by Todd Woodfill
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? How do you feel?
Low self-esteem and low self-worth have become an epidemic in our society. With a strong emphasis being placed on celebrities, entertainment and social media it can be easy to begin comparing yourself to others and even celebrities. Every is susceptible but the most impacted are our youth.
What is self-esteem?
First, let’s take a moment to define exactly what self-esteem is. Self-esteem is how we perceive ourselves. The feelings we get when we think about the way we look, how smart we are, our athletic skills, or even how much money we make. It is the concept of defining whether we are lovable, satisfied and unique.
Self-esteem in children and youth
A 2017 study done by the Department of Health showed that only 19% of girls in 6th grade say that they feel confident, and that number plummets to 6% by the time they hit 10th grade. For boys in 6th grade, 37% indicated that they feel confident, but the number still drops to 12% by the time they reach 10th grade.
Tweens and teens are both vulnerable to have their self-esteem impacted by a variety of factors. Peer pressure, bullying, academic stress, and family issues all play a role during this critical transitional time. For tweens and teens, some lack the coping skills needed to adequately handle all of the sources of emotional stress they may be experiencing.
Self-esteem in adults
Children and youth are not the only ones who struggle with self-esteem issues. It is not uncommon for adults to experience low self-esteem or low self-worth, even if they didn’t experience it during their tween or teen years.
Tips for building and maintaining positive self-esteem
1. Don’t compare yourself to others
One of the first and most important steps to achieving a positive self-outlook is to stop comparing yourself to others. You can only work with what you have – and that is probably a lot, so stop focusing on what others have and focus on what YOU have and embrace it. When comparing yourself to others, you never know what could be going on behind-the-scenes – remember the grass isn’t always greener.
2. Identify your strengths and areas for opportunity
If you are not feeling as confident or positive about certain aspects of your life, it’s time to determine why. By creating a list of your strengths and areas for improvement you can bring to the forefront all of the positive qualities about yourself, while identifying areas you can work on. It’s important to be aware of the language you use when identifying areas of improvement. Maybe you would like to improve your physical fitness, saying “I’m fat,” creates a negative tone. Instead, under areas for opportunity say ‘focus more on physical health’ or ‘visit the gym twice a week.’
3. Be open to change
As you work on embracing your strengths and working on areas for improvement, it’s important to update your list of areas for opportunity as you grow and change. Making the list is one thing- but being motivated to put in the work and make the change is another. Don’t give up! Turn your fear or reservations into motivation and remember you are putting in the effort for a great cause.
4. Be realistic
Change is not something that happens overnight, and perfection doesn’t exist. You’re working to be the best version of yourself and the person who identifies the best version is YOU. Also consider that everyone makes mistakes. If you experience a set-back don’t beat yourself up about it, learn from it and move on.
5. Surround yourself with a support squad
The people who love and care about you will be your biggest support system in your journey to positive self-worth. Surround yourself with people who invigorate and energize you and make you feel positive about reaching your goals.
6. Keep it positive
Positive affirmations and positive self-talk are key to building your self-esteem. You are your own worst critic, so when you use negative self-talk you may eventually begin to believe it. Focus on telling yourself how great you are or that you can and will achieve your goals to maintain a positive focus.
7. Take an internet or social media detox
In today’s digital world, the way we see and consume information is rapid and constant. A 2017 study by Simon Fraser University showed that higher Internet usage led to increased body dissatisfaction in women. Women aged 12-29 were more likely to feel bad about their bodies if they spent more than 20 hours per week online. With Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and millions of websites it can be so easy to get caught up in believing what we perceive to be perfection as portrayed by others online. If you’re comparing yourself to others online or their content is making you feel inadequate, take a break from social media and the Internet. You control the content you consume, so be cognizant of how what you are viewing is making you feel.
8. Do what you love
Which leads nicely into the next tip, simply do what you love. When we are doing something we enjoy, our brains naturally release endorphins that make us happy. Hit the gym, read a book, bake with friends, take a bath – make an effort to set aside time to do things that make you feel happy.
9. Live in the present
You can’t change the past, and you have no way of predicting the future. So it is important that you focus on the here and now to establish a positive outlook. What changes can you make today to improve your self-esteem? Worrying about what is to come will cause you more stress. If you focus on the here and now you can prepare for anything that comes your way.
10. Share your feelings
Last but not least, know that there are pastors, counseling centers, family members and more that are always here to support you on your journey to positive self-esteem. TW Leadership offers individual and group coaching designed for men, women and youth who want to improve their self-esteem. The programs help individuals create a positive, stronger sense of self and make healthy choices.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.