No quick fix for self-esteem struggles


graphic by Hannah Haught

Krista Kelly is surrounded (literally) with what she loves about herself.

by Hannah Haught, Editor

These days a three-word phrase that people, especially teens, are finding increasingly difficult to say is “I love myself.” With all of the damaging comparisons we make between ourselves and others, having confidence in ourselves isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Professionals, pseudo-psychologists and friends offer many tips and tricks to try to combat this sinking self image. Despite their good intentions, the results aren’t always a happy face.

Recently The Washington Post published an article describing the successful results of a 30-day ritual used to boost self-esteem. The ritual seemed simple: every night before you go to bed write down three things you like about yourself that day, and read and reflect on them the next morning. Wash, rinse, repeat for thirty days and, voila, a more confident you. While this psychologist achieved some success, it comes from years of observation and the application of therapy methods.  Unfortunately, for the common angst-ridden teen, it is not that simple.

With the help of my Lancer Media peers, I tried to replicate the practice.  Our main problem was simply forgetfulness. Keeping up the recording just tended to slip our minds and even doing the ritual for 10 days proved to be a challenge.  All of us couldn’t commit to 10 days of positive thinking about ourselves, and we all missed days of personal compliments.

One reason for this was setup. The article recommends using a notepad to record your three good aspects each night, but I believe a more effective tool could be an app or something the user can record on the phone. Our phones are always with us. Notepads, on the other hand, are not.

Aside from the basic issue of keeping up with the ritual, the impact was more or less lackluster. It was nice to reflect each morning.  The actual study involved 30 days, which turned our hit-or-miss behavior into a real routine.

So, it all comes back to one big question: How do you learn to love yourself?

Of course, this is not a simple task. It’s not like you can just wake up one day and feel great about yourself. It takes time and effort to be able to love yourself for who and what you are. Despite the issues with the ritual, reflection can really help put these in perspective, as well as open your eyes to some things you may have just done with a passing thought.

At the risk of being your arm-chair pseudo-psychologist and friend, here are my recommendations.

  • Surround yourself with supportive people

Outside influences, believe it or not, can also really help increase your self-esteem. Although you should never let someone’s opinion on you tarnish your own, and love from another isn’t enough to magically make one love himself, surrounding yourself with positive people who accept you for who you are makes you a lot happier than those who belittle you or treat you poorly.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others

It’s important to remember to not compare yourself to others. You can go your whole life looking at other people and saying “Oh, I’ll never be as pretty,” or “I’ll never be as smart.” What’s important isn’t who you are in relation to others. It’s who you are in relation to yourself. As we go through life, we grow and adapt and change. Let’s say that you changed by trying to be kinder to others, striving to be a better person is always a great thing but you’ll get nowhere if the entire time all you’re telling yourself is that someone else is nicer.

Sophomore, Krista Kelly said “If you compare yourself to others then it’ll lead you to think less of yourself. You’ll see someone you wish you looked like and think to yourself that you’re never going to look like that, and they’re better than you, and you’re nothing compared to them. When in reality, you should be looking at your own good qualities and not the qualities you wish you could have.”

You are your own person, and, whether you believe it or not, the same person that you look at and think is so much better than you may be looking back at you and thinking the same exact thing. It’s good to be inspired by others, to have people around who give you a little push and help you grow. What we must do with this is embrace it rather than trying to be exactly like or better than another.

  • Don’t beat yourself up

One thing to keep in mind as well is to not beat yourself up for your mistakes or circumstances that you just can’t change. If we all sat down and worried about everything out of our control, then we’d never get anywhere. The same goes for mistakes. No human being is perfect, and we all slip up from time to time. What matters is that you recognize your mistakes and try to grow from them. So what if you mess up? Learn something from it and try again. Messing up is part of human nature. It’s when we start to embrace the mistakes that we can learn and move on.

“If you try something and make a mistake, you’re going to grieve over that mistake and probably will stop trying at things in life. You’ll just see yourself as a failure and lose all confidence and faith in yourself,” says Kelly.

  • Relax

According to Teen Help, a website designed for parents of teens, 42% of teens do not believe they are doing enough to manage their stress.

So don’t be afraid to relax every once in a while. Teenagers worry so much between school, jobs, and their future that they forget to take a moment just to stop and breathe. This is easier said than done as it’s hard to take breaks without falling behind, but dedicate a small amount of time each day to just relaxing and doing something that you want to do.

  • Do things that make you happy

So many issues can spur from the sheer frustration of not being able to do the things that make someone genuinely happy. Others may discourage, saying the negative, and this can be crushing to self-esteem. In the end though, what does this other person’s opinion matter? If you’re doing something you like to do and not hurting anyone, then who are they to tell you that you can’t?

So go see that movie everyone thinks is dumb. Wear that dress your friends don’t like because what matters is that it makes you happy.

  • Spread your positivity

One of the best things to do when you’re feeling happy is to spread that to others. Doing so much as smiling at someone as you pass them in the hall or paying someone a simple compliment not only boosts their self esteem, but yours as well. By spreading your love, the love you get back will only increase. Surrounding yourself with supportive people should also include yourself. Happiness tends to be infectious, and, who knows? Maybe that person you smiled at or complimented will do the same for another, only increasing everyone’s satisfaction.

  • Don’t stretch yourself too thin for others

Many of us love to help other people, and that’s wonderful. Helping others is important, but there’s a point where you have to pick yourself up as well. There are times when we just need to step back and be a little selfish. Often times we can get lost in doing nice things for other people so much that doing things for ourselves seems almost alien.

So don’t be afraid from time to time to just take a deep breath and do something nice for yourself. Remember, you are the person who knows yourself the best, so try to know yourself as a friend rather than an enemy. Self confidence and self-love doesn’t come easy, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible concept either.