My College Roommate
I still remember walking into my roommate’s room in college, just in time to see her look in the mirror and say, “I look hot!”. My initial reaction was somewhere between shock and disgust—how dare she be so cocky!? I remember thinking “Who compliments themselves?” In all honesty, she did look beautiful and I’d complimented her a hundred times. But for a reason that I did not understand, I felt uncomfortable with her complimenting herself. Had I walked in to find her complaining about skin problems, hair or body issues, I wouldn’t have had a second thought.
But why? Why was I okay with my friend tearing herself down, but not talking herself up? I later learned that my roommate had actually struggled for years with self-esteem and body image problems, and was completing a therapy assignment to ‘compliment herself’ rather than tear herself down.
It’s harmful to our self-esteem when others are cruel to us, or when society/the media tell us value lies in reaching unreachable standards. But true damage is done when we listen to those negative influences and start tearing ourselves down through comparing and engaging in negative self-talk. For example, “I’m dumb”, “She is so much prettier than me.”, “Why can’t I just focus and lose weight?”
When we listen to negative influences and engage in negative self-talk, we feel bad about who we are. When we ignore negative influences, listen to positive influences, and engage in positive self-talk we feel good about who we are. Positive self-talk could include any variations of these type of statements: “I’m so hot!”, “I love how strong my thighs are!”, “I am a hard worker!”, “It’s okay that she was rude, I’m a kind person and she’s probably just having a bad day.”It’s sounds simple—and the logic of it is–but it takes practice, consistency, and determination to make it happen.
Media, Society and Low Self-Esteem
How we feel about ourselves–good or bad–is typically based more on learning than reality. You were not born with insecurities and negative thoughts about yourself. Those ideas/beliefs were learned. You don’t believe them because they are true, you believe them because someone or something told you to (bullies, media, social media, or even sometimes well-meaning family or friends).
A few things to consider about media & society:
- The multi-billion dollar beauty industry makes money by telling women they are incomplete without their products. Making you feel like you’re lacking something is a marketing tactic to increase their profit. If all women felt great about themselves, no one would buy their products. Hence, they make more money if you feel bad about yourself, and therefore create advertisements to promote the idea that you are lacking.
- Despite what the media tells us, having flawless skin, shiny hair, a thigh gap, and nice clothes does not equate to happiness. If you’ve ever told yourself, ‘If only I had ________(fill in the blank), then I would be happy’, it’s time to reconsider that logic. The happiest people I know love themselves, love others, and practice genuine gratitude for what they have. The unhappiest people I know are never satisfied with themselves or what they have, and constantly tell themselves that they would be happy if one or more circumstance changed.
- Social media users only post the things about themselves they want you to know. Just because it appears that someone has a ‘perfect’ life, does not mean they actually do, because no one does! Remember, the next time you’re tempted to compare yourself, that you may be looking at an airbrushed picture or an image that projects a false sense of reality.
Rather than feeling bad about yourself because you are basing your value on the advice of scheming advertisers or comparing yourself to a photoshopped picture on social media, start feeling good about yourself by practicing self-love, being kind to yourself and others, and—yes—complimenting yourself.
Society and the media give us permission to tear ourselves down. I am now giving you permission to build yourself up. Be like my friend. Compliment yourself… OUT LOUD! Focus on your good qualities and find a way to embrace every aspect of yourself. Now is the time to stop being self-critical and avoid engaging in negative self-talk. Instead, make a concerted effort to be kind to yourself, engage in positive self-talk, and focus on your strengths. It’s time to stop comparing or complaining, and start complimenting.
Make a list of 25 (50 if you’re feeling ambitious!) things you like about yourself, or would like to start appreciating about yourself. Look in the mirror and repeat them to yourself—aloud—every morning. It will be difficult, and probably awkward at first. This is one way you can start developing positive self-talk. When you catch yourself saying (or thinking) something negative to yourself, say, “Cancel, cancel, cancel” and repeat one of your compliments! Good luck!