My StoryThe day before I started middle school, I was watching Nickelodeon (those were the days) and I saw an ad for a documentary they would be showing later that night that was all about middle school. In the preview it showed them interviewing various famous adults about their middle school experiences. You can imagine my horror when one man literally said "It was the worst three years of my life." Ouch. If I had been nervous to start school before, now I was terrified.
I feel as though hearing those words became somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy for me. Middle school was awful. I, like everyone else, was constantly shunned, judged, and excluded. I had friends and good times and a lot of fun during those years too, but the social pressures were a new thing for me and my classmates, and very hard to adjust to. After three years of that, who could blame us if we had begun to habitually feel bad about ourselves?
By the time freshman year rolled around, I was in a pretty dark place. I thought life would always be like this and all I wanted to do was sleep. It took me a while to break out of this, but by the end of sophomore year, I was feeling much better. I had renewed my zest for life, and for the first time, it felt as though opportunities were blossoming before me. Getting there wasn't easy, but it was worth it.
So, that's my story. What's yours? How do you feel about yourself on a regular basis. Do you think you're the best of the best, or do you often feel crummy? For many people, negative feelings, self-doubt, and a lack of self-esteem are so deeply ingrained in their minds that they don't even notice how bad they feel most of the time.
What is self esteem, anyway? Why is it so important?
Self esteem can be described "as a term used in psychology to reflect a person's overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth" (thank you, Wikipedia). This is a basic definition. What's really important is how a person's self esteem manifests itself in their life. For example, someone with low self esteem or a low concept of self-worth may hold themselves back from doing things they really want to do. They may wish to participate in a musical, but they tell themselves "I'm not good enough to get in," and they never try out. Often, people like this are so devoted to the thought that they can't do whatever it is they want to do that they don't even allow themselves to consciously want those things. Instead, they lie to themselves, attempting to feel content in whatever mediocrity they've settled for, because that's what they think they deserve. In contrast, someone who has higher self esteem would try out for the musical, and would probably get the part they wanted, too. Having higher self esteem allows one to (a know what they really want and (b actually go after it. The higher your self esteem, the more likely you are to have an amazing fulfilling life. Now that sounds good, doesn't it?
How do I increase my own self-esteem?
Good question. Learning to love yourself is an ongoing journey, but every little thing you can do is a step in the right directions. Here are some practices I have found especially helpful.
- Exercising. It is a scientific fact that exercise releases endorphins which make you feel good. It also helps eliminate chronic pain and aches and can help you lose weight. Do something fun, and change it up often. Try doing a Zumba or Yoga class, take up jogging or do workouts like the Brazilian Butt Workout! They make you look good and feel hot and productive :)
- Journaling. I find it helpful to occasionally write things down, whether I just need to get my feelings out or I want to celebrate or record something awesome that happened. You can use your journal as a place for introspective thoughts. Write about your life, and where you want it to go. Write about how you can get there. Discuss your triumphs, your successes, and your good qualities.
- Keeping a Good Day Jar. I haven't been doing this recently but would like to get back into it. Basically, you have a jar, and every time you have a good day, you record it on a piece of paper and drop it in the jar. When you feel sad or upset, you can dump out the jar and read about all the good days you've had. This helps you see how great your life really is!
- Creating. Because I am an artist, I feel best when I am creating. Drawing, painting, sewing, etc. Whether your passion is also of a creative nature or it is something else like surfing, writing, or organizing closets, do what you love and do a lot of it!
- Trying new things. Getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things allows you a chance to grow as a person and learn more about yourself. Need ideas? Here you go: Have A Rad Summer: A Summer Bucket List.
- Affirmations. Some people are put of these, but they are basically statements which support positive ideas about yourself. They can be as simple as you like, but pick things that resonate with you. Some of my favorites are "I am strong and brave." "I am the best." "I deserve the best." "YES!". The ultimate challenge is to stand in front of a mirror, look yourself right in the eye, and say "I love you. I love (insert your name here)."
- Constantly expressing yourself. Because when you express yourself, you acknowledge the fact that you are great enough to show yourself to the world. Whether this is done through your personal style, your hair color, your art, your music, or anything else, when you do things, do them your way. The girls I included in the image above are all fierce, perfect examples of this. Put your mark on the world.
- Spending time with people who love you. Chances are you have a circle of people around you who love you and want nothing more than for you than happiness. Hang out with them!
Hopefully that list gives you some ideas, but for more, you can always view my related articles, such as On Being Yourself and Girls, Girls, Girls! On Female Role Models. For more about my own self esteem story, look here. And of course, I love anything Gala Darling has ever written on self worth. Study up! And always remember that you are radical, you are worthy of love, no matter what anyone tells you. Go forth and love yourself :)