Self-esteem is our perspective of our own self-worth; It is how much we appreciate ourselves, and what light we see ourselves in. It encompasses all of the beliefs we have about ourselves and subjectively evaluates them. When a person has low self-esteem, their evaluation is often negative and self-deprecating, leading them to engage in behaviors that are usually unhealthy.
Low self-esteem manifests both because of our own biases and environmental factors. A simple and well-known example of environmental factors is body image. Although there have been strides in eliminating the idea that there is a “perfect” body type, magazines, movies, and media still romanticize having a thin physique (and for the men, a muscular physique). It doesn’t matter how many times we try to argue to invalidity of this idea, because subliminal messages are stronger than lip service. This begets anxiety, eating disorders and low self-worth.
So how do we fight back? There is no simple answer for this, but there are multiple coping skills that we can implement to try to improve self-esteem. We can begin with ddispelling these negative beliefs through logic; Ask yourself three questions:
Is this belief objectively true?
Using the body image example, it is very objectively untrue that there is a specific body type that is perfect, despite how idolized being thin is. Historically, there has been a different definition of physical “perfection” or “attractiveness” during every time period. In fact, there was a time when women who are now considered “fat” had the ideal body type.
Does this affect my life?
Again, using body type, does your physical appearance affect you? Instead of focusing on image, focus on being healthy? If the answer is objectively yes, great! You are perfect. If it is no, make strides to be healthy. That is all that matters. Your health will affect your life more than anything else.
Will this matter long-term?
In a few months, will this matter? How about in a few years? Does this matter so intensely that it should contribute to how I see myself? Is it worth the anxiety that comes along with obsessing over this? Usually, the answer to that question is no.
Our core beliefs are malleable. They are not concrete, and they are skewed. The reality is, you will never know what you actually look like, because you never really see yourself. You see a person in a picture, in a mirror, through a lens, that so happens to look like you. Because of this, our insecurities are not accurate; We see flaws that often are not actually there.
If nothing else, list the things that you think are wrong with you and ask yourself what you would say if someone else was saying this to you about themselves. What would you tell them? What advice would you give? Would you agree with their negative evaluation?
Be kind to yourself in the same way that you are kind to others.