You should go and love yourself: on self-esteem
Self-esteem is, put simply, the way we see ourselves. How much do we value ourselves? Do we even like ourselves? The answer to these questions could be crucial.
Many things can have an impact on self-esteem: bullying, our relationships with other people, how successful we think we are, stress, physical illness, and mental health, to name a few. If you consider every pressure a young person faces – pressure to do well at school, pressure to look a certain way, pressure to be ‘perfect’ on social media – it’s no wonder that low self-esteem is an ongoing problem.
And a problem it certainly is. As hard as it is to pin down statistically, self-esteem can stop us from trying new things. It can hold us back from asking questions for fear of looking stupid. It can impact our relationships, the friends we make, the jobs we might want to apply for - having a low self-esteem can wear away at our confidence and affect every single aspect of our lives. According to the Dove Self Esteem Project, 47 percent of girls between the ages of 11 and 14 refuse to take part in activities that will show off their bodies in any way, and a survey by The Association of Teachers and Lecturers show that 51 percent of boys have low confidence in their body image. These are perfect examples of how thinking badly of ourselves (in this case, thinking badly of the way we look) can actively stop us from living our lives the way we want to, and can stop us from reaching our full potential.
Once we start thinking negatively about ourselves, it can be difficult to stop. As hard as can be, we must try to rewrite the story we tell ourselves about who we are, and what we are capable of – so that we can feel confident in day to day life, take on new challenges, and enjoy life to the full. At Revealed Projects, self-esteem and self-worth are at the very core of our mission. We work with young people, supporting them to develop skills that they can use for the rest of their lives to help themselves when dealing with low self-esteem. With young people, we explore what the different types of self-esteem are, the dangers of comparison, how to protect ourselves from negative messages that can impact our self-esteem, how we can help each other by using our words and actions carefully, and more.
If you’re reading this right now, and you are struggling with low self-esteem, you are not alone. Chances are, many people around you are feeling the same way about themselves: no matter what image they might present online or in everyday life. You never truly know how someone feels about themselves unless they tell you. Although low self-esteem is a common problem, we don’t have to struggle with it – and we certainly don’t have to struggle alone.
Don’t worry - there are many things you can do to help you realise your own worth. If you have ten minutes to spare, grab a piece of paper and make a list: what makes you unique? What do you love to do, what are you passionate about? What are your strengths and talents? Maybe you’re a great listener, a loyal friend, or excellent at sports. Write them down, and stick them somewhere you can see them – maybe your mirror, or your bedroom door. Re-read that list as much as you need to, to remind yourself of your strengths when you might be tempted to think badly of yourself.
Meanwhile, if you’re struggling and you need help: consider speaking to an adult you trust, like a parent, a youth worker or a teacher, or you can call Childline for free on 0800 1111 if you need to speak to someone urgently.