Why Self Esteem is the First Ingredient to a Positive Relationship

By Christinne Rudd

Relationships and intimacy require a level of risk to be taken by both parties. The risk that you're taking is to expose your feelings and other personal things about yourself to someone else. In order to do that and fully enjoy the result of a successful relationship, you have to know your self-worth and posses positive self esteem. For someone with a disability, this may be difficult for a myriad of reasons, depending on their personal circumstances but this really doesn't have to be the case at all. When our children are young, one of the first indicators of their growth and development is how they interact with others. It also seems to be a gauge to our success as parents. As I've read in many articles on parenting, the first place our kids learn acceptable behaviors and other levels of interaction is at home.

Christinne Rudd & her son
This is also true of their self-esteem and how they view others. If parents aren't confident in their roles, and more importantly in themselves, our kids are the first to know it.  Along the same lines, the feedback they receive from their parents on self-image and acceptable behaviors comes from us, their first, and in my opinion, most important teachers. When raising kids with disabilities, the territory may seem new to you , even if you have other children. Kids with disabilities need the same positive role models and influences as children with out disabilities. Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean they can't or don't understand what they're being taught or what they see being modeled by their parents. Even if your children have some sort of intellectual disability, plenty of material exists and professionals are available to help along the way. We're no longer in archaic times where we might need to invent the wheel on different aspects of getting a message to a child.

I know it might be difficult as parents to try and prepare your kids for different stages in their lives, especially if they have a disability but this is the most important task at hand. Whether it's because your children will always be your babies, or because you may feel the need to protect them, the best way to help them is to help them protect themselves. The sense of confidence they'll get from their parent putting that trust in them lays the groundwork so they're secure in who they are. The obstacles that they're going to face in life will be there but, our parents and families give us the example of how to live and conduct ourselves in society.

Christinne, 2nd grade
When I was younger, my mother and the rest of my family, for that matter, had the opportunity to shape me to be afraid of what lie ahead of me or what I was going to face in my different challenges. They chose to do the exact opposite.  This is a strength that isn't for the faint of heart. Quite amazingly, my family did these things at a time when the future of my progress seemed anything but positive. However, they forged ahead even though it wasn't the popular, or proper thing to do at the time. Because of their outlook, I have a totally fearless attitude today, no matter what. That's not to say I haven't faced my share of rude, hurtful people, and even at times some bullies, but, I've taken the opportunity to know that my self worth outweighed what other people think by leaps and bounds. I'm not sure if I'd have been able to do that had I been raised any other way. At the same time, I know it's not a bed of roses to deal with issues related to disability and the subject can be taxing on a family in many ways. That's all the more reason to find a way to show our children and others the self worth people with disabilities have not only to themselves, but others in society.

Our interaction within our families also helps us understand and define our role as unique. The knowledge that we're a valued part of our family gives us the foundation to understand there's an important place for us out in the "real" world. Our self-esteem can only grow with each interaction we share. This awareness of who we are as people helps us realize we can venture out and share our various attributes with others. Feeling the freedom to take that risk gives us an open mind to venture out and expose ourselves to others.

Be comfortable with who you are. If you're reading this and are thinking, "How can I do that?", let me help give you some ideas.  Think about positive attributes you would bring to a relationship. Maybe you enjoy sports or have a favorite actor, or maybe even a favorite meal you like to prepare when you're expecting company. Those things are positive qualities that can enhance your self-esteem and self confidence for the right situation and the right person. Learn more about yourself. This is going to help you find a new hobby or learn about a fun place you'd like to visit sometime. In the future maybe it can be a topic or conversation with that special person or you could maybe even plan a trip together. Either way it's something that can help you learn more about yourself and who you are. Once you're more grounded in who you are, you can also figure out what kind of person would suit you best.

All of these skills we've worked on to improve ourselves allow us to be less likely to settle for the first person who comes along. If you just settle in the long run you're not giving yourself the chance at happiness everyone deserves. Once you're not happy in a relationship, it deteriorates until there's nothing left or, you get tired. Either way, that's never a good situation to be in and we as women deserve more than that. Our self-esteem also has a way of protecting us from situations that might not be the best for our lives and maybe even those around us. It helps us appreciate the extent of our value as a person and helps us find someone that values us that much and sometimes, even more. There's nothing wrong with being treated like a princess, why not give yourself the chance to find that person?

People are drawn to you based on the way you present yourself, that's just human nature.  The confidence we've gained will spill over like an overflowing river, not only into our intimate relationships but in the impression we leave on other members of society as well.  As a result, there will be more of a reason for people to look past what they believe to be our limitations.  Other people will begin to foster relationships with us based on qualities they admire or are similar to their own because of the people we are.  There's no tragedy in being disabled. It's just an opportunity to achieve your goals and aspirations in ways that may not be conventional to other people.  Because of the attitudes and examples that were given to me as I was growing up, I can hold my head high and be confident in any situation. That was just one of the many benefits I gained from being taught to value myself as a person and what I had to offer in life. If other parents do the same for their children, it shouldn't be any different for someone with a disability

As a result, the confidence we have will shine through in the decisions we make as adults who live with a disability.  The increased self-esteem will help us be confident in knowing that we deserve to be part of healthy relationships where we can be active and meaningful participants in different encounters. Our limitations can take more of a backseat to our personal relationships and we can become more satisfied that we can be valued as people in a range of different ways.


Christinne Rudd is a disability advocate, speaker, author, and consultant.  Mrs. Rudd holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Studies and a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice both from the University of Central Florida.  Her interests include Parenting with a Disability, Disabled Victims of Crime, IEP issues and the ADA. She authors a disability-related blog at http://mamasmunchkin.wordpress.com/. You can also "like" her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MamasMunchkinBlog. She is originally from Brooklyn, New York and moved to Orlando in 1996. You can reach her at mamasmunchkin21@yahoo.com

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