Everyone we meet is fighting a battle, or so we have been told since the classicists said so in Ancient Greece. The fluctuating nature of an individual’s self-esteem is one such conflict that will affect each of our lives. Polish your armour and raise your shield; the battlefield awaits.
Self-esteem is the answer to the question “how do I feel about myself”. An individual’s self-esteem represents their self-worth, self-respect and self-value. It encompasses self-belief, self-approval and self-appraisal. The need for good self-esteem is intrinsically linked to our basic human need to be accepted by our social circle and feel a sense of belonging.
Low self-esteem that we read about in magazines or self help books leads to anxiety, depression and loneliness. This low self-esteem erodes confidence, relationships and hinders performances in education or the workplace. People who suffer from this genuine form of low self-esteem can even be upset by positive feedback, as they feel they do not deserve praise or approval.
This type of low self-esteem does not affect all of us. However the tendency for young women to base their self-worth solely on physical appearances is all too apparent in modern society.
Unfortunately, when it comes to looks, we're often our own harshest critics. Research carried out by the personal care brand Dove in 2010 found that only 4% of women across the world considered themselves beautiful. What is more frightening is the statistic that 6 out of 10 girls are so concerned with the way they look that anxiety forces them to exclude themselves from social occasions, daily rituals, even failing to attend school.
We each have a mental picture in our head of what we look like, and it is this image that contributes to our self-esteem. This in turn will reflect whether we feel loved, valued, accepted by others and most importantly, by ourselves. If you have ever heard a faint voice inside your head when you are not happy about the way you look, then you have been acquainted with your inner-critic. The inner-critic relishes in endorsing unattainable expectations to us- mine kindly unleashes a back catalogue of Victoria’s Secret images in my brain when I am laying into my umpteenth chocolate bar of the day. Though it won’t ever go away, it can be silenced by a strong sense of self-esteem.
The good news is that self-image, and in turn self-esteem, is ever evolving. Being confident and happy in ones skin is an admirable trait; beloved author Roald Dahl believed “if a person has ugly thoughts it begins to show on the face….but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
This is exactly why it is so import to ensure future generations of women do not aspire to the contrived standards of perfectionism projected by the media. Instead, we should aim to be as happy and healthy as possible. Judy Garland, a woman whose life was fraught with low self-esteem and depression, said “it’s better to be a first rate version of ourselves than a second rate version of someone else.”
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and with a global population of over 7 billion, why conform to one ideal? Everyone should value their distinctive qualities and take pride in their individuality. As a child, the remarkable and eccentric Diana Vreeland was criticised by her mother for her lack of perceived beauty. Vreeland, one of fashion’s most innovative minds, instead propelled her energy into improving her vocabulary, her manners and her sense of style. She maintained “the only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”
We should be thankful for what we’ve got. Don’t compare yourself to others, surround yourself with people who make you feel relaxed and comfortable, foster your own unique sense of style; wear bright colours and do not be preoccupied with other people’s opinions. Look after yourself- eat healthy, exercise regularly and invest pride in your appearance.
Likewise have pride in your person; stand up straight, be assertive, and radiate confidence. Laugh routinely and have fun. Be polite, try new things, have goals and aspirations, educate yourself about the world, contribute, engage others, and celebrate your accomplishments. Boasting and arrogance are unattractive, but being proud of yourself, including your weaknesses and flaws, is admirable. Look at yourself like a present- glossy wrapping paper, a flashy bow and ribbons are all well and good, but it’s ultimately it is what’s beneath the exterior that people will cherish in the long run.