies falls exactly into line with regulatory standards and quality management goals.

Easier Said Than Done

Any reader may easily volley this article’s position by stating that Six Sigma is difficult to implement and that most pharmaceutical companies don’t want to change anyways. According to an online source1 however the benefits of making the right changes within the very wealthy pharmaceutical industry are staggering. The online article states that “the potential worldwide cost savings from efficiency improvement could be as high as $90 billion.” This article still acknowledges however that the reader is correct in saying that Six Sigma is difficult to implement; Six Sigma implementation requires know-how and the appropriate instrumentation. That know-how and instrumentation will vary greatly since it is likely that a very small percentage of Six Sigma black belts would be even remotely qualified to cross the pharmaceutical threshold (an intelligent in-house manager might do well simply studying up on Six Sigma principles).

Six Sigma tools may vary as well. After all, the “Six Sigma mentality” doesn’t specify tools (the Six Sigma calculator wouldn’t necessarily even be a required purchase) but does specify the principles of data collection, analysis and a decrease in deviation.

What tools can be used for the implementation of Six Sigma?

A vast variety of software solutions might be able to help provide the needed Six Sigma success but should be chosen carefully. For most pharmaceutical companies it seems likely that management tools/software for data collection (data and document management software) and tools for any type of deviations or nonconformance management could be valuable. Since small amounts of deviation usually depend on the speed of information distribution within a company (although even that assumption could be subjected to Six Sigma analysis), an automated training solution triggered by changes in SOPs, work instructions, etc. might also be of great value.


Essentially the keys of Six Sigma are rigorous data collection, analysis and a decrease in deviation, principles which would seem to attract the naturally rigorous pharmaceutical industry.

1 http://www.contractpharma.com/articles/2007/10/lean-practices-in-a-life-sciences-organization

Marci Crane is a copywriter for MasterControl in Salt Lake City, UT. For more information in regards to quality system solutions, please feel free to contact a MasterControl representative.

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Leadership Based on Peace

When one reads the title to this article; immediately the thought of politics will be aroused. What will come on the minds of many who are politically inclined was Presidents Ronald Reagan’s political philosophy of peace through strength, (strength being leadership). President Reagan quite frankly was a political genius as he thoroughly understood the surrounding political dimensions of his environment and what it took to reach peace through leadership. He understood the factors of communications that imbedded the concepts of persuasion and his skills of conveying his perceptiveness about the issues before, during and after his time as he was a man of great foresight. What many critics of his time did not realize was his true drive for Peace. And, so therefore, President’s Reagan was extremely aware that in order to bring peace to the world and America his leadership style had to be conducive to meeting the ultimate goal of peace. It required boldness, courage, tenacity and intellect. He had to reach deep in his heart to find all the necessary skills of leadership such as: delegation, economic prudence, and be a world peace maker. If one closely reviews the decade of the 80’s they will quickly see a time of progress as never before. It was the technological boom, the cold war to an end without a major conflict a revitalized economy that solidified our comfort level for at least twenty years past his time.

So now one may ask what does this have to do with me; I am not a President. Well I can tell from experience as a former Assistant Dean to a Medical School, a California constitutional Gubernatorial appointee of a major State department, educational administrator and entrepreneur; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to seriously utilize my leadership skills as an executive to reach for peaceful outcomes to seek the results we were seeking. Before, one can reach peace one must demonstrate the skills and the art of being a leader. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “In this movement we are all leaders” Dr. King was all about leadership based on peace. The movement of non-violence and peace have been premier vehicles and tools used in leadership development to seek peace.

It is rare to be in an executive position whereby one will not need to exercise leadership skills if peace is what the executive is reaching for. Executives, managers, and businesses need to interact daily in organizational behavioral matters that require a sensitive yet bold decision making.  Peace is typically at the very heart of the desired result. Because without peace there are no productive progressive outcomes and so therefore there is no leadership. Typically with leadership and peace come progressive performances.             

Dr. Richard C. Baiz is a Doctorate in Business Administration. He is a College and Corporate Personal/Leadership Development Instructor and Coach. Dr. Baiz is an expert in Personal/Organizational Development and Management. Dr Baiz gets his clients top notch successful results fast:Personal and Leadership Development