Self-Esteem & BDSM

Author: Raven Shadowborne © Feb. 7, 1999

The most difficult thing for many people to understand is what self esteem is and how it affects their relationships with others. Everyone seems to have their own idea of what self esteem is. Self esteem, to me, is basically the ability to look at yourself as a good person. The presence or lack of self esteem can effect one's relationships in many ways. 

When people think of self esteem they tend to think of it in very broad terms and use it to encompass more than I feel it does. Self esteem is basically being able to know you are worthy human being. This does not mean that you think of yourself as always right or as a gift to humanity. A person can have a strong sense of self esteem and still be aware of their faults, whatever they may be. Self esteem does not prevent a person from striving to broaden their horizons or strengthen their weaknesses. I believe that for one to have a strong sense of self esteem one must be able to see their good points as well as their bad ones. One must be able to see themselves as a worthy human being over all. A good sense of self esteem does not rely upon others to make it strong. Nor does it say that one should sit back and not try to improve themselves. 

Self esteem can and does affect one's relationship with others. A person with a good sense of self esteem, will not usually become co-dependent upon their partner. They will not look to their partner to define their own identity. Their identity will remain seperate, though it will be enhanced by their involvment in any relationship. 

Within BDSM, a strong sense of self esteem becomes very important. BDSM can become an all encompasing lifestyle that seeps into every aspect of one's life. If a person does not have a strong sense of their own self worth, they could very easily become totally dependent upon their partner for their sense of self worth. This can cause a level of dependency that is destructive to the relationship rather than a healthy part of the relationship. A person with a low self esteem becomes like a clinging vine which can eventually choke the very life from a relationship. As well, a person with a low self esteem is more likely to become involved in an abusive relationship which causes further damage to them. Most who lack self esteem would fall into the doormat category that is heard of so often. This being, a person who lets someone do whatever they want, without any regard for themselves in any fashion at all. Even a slave has some regard for themselves, a door mat does not. A door mat, or person with no self esteem, is easily manipulated and abused whether it be in BDSM or not.

A person with a strong sense of self esteem, who enters into a BDSM relationship, will be an asset to themselves and thier partner. The relationship will enhance their life and their view of themselves, not be the only source of defining these things. Someone with a strong sense of self esteem will not become so immersed in BDSM that it takes over their life to a point that it is all they can see or relate to. BDSM will enhance their lives, not be their lives. (yes this is rather paradoxical since BDSM can be the basis and a large part of one's life) A person with strong self esteem, is less likely to be taken in by those who are abusive. A person with a strong self esteem, is more capable of making a clear and informed choice to enter into a BDSM relationship. They are more knowledgable of themselves and their needs or wants. They would be less apt to completely set aside those needs or wants just to be in a relationship. 

Self esteem should be something everyone has by the time they are grown. Unfortunately with life being as it is, not everyone has a strong sense of self esteem. BDSM, believe it or not, can enhance one's self esteem. It can allow a person with a shakey self esteem to gain a solid foundation of pride. In many relationships, the participants are told often they are good, beautiful what have you. Through the communication, trust, and honesty of a BDSM relationship, self esteem can be repaired or strengthened. Some ways to do this are common things done in BDSM relationships, but many don't see their benefits. For example, having a submissive list the things he/she has done right in a day can help shift the submissive's first thoughts from their bad points or things done wrong, to the things they did right. This can promote a healthier view of themselves. As well, this can prevent the common trap of self destruction that many people have by viewing themselves only in a bad light. Other things are setting rules such as the submissive can not speak ill of him/herself can help change a thought process from a negative based one to a more positive based one. 

Most dominants when asked about self esteem in a submissive, state that they want a submissive who has a sense of self outside of the relationship. They state that such a sense of self allows the submissive to enhance the relationship, not detract from it. The same goes for the dominant. 

Self esteem is not something that can be gained over night if it is lacking. But it is something which can be gained and should be for the relationship to be a satisfying and healthy one.



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