Sometimes when talking about beauty, we forget how important it is that everyone feels worthwhile. Beauty is a wonderful and powerful thing, but confidence is what really counts. I spent years with bad self-esteem. For a long time, I held onto those moments where people had made disparaging comments or I’d decided that I simply wasn’t good enough. We asked you to tell use your stories and your thoughts on self-esteem and you gave them to us. For sending in submissions in advance, we’d like to send you all a little something (so keep an eye on your inbox!). Thank you for sharing these parts of yourself with us, sharing something that’s very personal, but can be helpful to others going through the same thing.
If you didn’t get to submit something ahead, feel free to talk about your feelings on self-esteem in the comment section. We’d love to hear what you have to say!
*Trigger Warning: This post contains discussion of suicide.
Your Thoughts and Advice:
“You are a unique individual, and nobody else can be as good at being you as yourself. So quit comparing yourself to others, and simply try to be the best you can be every day!
Having personally suffered from low self-esteem for most of my life I can now at 61 speak with a wealth and depth of pain and learning.
Introduce you to you. Like the person you meet. Be gracious and tolerant of the woman you meet. Know from the door she is not perfect nor does she have to be. Learn to love her slowly, warmly, and unconditionally.
Stoke the fires that simmer within to ignite fierce desires. Breathe long, deeply, and exhale with gusto often.
Blow your own mind and let the light of a higher power be your guiding force. It will take you higher!
I think self-esteem is very much derived from my up bringing and the people I am around. I believe that the values of people around me have a big impact of what I think of myself; a few people I know surround themselves with superficial people and they are superficial too, their self esteem primarily rely on looks and fame. Some people’s self esteem is primarily defined by what they own, they acquire things for the sake of owning things: watches, yachts, antiques, guns…etc. Some others evaluate themselves based on their ability and know how, a farmer, a pianist or a Everest climber. They might feel great about themselves because they can do what they do, they don’t necessarily be good at it, they just enjoy doing things they are passionate about. For me, it’s about how much people value and respect me, although it’s very general, I believe this is the root of self-esteem for many, I feel great about myself when I am cared, respected and value.
And Your Stories:
“I feel good when I have had a hot shower with my favorite body wash and shampoo and I get my makeup on and get dressed and my husband takes me out for the evening.”
I didn’t *feel* beautiful when my mother dressed me up as Goldilocks in preschool. I KNEW I was. I wasn’t much past five but I knew I was rocking those corkscrew curls and paisley frock as I benevolently distributed sweets to my fellow preschoolers, some of whom were less than gracious in suspending their disbelief for fairy tale week.
That confidence got tamped down and stamped out through elementary and middle school. Hair dye and ill-fated eyeliner experiments and flirtations with styles ranging from Hot Topic to Lily Pulitzer never quite did the trick. I gave up on admiring the person I saw in the mirror each morning.
Years later, a day came when I threw on some old comfortable jeans and a giant gray sweatshirt (which I had only purchased because I was so cold waiting for my father to finish shopping in a sporting goods store) and went hiking alone, rehearsing a piece of my own composition for a poetry reading later that night. The poem I was never entirely happy with, but I loved that I was strong enough to traverse the trails and hop the fences, that I could navigate well enough from the position of the sun, that I was at peace in my own company.
Hours later when I came in from the cold, I caught a glance of messy brunette tendrils escaping from a ponytail, windswept color across cheekbones, eyes shining. And I knew I was gorgeous.
I fell in love for the first time: sweet and innocent 14-years-old. And even though I didn’t give myself any credit I ended up in a relationship with the boy I liked. We were young so our relationship consisted of holding hands and going to each other’s houses for dinner. We kissed twice, maybe thrice, but that was it. I didn’t go out much so he used to go to parties without me: I didn’t care, I was happy; I began to feel pretty and desired. I lost a few pounds, I asked my mother to take me to a dermatologist (which was a luxury back then). A month later I found out he was cheating on me, a 14-year-old that was crazy and in love with him, that could not imagine her life without him… and all the drama that comes with being a teenager. Ridiculous, but it was so true and intense back then.
I was sad for a year. Then I was furious. And that anger made me company for years, and it fueled my time at the gym, my readings about nutrition, a skincare routine no teenager could maintain unless she was driven and loaded with energy. He had to see me a few years later and he had to be sorry for what he did. I wanted him to regret what he did by the rest of his days, and that had to happen by the mere sight of me.
Long story short: with time, I forgot about the guy but found that all that bad energy could be put in something good: learning how to take proper care of me. I used to think that having a nice face was enough, but when you know you were given much more you always feel in debt with yourself. Eating and drinking too much, sedentary life, sleeping with your makeup on, dressing in pajamas half of the week… it’s just a lack of self-respect. Dignity lies in the hearts of people but you can see it through their bodies and faces. Your body is indeed your temple. Respect it, treat it kindly.
So… I did see the guy 5 years later. I was freshmen in college and we run into each other on a party. We danced a little and he asked for my number. I said yes, and went out with him three times. I didn’t kissed him once and stopped answering the phone after the last date. There was nothing about him anymore: it felt like I had never knew him. But me? I was happy, and radiant, and gorgeous and very confident indeed. Put some knowledge and energy in to your body and you’ll feel and look amazing.
