Seeking Men For Self-Esteem

By Maria Infante 

For as long as I can remember I looked to men for approval.

Why? Maybe it was my absent father who was only around for dinner and bed. He paid the rent but didn’t show me much interest. And he favored cousin Daniel over me.

So I made it my mission to become his favorite child.

I sought his love and attention by cutting my hair to look more like Daniel, and I wore clothes that looked like my cousin’s. But instead of being invited to join dad and Daniel, I was scorned and left behind.

I couldn’t understand why dad favored his nephew over me until I understood patriarchy. In patriarchies men and masculinity are valued over women and femininity.

In its worst manifestation I watched my drunk father dominate mother. Yet the church told her to devote herself to him, body, mind and soul, until her final breath. 

Her own father had inflicted abuse on his family, whether through beatings or insinuating that mother’s thoughts and feelings were worthless.

Traumatized from all of this, she still has trouble trusting men. My father, in particular.

Respect for men was not to be earned, but was simply expected – because they were men.

Meanwhile, society told me that men were so fantastic, so women should — obviously — devote themselves to them.

Always longing for men’s approval I became promiscuous in my teens. I guess I had “daddy issues.”

Luckily, not all men are the same. My other grandfather shares his life experiences with me, and I share mine with him. He told me that I have the potential to be anything. But I must let go of the shame of being “just a girl.”

Now I’m paying more attention to the love that my mother and my sisters unfailingly offer me.

I’ve begun to pay more attention to my own needs. I’m learning to respect myself: my intellect, my body… my flaws.

I have allowed men to dominate me for most of my short life. But I no longer feel incomplete. And now I know that I bring my own happiness.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 21, 2020, in sex and sexuality, women and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. It’s sad she went through this and other women through harmful messages sent to them about them being inferior to men or internalize that. I know why this was pointed out because of this blogpost and realize it probably is more harmful with how this effects women, though maybe not. But I think it goes both ways, though for different reasons. However, I think just as many men seek women for self esteem too. A woman can make bad decisions because she has daddy issues. But boys can put such unwanted stress on themselves too and lose peace of mind, because their self esteem is set based on women’s response and attraction to them. Validation. I don’t mean boys bragging about how they are having sex with or dating, but it can be all purely internal. Maybe boys aren’t around other boys who brag about banging hot girls, but they see what’s going on and everyone has egos. And see boys doing what they desire and other boys who maybe are even less attractive than they are or d bags but getting laid. So the feeling of missing out, and so feeling of failure or undesirable because on how they feel they compare to other boys and just salt to the wound.

    This can be especially true if a boy has more dating potential than other guys, but let anxiety or social anxiety get in the way. It’s weird how much joy, pride, anger, for boys is actually based on the female sex’s desires or lack of desires to them. It’s just amazing how boy’s happiness and self esteem is put based on all this and why I feel boys actually seek more from women as far as a boy being happy or depressed. The big thing I think is because of ego validation. Seeing other guys egos stroked while others none. You know how in society with rich and poor, we talk of the have and have nots. It seems like that as far as dating for guys. There’s a few who get the plethora of it all and the pleasure and ego strokes for days, while other guys are like paupers just getting crumbs and instead of ego strokes its the reverse ha. I think the problem is women are blamed when that’s wrong as more often it’s the guy’s faults, but it’s very difficult for, not just a guy but anybody to have to swallow their pride and admit their faults. It’s weird too because imo dudes are selling themselves short. Why are you selling yourself short? When they blame women too. Just speaking as a man and observing how, god, men do and have done so much for female approval. The middle aged guy with the porsche? You think it’s just because he likes flashy cars? Hmm, it most likely it “peacocking” and to show off to women. Now think about the work and moving up the chains to have that $ and then spending that money in effort to look better than other men and desiring to impress women?

    It sucks for women because they are often the losers in this, being the pawns of men’s egos competing vs each other, but men are unhappy too, because that’s fucking stressful. There’s so much to be thankful for and to be happy about, but it will lead to unhappiness. It’s hard though as our society, not just men, but society shapes people to be so competitive with each other and compare. When you compare yourself to others, you’re bound to be unhappy, because someone is always more talented, better looking, smarter and more successful. So it’s just a set up to being unhappy. I’m saying that as a man who struggles with that, because I’m such a competitive person in just about every way.

