You Can Be a Good Submissive Even With Low Self-Esteem

In a perfect world, no one would enter into committed relationships, fall in love, and build a future together until we were self-actualized, happy-in-our-skin people. We’d love ourselves completely and never worry about our flaws or failings. That goes for all relationships, kinky and vanilla, of course. But we don’t live in that perfect world…nor would I want to. It would probably get boring after a while.

I’ve had people say – to me and others – that BDSM doesn’t work if a submissive has low self-esteem or is insecure.

Before I call bullshit on the basic premise of that belief, I will say this…if your low self-esteem leads you to sabotage your own relationships, that may be a true statement. In BDSM, especially as a submissive, if you can’t take the leap of faith to lean on your partner and accept what they believe about you and act accordingly, yeah, it probably won’t work. If you second-guess everything your Dominant says about you or to you, and you can’t submit within your relationship’s protocols and rules because of it, you’ll definitely have problems.

But that doesn’t mean if you think you’re ugly, fat, stupid, or any number of the mean things we say about ourselves that you can’t have a healthy relationship.

It does mean it will be harder – and require a lot of faith and trust.

Low Self Esteem is a Fact of Life For Many of Us

walls went up as confidence went down

When John Brownstone and I met, I was coming off of the heels of a bad, baaaaaaaaaad break-up with my first Dominant. The break up was okay, gentle even, but my reaction was not. I went down into a mental spiral of shame, fear, and self-loathing that was probably gruesome to witness. I honestly believed that I would always be left behind by people I loved. I believed I couldn’t trust in anything that felt good or right. And God forbid the thought of getting naked in front of someone new. Oh hell no.

I’m no different than many people with low self-esteem. Our reasons vary as to the root cause. For me, I’ve always been different from everyone around me. Too loud. Too smart (at least as a kid). Too much. Too big. Too tall. Too outspoken. Too everything. I was bullied during elementary school (ya know, some of the most formative years of our lives). It wasn’t until middle school (6th grade) when I could blend in with students of varying ages and sizes and find my own tribe and my own niche.

Those ugly words thrown at me by mean kids (one of whom tracked me down on Facebook a couple of years ago just to apologize to me) stayed with me. I “accepted” that I was too much of everything and acted accordingly. I know how to blend in so well you forget I’m there. I know how to defiantly be way too much and use it to my advantage (either for laughs or shock value). Sadly, the beliefs about who I am stuck around.  I’m really good at apologizing for myself – before I even do or say anything.

D/s Helped Me

When it came time for my entrance into D/s relationships, the poor self image was still firmly in place. Those kinds of things don’t magically appear or disappear over night. In my first relationship, I chose to ignore my doubts and focus on doing what I was told. In that instance, it helped. I didn’t have to care what I thought, only what he thought and said. Before anyone gets their panties in a twist, I still had my own emotions, thoughts, and opinions – I simply allowed him to guide me, and I focused on that.

With John Brownstone, the best man I’ve ever known – vanilla or kinky – it’s been different. He took an active role in changing my views about myself. Daily affirmations were a start. Consistently telling me nice things about myself were another piece of the puzzle. The biggest and best thing he did – and still does – is to be true to his word and consistent every moment of every day. I will always find it hard to take someone at their word when I see inconsistencies in their behavior. At least that’s how I view it.

Silly as they sound, daily affirmations – looking at myself in the mirror and saying a series of positive things about myself – really did work. Oh, I felt like a damned fool as I did them. But the more you tell yourself something, the more you believe it. I’d spent 30+ years telling myself I was fat and ugly and weird – and I’d clearly believed it all. A year of telling myself I was beautiful and deserved happiness worked wonders.

These days I don’t care much about what others think of me – physically, at least. Think I’m pretty or don’t. Think I’m fat or don’t. Think I’m loud or don’t. It matters not to me. (I’m still working on not caring what people think of my opinions and writing skills – but we’re all a work in progress, aren’t we?)

That being said, even now, it’s not always easy.

It’s About the Choices You Make

learning to love myself

Daddy and I don’t fight, but we might fuss at one another. It’s rare, but it happens. He’s part Italian which means that raised voices are a fact of life. Except a raised voice makes me want to do one of two things: fall at his feet and beg forgiveness for whatever I’ve done wrong or it pisses me off because I detest being yelled at. A raised voice from someone I care about is a strange trigger left over from a turbulent early childhood where all of my memories of my parents centered around yelling.

When we fuss, I tend to have the same reaction (in my head, of course).

“What if he stops loving me?”

“What would I do without him?”