Just… treasure yourselves.
Hello FutureDerm, as a young person who was diagnosed with OCD and clinical depression at age 13 this is a very dear subject to my heart. Unlike some OCD sufferers who obsess about organization I obsessed about my body and weight. I couldn’t look in the mirror without crying; I thought I was hideous. I had started to get mild acne at 12 and when I was 14 it was severe cystic acne. The topicals didn’t do much but I was afraid to try Accutane because I wanted something “natural.” I should have just gone on it, then I wouldn’t have all this scarring on my face and back I do today. Then again maybe it’s a good thing because my depression was so bad. I went on it when I was 17 and it worked beautifully and I didn’t find it made my depression worse, but we put the dose on my Prozac up just to make sure.
I am going to be 18 soon and I want to go to school and become a counselor because I have a lot of empathy and understanding for people suffering mental illness. When I was 13, I tried to commit suicide by slitting my throat. The reason was I couldn’t stand how I looked. Of course there were other underlying factors like an undiagnosed learning disability, but this was the thing was extremely distressing to me in my obsessions. Now I am glad I am alive so I can help people and cats and love them. Getting CBT from a therapist really helped me manage my suicidal thoughts and feelings and getting on the right medications.
I believe human emotions are very complex and they are something that gives us character and beauty as painful as they are. Another thing that really helped me to heal is getting into feminism. There is a great blog called Beauty Redefined I am into. I have always been a critical thinker so I love science blogs like yours that examine marketing claims I also really like Brightest Bulb in the Box and The Beauty Brains. Feminism has been very healing to especially radical feminist theory; though I enjoy makeup I know I don’t make the decision to wear it in a vacuum. I just find it all very interesting and empowering and despite now being a radical feminist I enjoy makeup and taking care of myself. I think it’s only a stereotype that you can’t and be a feminist especially a radfem and I find critique of the beauty industrial complex very interesting. It sounds hypocritical of me but I don’t think it is. Thanks for dedicating a week for such an important thing on your site. I am happy I don’t see myself as repulsive anymore in fact I love my body and all the wonderful things it can do!
I went to school for writing, graduated 5 years ago, and had these pie in the sky dreams of one day writing for Conan O’Brien. It’s great to have goals but achieving them is a whole other ballgame. Reality no-doubt inevitably sets in and you have to deal with being an unemployed college graduate with no guarantee of success. When I graduated in 2007, the WGA writers strike was in full effect and I needed to find something full-time to gain experience so that someday I would be hired in Hollywood. I researched job opportunities for breaking into “the Business” and the ones that were feasible in Pittsburgh were 1. Personal Assistant 2. House Manager 3. Nanny.
I essentially did all three when a family hired me as a hour manager. For those who don’t know what a house manager is… it’s basically a nanny, personal assistant for the home. **A Note: Being a nanny, house manager, personal assistant is different for everyone. Some people have the most wonderful experiences. I am speaking from my own experiences and needless to say- they were awful.**
I started in September and quit in August. Eleven months of absolute hell. Within those 11 months, I attended parent-teacher conferences, cooked dinner every evening, bought all of the groceries for the family, catered any meetings held at the house, planned the kid’s birthday parties, worked on major holidays, wrapped the Christmas presents from “Santa,” took the kids school shopping, taught myself French in order to tutor one of the kids, put 25,000 miles on my car, picked up the dry cleaning, received 1a.m. phone calls from my boss, color-coded my bosses closet and shoe shelves, cleaned a multi-story house and guest house every week, shoveled the driveway… the list could go on forever.
The thing is, it’s one thing to hire someone to take care of things around the house but this was excessive. It also brought down my self worth. I was doing all of this for a family that didn’t even put in the effort to learn my last name. Anytime I was called from the top of the stairs it was never by my name rather, “Hey Hun!” However, that all changed one summer afternoon the following August.
The last straw was when my boss counted two days I’d had the flu as my week of paid vacation. I quit. I wish I could say it was bittersweet leaving that job. It wasn’t. I have dealt with the mental and emotional scars for years now. It’s very difficult coping with self-worth (or lack there of) after something like this. However, the key to regaining self-worth is learning to accept and move on.
I cannot tell you how many years I wasted being angry. I was angry at myself. Sure, I was mad at my former bosses for treating me so poorly but the main issue I had was how stupid I was for letting them take advantage of me. I know I was young and that I just wanted to keep the job and do the best I could. But there comes a point when it is okay to give up. I was having panic attacks nightly. I had constant anxiety anytime my phone would ring. I was always scrutinizing myself for the littlest things. I let my former bosses get into my head.
The best thing I ever did was take a step back and analyze why I felt the way I did. I spoke to a trained therapist and realized I needed to take those experiences and turn it into a positive. I was now much more vocal when I had issues. I fought for what I knew was right. I was no longer a pushover and I felt in control for the first time since college. My “failures” shaped my future. Sure, I wasn’t working for Conan O’Brien in LA. But, I was able to regain my self worth by making many positive and exciting changes in my life. I made decisions that made me happy like coming to my current job. I was able to adopt a Corgi. I also moved into my own apartment in a neighborhood that I adore. I took control of my life. Accepting my past allowed me to pursue a wonderful future.