A recent survey revealed that over a third (36.7%) of people consider themselves to have below average self esteem. It’s time to value ourselves and our bodies for all they are worth.
A man walks into a bar. He instantly assumes the joke’s on him.
Maybe it’s his receding hairline. His lack of presence. His inadequacy for life. He orders a drink and muses over why he isn’t enough.
Low self esteem is having a pretty significant effect on his life. If he was doing any other harmful behaviour (smoking, for example), he’d realise it was time to stop; to stub out the cigarette and embrace a new tar free lifestyle. However, many people with low self esteem feel powerless to enact any change. Where do you start? Is it even possible to alter your self esteem or is it genetic?
If you often feel inadequate, insecure in yourself, or inferior to others, chances are you may be suffering with low self esteem too. And maybe the fact that you’re viewing this article means you’re looking for a way to silence the critical voice in your head and gain confidence in yourself and your abilities.
There is no fairy-god-mother to give you self esteem. But I do believe self esteem is like a muscle; you can build it up with consistent work, allowing rest periods and forgiving slow change.
Now picture this. Here’s the same man, but this time he has given himself permission to exist outside of the vacuum of other people’s opinion. He has decided to see himself as enough, innately valid, simply because he’s alive. Someone tells him he’s going bald. He laughs and doesn’t take it to heart. He’s no longer at odds with himself (or his hair).
300 people answered my survey about self esteem. The findings make for difficult reading. If you think you’re alone in having low self esteem, you’re wrong. From my survey, it seems the majority of people consider themselves to have below average self esteem (36.7%).
This really is a sad wake up call. A society that attaches value to transient things like beauty is one that leads to misery. We don’t look the same as we did 5, 10 years ago. We don’t look the same as Kylie Jenner or Marilyn Monroe. And even if we did, ageing is inevitable. As are weight gain and weight loss. Beauty ideals change more quickly than the wind. And all of a sudden, the ‘perfect body’ is out of reach once again.
Valuing ourselves based on how we look perpetuates a cycle of negativity. We weren’t insecure as babies or young children, yet now our bodies are our biggest insecurity. Most of my survey respondents deemed body image to be the source of their low self esteem.
How are we coming to have such contempt for our bodies? Is it size 0 models on the catwalk? Is it social media, projecting unattainable physiques into our homes, through the blue light of our phone screens? Or does it cut deeper than that?
Because all of those examples revolve around a common theme: comparison. We look at others and think I am not that. I must be that, to be happy. How can I be that?
What this also shows is that we let our body dominate our idea of our ‘selves’. This wasn’t the case as young children. We were merely learning and enjoying ourselves through the vehicle of the body we were born into. So the solution to self esteem issues may not lie where you think.
You don’t need to become skinny, curvaceous or pretty. You don’t need to change yourself. You just need to accept your body for what it is – a functioning, inherently valuable, body – and find something else to attach your worth to.
Or, better still, abandon the idea of worth. You are worthy of chasing your dreams and capable of absolutely anything you put your mind to. Say it to yourself. Accept it. And get on with it.
Imitation is not the highest form of flattery. It is the most destructive form of unhappiness.
Because the greatest part of humanity is our differences. Would you tell someone else that they were ugly? Would you want someone else’s body to make them cripplingly insecure? I highly doubt it. We want other people to be more confident because we want them to be happy. Alas, we need to treat ourselves with the respect we show others and stop seeking external validation. You don’t need to earn your worth. By the very nature of your existence on the planet – the very fact that you are alive – you are equally worthy as anyone else.
It is a myth that you need to be pretty to be attractive.
That women need to have long lustrous eyelashes and an hourglass figure. That men need a six pack and prominent jaw. I have some news for you. Most people in my survey deemed confidence to be more attractive than looks. Perhaps I’ll give it a minute to let that sink in. People aren’t judging you on your appearance, but on your confidence. On how you value yourself.
And yet, here we are, valuing ourselves based on what we perceive others to think of our bodies. We feel unconfident because we think people care about what we look like. They don’t. It is a cycle of dissatisfaction, sold to us in beauty commercials and by clothes companies.
We don’t meet up with a friend because we want to see someone who’s exactly size 10 with spotless skin and white teeth, and they just fit the bill. We want to meet up with the friend. And their appearance is just a way of identifying them. I hope that shows that you are more than just your body. You are the spirit you give off and the way you treat others. Just listen to Harry Styles.
It is also true that valuing yourself by how you look is an inherently gendered issue. For centuries, women have had extreme pressure put on their appearance- think organ compressing corsets, for example. Objectification is just as rife in the modern day. Maybe, then, it is the ultimate middle finger to misogyny if we stop placing so much value on our own appearance and accept that women are so much more than their bodies, and how they are perceived.
That is not to invalidate male body issues; men too can appreciate the gendered nature of their body image issues.
Finally, this survey opened my eyes to how few people have positive self esteem. Even if you have poor self esteem, try and help others. Give genuine compliments as much as possible. There is no limit in how much you can help other people, and being able to appreciate someone else’s strengths without seeing it as a mirror of your own inadequacy is a major step towards gaining self esteem. We are not put on this earth to compete with each other, no matter what it seems like.