“I was too loud, too overbearing, too much (pick one or all) again.”

“I hope I haven’t ruined anything.”

Outwardly, I just get quiet and walk into another room. I won’t argue with him, and I’m learning not to let my reaction show because I know it’s not based on the reality of the situation. I do admit to crying little girl tears of hurt and sniffling. I am part babygirl, ya know.

He has learned to wait until he calms down from his annoyance, and I’ve calmed down from my reaction, to come talk to me. We work through whatever the little fuss was about, and we move on.

My point is this. I consider myself a good submissive woman. Yes, I still have plenty to learn (don’t we all?) but I’m a good partner and sub to him. My self-esteem issues don’t interfere with that. Why?

I choose to place my trust in him and not in the mean-girl voices in my head.

I choose to allow my submissive nature to take over and push away the habits for dealing with the world I taught myself. They were for self-protection, but that doesn’t mean they’re right or healthy.

I choose to take a moment, acknowledge the fears and doubts that still linger after all these years – and then ignore them and trust in what I see and hear everyday.

I choose to wear armor in the everyday world. Armor that says, “I don’t care what you think about me because I know exactly what he thinks. And his opinion matters most.” The more I do it, the more I truly stop caring what other people think. Which is why I picked up the 9yo from school the other day with pigtails in my hair while wearing a sundress with no bra. Yeah, I really didn’t care what the Judgy McJudgersons at the elementary school thought of me. It’s freeing.

The self-esteem problems linger but it’s how I choose to react that dictates how “good” I am as a submissive. And that’s the point that people miss. The low self-esteem isn’t the biggest issue – it’s how we let those feelings dictate our lives. Thanks to a patient, saint of a Dominant, I’m able to triumph over the negative self-talk.

I have no doubt that other people can do that too. It helps to find the right partner – the kind that builds you up, instead of tearing you down. And of course, sometimes, it’s this…



Was this post meaningful and helpful? You might enjoy my website dedicated to BDSM and helping people have better D/s relationships – Loving BDSM – a blog and weekly podcast devoted to helping people find and enjoy healthier D/s relationships and kinky lives. Check it out at

About the author

Kayla Lords

I am a sex blogger, podcaster, freelance writer, international speaker, kink educator, and all-around kinky woman. You can find me online sharing my innermost sexual thoughts and experiences, teaching other bloggers how to make money writing about sex, and helping kinksters have happy healthy BDSM relationships. I'm also a masochistic babygirl submissive with an amazing and sadistic Daddy Dom and business partner, John Brownstone. Welcome to my kinky corner of the internet!


  • Love this!

    I am (finally) doing the research I hoped to do when I started grad school – counseling clients who practice/live BDSM. Your post brings home some of the points I really want to make – that the D/s relationship CAN be tremendously supportive and growth-inducing; that the healthiest relationships are those in which we help each other to grow; and that you don’t have to be perfect to have a relationship that’s “perfect” for you.

    Thanks for doing my work for me 😉

    • Glad I could help. /giggles

      I’m slightly annoyed at memes and well-intentioned advice that say you can’t truly love someone else until you love yourself. Sure, if you’re self-destructive, refuse to listen, and let your low self-esteem sabotage your relationships, that’s true. But for the vast majority of us, sometimes all it takes is that one truly supportive person who loves us unconditionally to help us love ourselves.

  • Other than the D/s area of your relationship (because I’m not brave enough to tell my lover I need that), I felt like you were writing directly out of my own list of insecurities and childhood memories. You make me feel that maybe I can overcome them, too. Thanks for that 🙂

  • Yes!!! Hard to change those voices in your head, but not impossible with the consistent help of someone who loves you. Xo

  • Yes it’s me. I have never felt good enough I have a domineering mother and my ex husband was domineering – I won’t call him a dominant because he wasn’t in the way I believe a dominant should behave.

    When I was small it was always I had to look after my sister I had to be the strong one it is so freeing to me when I am with a Dominant that I can let go and just not have to do anything but “feel”. I always felt that my parents thought my sister was better than me she went into the Navy – I got married the day after my 18th birthday!! I always felt I was a disappointment to them although nothing was ever actually said it was just a feeling.

    I just wish I could find a Dominant like your Sir Kayla. Ah well I live in hope. Love your relationship. Hope the work on your new property is going well and you will soon be settled in completely.

    • ((HUGS)) I hope you find the person who sees every ounce of your beauty – inside and out.

