Self-esteem is a tricky thing. It plays an important role in our lives. It influences how we act around others, the decisions we make, how motivated we are in our career, and how we feel in our own skin. It is at our very core as people. And, while it is a crucial factor for both men and women, the way the different genders find that self-esteem, determine their self-worth, is very different.
Men find self-esteem internally. It is based on their personal accomplishments, things they are proud of. Maybe it is fixing a car, repairing a household appliance, achieving a career goal, or tackling a level in a video game. Regardless it is not about someone else telling them they did a good job, it is about that internal celebration and belief in themselves. That is not to say that it doesn’t help to have praise, but men don’t need it to find their self-esteem.
Women, on the other hand, tend to find their self-esteem externally. They rely more on external validation — be it praise, a “good job,” a smile, hug, laugh, whatever it may be. Women, while they might know deep inside that they have done a good job, still need to hear it from others. They have a harder time trusting in themselves and a harder time feeling good about their achievements without receiving some type of external validation. This is also why women tend to spend a lot more time worrying about their outward appearance — be it the cleanliness or look of their home, or their personal appearance.
You don’t see a lot of men worrying about the look of their wallet, and a lot more men are inclined to go out in sweats and not care what others think of them. Whereas a lot of women won’t leave the house without makeup or their hair done.
It is these differences that can make it harder for women to have high self-esteem. Women worry much more about what others are thinking of them than men do. I frequently encourage women to look deep inside and find those good qualities about themselves and to let go of what others may think. What is inside is what really counts, and how we talk to ourselves can make a big difference.
Susan (a fictional client) tells me she is not feeling in love with her husband anymore. She tells me she feels like he does not want to be around her, they don’t spend time together, he doesn’t show her affection anymore, she is worried the spark is gone. She wants to work though things in counseling, and she feels she is reaching a “tipping point.” She asks her husband to attend counseling with her, and he refuses. He won’t give it a second thought. I hear it all the time as a counselor.
Why do guys do this?
Men may believe the therapist and spouse are going to gang up on them, especially in the case where a therapist is a woman. While an understandable concern, this is the opposite of what counseling is about. In couples counseling, we work to honor both partners and to foster a bridge in communication. We work on communicating in a healthy way—both couples have a chance to share and be heard.
Couples counseling benefits both parties, and it can only work if the guy is present too. It takes both sides to repair the relationship. Despite what some might be concerned about, couples counseling is about leveling the playing field. It is about giving the relationship a safe space to air concerns and help the couple to come up with effective solutions. Couples counseling is separate from individual counseling, so if the wife is already seeing a counselor at the office she will see a different one with her spouse. This way there is for sure a level field.
Counseling can be a great resource for couples. It helps them to gain insight into why they might be acting in a certain way. It helps to open the doors of communication—which in many cases has been bolted shut. It helps to guide couples to solutions they can both accept, and to decide what their future together looks like. Ultimately in situations where both couples are invested in improving the atmosphere of their home, counseling helps to grow their bond.
It is ok to need help, the first step is admitting that you could use a little guidance and the rest will come in time.
We are here to help.
You can read more about our couples counseling services at https://womenstherapyinstitute.com/couples-counseling/