    • Yes, a couple of you men have mentioned how guys can also seek out women for self-esteem. And I have seen men right on my blog bout that before. Like huggy bear, whom I haven’t heard from in a while.

      She talks about a number of ways in which she did this, one being sexual. And it’s sad that the men seem to refer to. Men seeking sex for self-esteem. I think it’s harmful but for both men and women but it shows up in different ways, right?

      Women may seek out sex with men for self-esteem and then end up suffering by being shamed as a slut. It’s also more dangerous for women. One of my students wrote about her experience getting raped because of situations she ended up in while trying to seek approval.

      While men who seek out sex for self-esteem get high-fives it’s harder for men to get sex than women – specifically because we shame women and celebrate men. So men are more likely to feel bad that they aren’t able to get any sex, or not near as much as they would like. Plus a lot of men make stuff up and exaggerate, leaving the men who believe it feeling even worse off.

      And then a lot of these men get mad at women, when the real root problem is the punishment that women get from having sex. And then when men get mad at women they are hostile and women since the hostility and avoid them.

      You have a lot of interesting insights. I’m curious about your thoughts here.

  2. I have to believe that you realize men look to women for approval, which is a powerful motivational force.

  3. When I saw the title of this post, I had a plan for what I was going to say in the comment I intended to leave hereand my question was whether seeking to work towards a potential relationship is what I want to do and that I could potentially be doing it to try and fill a loneliness void so to speak? You don’t seek out a relationship just to fill a void such as isolation and loneliness. I suppose i’m probably seeking approval in some way and that being blind there are opportunities I’ve missed out on that I should never have missed out on. Maybe that’s not really what this post is about but it’s the idea going through my mind and whether it fits or not loneliness is never an excuse for anything but I’ve seen people that go from relationship to relationship and I think we are all seeking perfection in some way knowing full well there isn’t such a thing as perfection. My grandmother has 6 grandsons and I myself am one of those. This has nothing to do with perfection or anything like that out of the 6 grandsons 2 of the 6 it is said are her favourites but we are all loved by her.

    • Well it is human nature to need connection. So your loneliness is telling you something real and something valuable, that you do need connection. One of my best friends is in a relationship with a blind man right now and she is super happy. They are perfect for each other! We may seek connection for other reasons like to feel valuable. And that isn’t all bad in that we are social animals and it could be that we evolved to want approval because that aids better behavior and social cohesion. But it’s helpful to be aware of what our motives are. And it’s best to find relationships that are healthy for us and not hang onto unhealthy relationships out of desperation, of course.

      I was reading this a while ago and thought I would send it along to you (it was written by a New York Times columnist who is going blind in one eye and might become totally blind in the future, so he is interested in these issues):

      The young lieutenant governor of the state of Washington, Cyrus Habib, who went blind at 8, graduated from Columbia University, won a Rhodes scholarship, got a Yale law degree and made a big splash in politics, then decided that his ambition was consuming him. He recently announced that he would leave office later this year to begin the roughly 10-year process to become a full-fledged Jesuit priest.

      Because of space constraints, there was much about Habib that I didn’t get to share in the column. For instance, I mentioned his trek last year to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro but not his revelatory, gorgeous explanation of what a blind climber experiences in lieu of a conventionally defined view.

      “You feel it,” Habib told me. “You feel the whole world dropping away. I have a sense of spatiality, based on acoustics and maybe even other types of senses that I can’t scientifically describe. I can feel when I’m in a huge cathedral. I can feel when I’m in a small bedroom.” At the top of Kilimanjaro, he said, “It felt to me like I was on the moon, because of the thinness of the air. You’re kind of high — lightheaded — and you feel this sense of vastness that’s not just around you but also below you. You can feel it in your body.”

  4. Sometimes we tend to turn to God to help us with what is going on in our lives. To pray and ask for some kind of miracle that will change the way things make them better for us to be able to be happy. I have always thought that to believe in God; you don’t necessarily have to go to church for the simple reason that church has so many ideas that maybe God does not. For instance, your mom was told by the church that she must devote her life to him until the day of her death, but what if she is not happy, does that not matter to church? Sometimes we believe that we have to do certain things to keep the men in our lives comfortable. We change the way we are sometimes so drastically for them to accept us. We are not taught just to be ourselves; instead, we are thought to be what they want us to be.

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