By Jillian Desiderio, STRONG Magazine's Clinical Social Worker
Did you know self-esteem is very important in girls? It really is!! So let’s talk about what self-esteem is...
WHAT IS SELF-ESTEEM?
Self-esteem is a way of thinking and feeling about yourself. If you have high self-esteem, you think and feel good things about yourself. If you have low self-esteem, you think negatively or are down on yourself. It is important to understand how you feel about yourself because your self-esteem influences almost all of your actions or choices. For example, if you feel like you will fail when you try new challenges, you may be less likely to bother trying.
Having high self-esteem does not mean you think you are perfect. It means you understand your strengths as well as your weaknesses. We all have things we need to improve on. It is good to know where you need to work harder, without beating yourself up over it.
If you are unsure of yourself and lack confidence, you have low self-esteem. Luckily, there are many ways to increase your self-esteem so that you can feel better about yourself, believe in yourself, and have the courage to try new things.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
Look at the people around you. The people you choose to surround yourself with can greatly affect how you feel about yourself. If you have family members or friends who build you up by recognizing and acknowledging your strengths, you will most likely think more of yourself and have higher self-esteem. However, if you have friends that put you down or emphasize your weaknesses, it’s important to try and distance yourself from these people as much as you can.
It is also important to understand that even though surrounding yourself with positive people can help increase your self-esteem, you can’t solely rely on the perspective or opinions of others. You don’t want to become dependent on positive feedback from others. It is helpful to hear good things about yourself from other people, but you need to believe it on your own as well.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I‘M SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE WHO MAKE ME FEEL BAD ABOUT MYSELF?
If you have to be around people that are negative about you (maybe a family member that you can’t distance yourself from), develop a plan to deal with their negativity. Prepare yourself by countering all of their negative comments with a positive one in your head. For example, if someone is constantly telling you “your grades are never good enough,” say in your head “I know they always say my grades are never good enough, but I know my grades will get better the harder I work and I am going to work hard.”
Finding ways to switch negatives into positives takes time and practice. BUT it is worth it. Be realistic with yourself though. If you are having trouble in math, think positively by saying “I will get better at math the more I practice and ask for help.” This is a realistic and uplifting thought that can increase your self-esteem. Don’t say to yourself “I am going to be the best at math in my whole school.” This may end up being true, but it may not, and you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by being unrealistic with your expectations.
Setting measureable and realistic goals for yourself is a great way to boost your self-esteem. As you work towards your goals and eventually accomplish them, you will increase confidence and feel good about yourself. Again, it is important to be realistic. If you want to work on your gymnastics skills, an unrealistic goal might be “I am going to make it to the Olympics.” Although this is possible, it is too much of a long term goal and possibly unrealistic. You won’t feel good about yourself if you feel as though you’re failing. Instead, set short, realistic goals. An example could be “I am so close to doing a back handspring; I am going to practice for the next month and nail it.” When you suceed in nailing your back handspring you will feel good about what you have accomplished and can go on to set your next goal. It’s also important to work on your own goals without worrying about the goals of others!
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Many people experience low self-esteem because they are constantly comparing themselves to other people. The media and also social media can make this even worse. Please remember that we are all different. You are a unique, amazing person. Comparing yourself to someone else usually only makes you feel bad about yourself or less than adequate. Remember we all have our own strengths and our own weaknesses. We have different body types, different academic and athletic abilities, different levels of creativity...and so on. It’s really not worth making comparisons, so concentrate on yourself.
Take an inventory of what your strengths are! Write down all the wonderful things you love about yourself and things that you do well! Keep the list handy so that you can look at it if you are feeling down! ADD to the list whenever you can! Also, make a list of your weaknesses and write a PLAN next to each weakness for how you can work on bettering yourself. For example: if you have “spelling” listed as a weakness, your plan could be to practice the words that are difficult for you three times a week. Also, it’s important to be realistic about what a weakness is. If you are desperate to be tall but you are short, you need to understand being short is not a weakness. It may be something you don’t like about yourself, but it also may be something that you can’t change—so in this example you need to understand how to accept and embrace that you are short.
That kind of acceptance can take time, but it is important to increasing your self-esteem. Understanding the things you have control over vs. what you don’t helps you to be realistic about yourself and learn to love yourself for who you are.
When in doubt, a great trick for feeling better about yourself is to be kind to yourself. Love your perfectly imperfect, unique, individual self!
About Strong Magazine
This piece was originally published in STRONG, a new magazine aimed at tween and teenaged girls that seeks to break the mold. While many other publications for this age group focus on celebrities, STRONG focuses on real girls with diverse interests. While other publications focus on body image and fashion, STRONG focuses on keeping a healthy body and mind. STRONG also presents great role models - girls who have overcome adversity and thrived, and women who are breaking glass ceilings in areas previously dominated by men. Visit www.strongmagazineforgirls.com to learn more.