Women and Self Esteem

What do you like about yourself? Are you proud of yourself? If these questions make you feel uncomfortable, or you cannot answer them, chances are that you have a problem with self esteem. Why is that? Why do so many of us basically dislike ourselves? Why are we embarrassed to “esteem” ourselves?

Before answering this question, we must first define self-esteem. Self esteem comes from the inside out. It means that a woman is not dependent upon anyone else to make her feel good about herself, because she already knows she’s fine just the way she is. She is confident and aware of her strengths and abilities. She wants to share them with others.

This does not mean she is conceited. She is also aware of areas needing work and growth. But that’s ok, because she knows she’s not perfect, and she doesn’t have to be. No one is. She understands that we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

Self-esteem is a core identity issue, essential to personal validation and our ability to experience joy. Once achieved, it comes from the inside out. But it is assaulted or stunted from the outside in. A woman with low self-esteem does not feel good about herself because she has absorbed negative messages about women from the culture and/or relationships.

The reign of youth, beauty and thinness in our society dooms every woman to eventual failure. Women’s magazines, starting with the teenage market, program them to focus all their efforts on their appearance. Many girls learn, by age 12, to drop formerly enjoyable activities in favor of the beauty treadmill leading to nowhere. They become fanatical about diets. They munch, like rabbits, on leaves without salad dressing, jog in ice storms, and swear they love it! Ads abound for cosmetic surgery, enticing us to “repair” our aging bodies, as if the natural process of aging were an accident or a disease. Yet with all this effort, they still never feel like they are good enough.

How can they? Anorexic magazine models are airbrushed to perfection. “Beautiful” movie stars are whipped into perfect shape by personal trainers, and use surgery to create an unnatural cultural ideal. But youth cannot last. It is not meant to. If women buy into this image of beauty, then the best an older woman can strive for is looking “good for her age” or worse yet, “well preserved”. Mummies are well preserved. Mummies are also dead.

Abusive experiences join with cultural messages to assault female self esteem. Abuse is pervasive and cuts across all socioeconomic lines. It invariably sends the message that the victim is worthless. Many, many women have told me that verbal abuse has hurt them far more than any physical act. As one woman put it, “his words scarred my soul”. Women whose abuse started as children have the most fragile sense of identity and self worth.

Poor self esteem often results in depression and anxiety. Physical health suffers as well. Many times, women with this problem don’t go for regular checkups, exercise, or take personal days because they really don’t think they’re worth the time.

Relationships are impacted as well. Their needs are not met by their partner because they feel like they don’t deserve to have them met, or are uncomfortable asking. Their relationships with children can suffer if they are unable to discipline effectively, set limits, or demand the respect they deserve. Worse yet, low self-esteem passes from mother to daughter.The mother is modeling what a woman is. She is also modeling, for her sons, what a wife is.

In the workplace, women with low self-esteem tend to be self-deprecating, to minimize their accomplishments, or let others take credit for their work. They never move up. Finally, with friends, they are unable to say no. They end up doing favors they don’t want to do, or have any time for. They end up going where they don’t want to go, with people they don’t want to go with! A woman with low self-esteem has no control over her life. But that can change. These women can get help and emotional healing.

It is criticial to remember that no one deserves to be abused. If something bad has happened to you, it does not mean there is something wrong with you. The responsibility for the abuse lies with the person who chooses to hurt you. If you are presently being abused, you must put yours and your children’s safefy first. If you think you are in danger, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can choose your own identity. You can discard the popular cultural image and replace it with something real. As I read someplace once, “We are bound by our fate only as long as we accept the values that determine it.”

Nobody is perfect, but everyone is worthwhile. Believe in yourself.

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8 Responses to “Women and Self Esteem”

  1. Health Tips Blog » Women and Self Esteem Says:

    […] Here is an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAs one woman put it, “his words scarred my soul”. Women whose abuse started as children have the most fragile sense of identity and self worth. Poor self esteem often results in depression and anxiety. Physical health suffers as well. … […]

  2. justordinary Says:

    This was an excellent post! Thank you for sharing. I believe this is a major topic that needs addressed. This day and age the television of Hollywood brainwash our young girls to automatically start thinking before blooming that they have to be perfect looking in all aspects.