      And I believe in those “feelings.” I call them vibes. Sometimes they’re not accurate but most often they are – and regardless, they can dictate your actions and feelings about people for years. Just remember, you wouldn’t be the woman you are today without everything that’s happened in the past. And from what I can see, you’re an amazing woman.

      Today is the last day of our Spring “Break” so it’s the last day of work until next weekend. It’s coming along nicely but there was SO much to do when we started. In less than a month we’ll be moved. 🙂

  • Wow! This is very powerful. I should read this everyday. Im so glad you and your Sir found each other. Hope you have a wonderful Easter with your family.

  • I am so glad you and Mr. John Brownstone found each other.

    I do believe that Being submissive is a gift we give our Sir’s. And it took me years to be able to surrender. I too am loud,independent, and I’ve had to work on believing I was beautiful. That’s what I am told each and every day. When you find that one person, he/she has to be kind, patient and show you respect, and give you more love than you ever thought possible. When that happens our guard comes down and the magic begins.. Great post Kayla! Hugs!!

    • And the magic is more powerful than all the mean things ever said or done. But yeah, it takes a lot of trust.

      I’m glad we did, too. Pretty sure my life wouldn’t be even half as good without him. ((HUGS))

      Hope you’re recovering well!

  • I so loved this post!! Especially the part about being really good at apologizing for yourself. I do this ALL of the time. Sometimes it gets to the point that I feel like I need to apologize to myself for apologizing all the time.

    Thanks for sharing this, so much of it spoke directly to me.

    • I’m learning how to *not* apologize so much, and it’s kind of freeing. It goes hand-in-hand with not caring what other people think. I still care what *some* people think (ahem, my Daddy, lol) but instead of apologizing, I try to just do my thing.

      ((HUGS)) I hope you’re able to find a way to stop doing it, too.

  • Ha! Coach has finally come to the realization that the basic loudness of an Italian is nothing to take personally. It took him over 20 years 😀

    I’m a big proponent of loving yourself, but that’s a life long quest for all of us. In the meanttime, we live and love. Some of those who claim you have to have a fully formed level of self esteem in order to be a submissive may just be lazy Doms who don’t
    want to put in the work and devotion. We’re all damaged to a greater or lesser degree, but it’s how we move forward and take the huge risk of trusting in a loving and caring Dom that sees through the walls and hurt and draws us out and lifts us up that makes the difference.

    And, yes, gotta ditch the assholes.

    • Hopefully I have a shorter learning curve than 20 years. I don’t think my nerves can handle it, lol.

      One person who made the claim was someone from outside the lifestyle. She’d based her assertions on erotic fiction she’s read. Le sigh.

      I say ditch ALL assholes…kinky or vanilla. 🙂

  • I know I’m slow in commenting about this but have been busy in my day to day life & have gotten behind on my reading. But this is an amazing piece of writing…& in my eyes is so very true. Thank you so much for sharing this & giving so many people hope & comfort that they can have what they want & need…always means so much. *smiles*

    • ((HUGS)) I understand busy, I promise!

      And thanks. I think we place enough pressure on ourselves to be so many things that the last thing we need is believe we need to be perfect before we can have this kind of relationship. We are all a work in progress.

  • Hi Kayla

    I’ve only recently come across your site and am slowly working through your posts. This one really hits home for me as my insecurity is starting to get in the way. This weekend just gone was a bit of a make or break moment, and it doesn’t help that we are currently long distance.

    I have come out of a 16 year vanilla marriage which was abusive in all ways possible, in addition I was bullied at school and sexually assaulted twice in my teens. I am however not a victim, I am a strong woman and annoyed at myself for tolerating this crap for so long.

    I met my Daddy online, pretty recently, after a couple of unfulfilling experiences with 2 fake doms. He has nearly 30 years of experience so I trust I am in good hands. He is 24/7 lifestyle, and I have struggled to relinquish all control, especially around my body.

    So this post really spoke to me, and any advice you can offer on how you overcame this and found the strength to let go would be gratefully received. 🙂


    • Long distance is hard and bad memories (we call them “bad tapes”) make it harder. I saw that you emailed JB and I, and we’ll answer as soon as we can. Until then, know you’re not alone and you can find a path through all of this. ((HUGS))

  • Thank you so much for this post! I have a sub with low self-esteem, which is a new situation for me, and I’m looking for ways to build him up. I really appreciate reading about what has helped you. He’s a wonderful man, and he deserves to feel good about himself.

    • You are welcome, and I hope that you’re able to help him. When our self esteem is low, it’s impossible to see the good in ourselves or to understand how anyone can see it in us, too. But once we do, we tend to blossom.

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