Measuring Up with Self-Esteem

It takes a lot of self-esteem to be confident, and without it it’s hard to feel good about anything.

I frequently fall victim to low self-esteem, usually with thoughts about weight and personal beauty. The odd thing is that after talking to the right people (especially my sister and my friends), I can easily bounce back and feel better about myself and how others see me. This made me realize something: why do I feel so bad for myself at random times?

One of the ways we are first socialized and deal with self-esteem issues is due to the media. We’ve all seen it—skinny models on runways, unrealistic body types on dolls, and articles about the latest celebrity diet trends. It doesn’t take a scientist to understand how much these images affect the way we see ourselves and how we can feel as if we don’t measure up.

However, it seems to me that following the media affects us to only a certain extent. Maybe it’s just me, but after learning in school for so many years how to partially avoid some of these images, I don’t think they’re always the reason why we feel pressured to be beautiful. On the contrary, I think the people who have a tendency to put us down play larger roles in the issue.

Since high school, there has always been at least one person within my circle of friends who would use backwards compliments or consistently say, “No, Lauren, that’s not a good idea,” or “No, Lauren, that’s stupid.” This year, I’ve been blessed with a fresh group of friends with less personal drama and more comforting words when I need them. Unfortunately, there are instances when one of my friends will not-so-politely point out the flaws with my eating habits or will point out how beautiful underweight people are. It’s times like this when I feel dejected: if my friend doesn’t like what I look like, how will others?

As said before, I’m extremely fortunate to have other friends and family members who support me and let me know that my low self-esteem is unnecessary. When I’m knocked into my senses, I see that I’m at a normal weight and I can feel attractive.

For those in my situation, I have advice: address the issue with the friend(s) early on in the process. I regret not telling my high school friends whenever they made me feel like crap or caused me to question every move I made. In order to combat the problem, I need to address these issues with my current friends so they can realize their mistake and the impact their words have on me. Ideally, discussing this will cause them to see body image differently and be more accepting of different body types. At the very least, they should watch what they say so as not to offend me, or even others like me. For the friends who refuse to adapt or be more careful, I have the ability to not talk with them as often. Instead, I can hang out and talk to friends who I never feel like I have to impress. **

The most important part about this story is how we must learn to love ourselves and be with people who can help and appreciate that. Our support systems give us advice and help us see what we need to see in ourselves. Of course, we should value our bodies and remember to stay healthy, but it should not mean feeling degraded to do so. To get ahead in the world, we need to show our confidence and high self-esteem. If we constantly feel put down by the people we hang out with the most, we’re not on the right track to success.

To close, I leave you with some quotes and helpful resources to realize our inner beauty and not focus so much on how others see us:

I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose. –Margaret Cho

Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical. –Sophia Loren

The Dove Campaign—there are flaws with it, especially because Dove is owned by the same company (Unilever) that owns Axe (really??) , but this particular video still helps to show the reality of beauty in the media.

**Another good resource to dealing with friends/friendships

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2 thoughts on “Measuring Up with Self-Esteem

  1. lauren-
    it does seem that female friends’ comments about appearance can hurt us the most, doesn’t it?
    there’s a thin line between tolerating their flaws (including their misplaced anxiety/fear, which i think fuels this kind of stuff) and ending toxic relationships.
    how do you draw that line?

    there’s a really interesting book that came out not so long ago you might find interesting: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Sisterhood-Unraveling-Legacy-Friendships/dp/0345520513

    also, andrea dworkin has this pretty good quote about a woman she had some tension with: “I knew I’d get her someday and this is it: eat (crap), (chick). no one said sisterhood would be easy.” (edited).
    i keep it on my desk to remind me about the bigger reasons for staying in community.

  2. I agree, it’s pretty hard to define when we can deal with their comments and when we should put an end to it. In my situation (the second friend), I know it’s partially because of these insecurities, which is why I find it so difficult to be assertive back. I think it’s important for anyone dealing with these problems to ask their friend(s) possible reasons as to why their comments are so hurtful.

    Thanks for the recommendation–it’s now on my “to read” list. 🙂

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