Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you as a young adult who spent my life protecting my older brother who was bullied by other boys since he was socially awkward. I felt neglected by my parents who spent most of their time trying to figure out how to help my brother. Other children were so mean to him and it broke my heart. I love my brother, and my heart broke for him, but it was still so hard for me that I basically went unnoticed.
Please tell parents not to forget the children that seem “okay.” I struggle with low self-esteem since I got minimal attention from my parents. This affects my entire life. I am very sensitive and get insulted easily. I feel guilty when I want things for myself and don’t give to others. I can’t form trusting relationships since I always feel people only want things for themselves, and I have difficulty expecting things from others because my expectations often weren’t met.
How can I overcome these feelings that impact my life? I want to marry the right wife, but I’m scared that my low self-esteem will affect me and that it may cause me to be attracted to someone who is not good for me. Baruch Hashem I have girls being redt to me. Please help me figure out how to improve my self-esteem and choose the right person for me to spend my life with.
Thank you for writing this letter. You clearly have deep insight into your life and you appear open to getting help, which is 50% or more of the solution to your issue. It sounds like you are a special person who tries to be giving to others. It would be most prudent for you to try to move on with your current life and not be trapped in your past. Often our childhood issues affect the way we see life. You must become aware that your altruistic side is overwhelming your self-concerned side. Perhaps you feel people only want things from you in a relationship. However, it is healthy to also take things from others. Do you give people a chance to give to you? Do you always give and never ask for others to give to you? Your parents were probably overwhelmed with your brother, but they likely didn’t ignore you on purpose. “The squeaky wheel gets more grease.” I sometimes have clients who were well-behaved and quiet, which resulted in them not getting as much attention when they were children as they needed.
It may be difficult for you to take from others. Perhaps being on the giving side gives you a sense of control. Please look for a wife who is giving to you as well. You should look for her nature in subtle ways. Does she try to be altruistic and giving to others? Middos [good character traits] can be seen often in how people behave in camp and in a dormitory situation. Most important is to focus on how the other person makes you feel about yourself. When you date a girl, do you come home feeling good about yourself? Is she complimentary? Does she make you a priority in her life?
It appears that you need to seek professional help to let go of your past issues and to build your self-esteem. In order to develop a trusting relationship, you must try to allow others to give to you emotionally. Therapy can help with this as well. Once you build yourself up and realize your own self-worth, you will be better equipped to find your bashert.
It is also important to give off the same vibes that you are looking for in a future wife. Are you positive with others? Are you complimentary towards others? Do you see the good in others? If you answered no to any of these, then it is important to work on seeing constructive qualities in other people, so that they can see that in your as well.
You write that you are B”H being redt many young women. Men are often guided by physical appearance. While men are visual people, and physical appearance is important, please focus on the woman’s middos, which end up bringing more happiness to a relationship than her physical appearance. The girl’s substance as a person is what you will end up living with for the rest of your life. I wish you hatzlacha in this challenging situation.