  3. psychscribe Says:

    Thanks justordinary. This issue is a particular passion of mine. Its nice to hear from others who feel the same way.
    Warmly,
    Psychscribe

  4. springshiny Says:

    Kudos to you for writing such a piece with so much of substance! Your passion for women and their issues is admirable. Good that my companion in life literally forced me to start writing in this blog as a means of expressing myself… And that has led me to you and your writings. I am happy to know you through your writing. Ur writings tell me that you must be a very effective therapist, but even more importantly a thinking and sensitive human being… Cheers to your writing and to your unique self!!

  5. Miki Says:

    Excellent post indeed, and I guess that if eevrybody were reading one of your entries for breakfast each morning (like I am doing right now), the whole world would be in a better emotional state!
    I deeply agree with each word you write. The problem with self esteem is that when you show it to the world, or speak about it, people think you are arrogant, or full or yourself´s inner superiority. Of course these peopel are, most of the time, the ones with low self-esteem! And of course there is always a humble way to “praise” yourself publically, but this is an ART!
    I have myself a big portion of self-esteem, simply because I have achieved a lot in my life and still do, and because I never stop fighting to be MYSELF and trying to reach my aim. Also the love of other people make it easy to feel well in your own skin, but well, this is clear, people love you when you deserve it, and here we are again with the right to feel self-esteem.
    I don´t know how it is where you live, but in Europe, especially in two of the lands where I lived, something awful happent. The women started to “liberate” themselves and fight for their rights and self-esteem many years ago, but they did it in such a way that they “lowered” the men, who lost totally their self-esteem!

  6. Miki Says:

    Your blog has been chosen by Miki from the Cafe Crem Team to participate in the 8 random thoughts meme. You are invited to keep the meme going, or simply bask in your new found fame!

  7. psychscribe Says:

    Hi Everyone, I am so delighted with the positive responses my post has received!

    Yes, justordinary, we do have to worry about our young girls. Half my work as a therapist is deprogramming the women they eventually turn into.

    springshiny, writing in this blog is indeed wonderfult “therapy” for you – better yet, have you started your own?

    Miki, I absolutely relate to every word you’ve written here. Through a lot of of my own work on myself, I have a great deal of self esteem which sometimes elicits a negative reaction from people, due I am sure, to their own issues. Regarding the women liberating themselves, we may not be in agreement here. I believe women had to liberate themselves from the cultural issues I talk about in this post, and it wasn’t easy! But your point about “lowering” men’s self esteem is well taken. I think we moved too fast and they got scared, and defensive….

  8. Miki Says:

    Of course I agree that women had to liberate themselves! I just don´t agree about HOW they did it, but to be honest, how should they know better, without any past experience in this field!!!
    It is fascinating to follow though.
    In France (where I was born) women were always liberated, and we had a lot of famous women in the past, this means that this liberation process had not to happen.
    In Germany, where I was living for more than 25 years, I really witnessed a painful process… i had many male friends, and through my studies and work then, Ilived above all among men. It hurt me so much to see how they gradually lost their self-esteem, and any orientation how to behave, and even how TO BE, being scare to death to be labelled with the word “macho”
    And in Spain, where i live now, everything is coming later, so the women have started to liberate themselves not such a long time ago, but they do it extremely fast and with aggressioin. The result beeing then many Spanish men (real machos)now chose women from other countries (we have so many nationalities here) for their relationships, loving especially the esteuropean and Russian ones, who -they think…- still “behave like real women”, meaning “soft and obedient and submissive”!
    It is fascinating to observe all that from outside, but so painful for the men and women going through this liberation process!
    But I guess, at the end, men and women will find the right balance in their interaction. Perhaps it is “only” a question of “speaking together”, but this is another theme…

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