A selfie of a beautiful girl. Luscious hair, tiny waist and perfect pout. 100th selfie attempt but she finally gets the shot. It’s hashtagged in #love #squadgoals #gains #happydayz, and within 24 hours she received over 300 likes. Everyone seems to like her…except for herself. This is the very image of the unremitting modern crisis of low self-esteem, especially low self-esteem in young people.
Self-esteem is the ability to recognise one’s self-worth and in return give yourself credit and self-respect. It’s not an easy journey especially when you’re growing up, and it’s even more challenging with the added pressures of social media.
I work with teenagers, and I see behind the damage behind of not getting enough likes on a post as well as peer pressure, striving to be ‘perfect’ and comparing lives to others. These are just some of the factors that affect young people’s self-esteem today. Young people with low self-esteem feel worthless, unattractive and not good enough.
According to Young Minds UK, 75% of young people experience low self-esteem at least once. Young people with low self-esteem are twice as likely to self-harm, experience a mental health problem and make poor life choices. The NHS states that there is a 68% rise in hospital admissions due to self-harm among girls under 17 in past decade.
Let’s not forget the lads! A UK Government study shows that boys experience self-hatred, feeling unloved and lonely and a new survey found that 25% of boys think that muscles are a sign of masculinity and that there is a perfect body.
I have worked with boys who hate themselves and as a result of not achieving the ‘perfect’ look. Sometimes this resorted to them self-harming- not cutting type but the extreme workouts in the gym and taking extreme diets to achieve ‘hypermasculinity.’ This is a real concern and boys always feel the pressure to ‘man up’, and their feelings are often disregarded and ignored. Though women have made progress plus-size models, just remember the last time you saw a male plus size model? Never. Boys face pressures too.
Looking back at my teenage years, I remember my challenges. Though back in those days, there was no social media, life was still tough as a growing girl amongst dominant peers. Pressure to be popular, intelligent, and to keep up with trends is no different than today. I remember that inner voice telling me how stupid I was and how awful I looked. Like many, I confused self-esteem with being big headed and narcissistic. These are not to be confused. It’s entirely ok to love yourself without being boastful and assert bragging. It took many years to build my self-esteem. Over time my reliance grew, and I began to appreciate myself, and I got involved in the broader community that gave me a sense of pride. Although, I didn’t go around thinking I was better than anyone. I had expectations of how I deserved to be treated.
So how do you know you have low self-esteem? Ask yourself a few questions. Do you regularly compare yourself to others and think you’re not good enough? Would you ever put yourself in danger and not care? Do you binge on rubbish and not look after your health? Do you deserve better than how you have been treated? Have you ever harmed yourself? If you answered yes to most of these, then it’s time to boost that self-esteem.
Self-esteem begins with the self.
Precisely what it says on the tin. Start with yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others! It may seem like the grass is greener on the other side, but that is not always the case. You do not know what others are going through beneath the surface. Though they look like they have everything and life is perfect, this isn’t always true. We all have struggles and demons, and often social media acts as a mask to hide them. Focus on what you have and what you want and not on others people.
When someone asks you what you are good at don’t just dismiss this and say ‘nothing’. Think about your skills and strengths. For a moment forget that anyone else is listening and go for it! Write a CV with all your skills and achievements and watch them grow over time. It’s not big headed to say what you are good at; it’s a great skill to recognise one’s strengths. Over time you will start to recognise your strengths and work on those weaknesses.
Look after yourself
Hygiene and a good diet is a form of self-respect and not looking after your basic needs is negligence. If you love yourself, you will take care of yourself. Shower daily, floss, eat well. Take pride in your appearance. Make sure your clothes are clean, ironed and appropriate. Take time out to relax and let your hair down after a long hard week because you deserve it, Say no and practise assertiveness and do the things that you want to do and take care of you.
Stop being so tough on yourself!
When you make a mistake or things don’t go to plan, do you feel like punishing yourself? Well, don’t! You are young and still learning, and you are allowed to make mistakes. Simple. View mistakes as learning opportunities and a portal of discovery. Perfection is not a destination. As for bad selfies – there is no such thing. Embrace your flaws and stop putting yourself down.
Accept compliments as gifts
When someone says something nice to you, about you or your personality and skills, accept it graciously, with a thank you! That praise is your gift. It is yours. Keep it, accept it and pass it on. If on the other hand, people put you down, remember that you never know what someone else is going through. Often, this is a projection of the sadness they are feeling inside. So, be strong, be there for them and don’t take the comments personally.
Count those blessings
When life throws you challenges, ask yourself about the simple things you do have. Like food, shelter and love. Life could be so much worse. Cliché I know but you could be living in a war zone. It’s about perspective, so keep a gratitude jar of things that people often take for granted and count those blessings. Life is goo! Keep it real!
Make a contrition
Your place in this world is significant. Make it more purposeful by contributing to your local and broader community. How about volunteering? Joining a club and getting to know people around you? Making connections and networks gives you a sense of purpose and pride. If there is a pearl of wisdom, I could provide you with; it would be this. The people we meet and the experiences we go through open us all up to our future and our journey. You never know in the future how useful these bridges are.
If you are struggling with something significant, is there someone you trust you can approach and report it too? This could be a teacher, GP or local community figure. Help is out there so; please seek a support network.