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Women Can't Win?: 4 Ways To Improve Your Self-Esteem

Some advice for women on how to build self-esteem

Woman sat in a field of flowers, smiling at herself in a mirror
Caroline Veronez on Unsplash

I'd like to start by saying I love being a woman. However, the amount of societal rules and standards we have to abide by is just exhausting. You should be confident and love yourself, but not too much otherwise you'll come off as vain. Putting on makeup is deceitful. No makeup? You're ugly. Women should be feminine but not too feminine otherwise people won't take you seriously. The list goes on.

As children, we are told that it's what's on the inside that counts. I still think that's true. However, it would be naïve of me to ignore the fact that there are privileges that come with being attractive. A couple of years ago I wanted to "glow up". Taking care of myself and putting more effort into my look did help build confidence. However, I hadn't done the inner work. I would feel anxious leaving the house because I told myself that I had to look good at all times. I'm now in a place where I feel a lot better about myself. So, I wanted to share some advice in the hopes that it can help someone else out there.

1) Aim for neutrality

Whilst the body positivity movement is helpful for some people, that mindset felt completely unrealistic for me. I’m a very self-critical person. So rather than focusing on liking myself more, I focused on disliking myself less. I did this by catching myself every time I said something negative to myself. I wouldn't tell myself that I was stunning. I would tell myself that I looked okay, that I was perfectly normal. This made it a lot easier to say positive things about myself later on. It can feel uncomfortable or even scary to compliment yourself. That's why it’s important to take small steps to get to where you want to be.

2) Instagram isn't real

We all know that Instagram has a negative impact on self-esteem and body image, especially for young women. It’s easy to scroll through hundreds of photos and feel inadequate in comparison. I would advise you to unfollow anyone who makes you feel insecure or anxious. See Instagram as a separate virtual world. Instagram is full of filters, photoshop and plastic surgery which doesn’t accurately represent the real world. The goal is to get people's attention. It doesn't make sense to compare yourself to people whose careers are based on their attractiveness. Accept yourself as you are and make improvements based on your wants, not what social media says.

3) The Beauty of Averageness

I believe that ugliness is a concept applicable to someone's personality, not their appearance. Most of us look average and that's okay. There is beauty to be found in the average. Take some time to recognise the everyday beauty in other people. Doing so will help you to recognise your own beauty. If you feel brave enough, you should compliment people. Oftentimes it will make their day. You may even help them feel better about a feature they usually feel insecure about. Appreciating the beauty in others will help you to recognise and appreciate your own beauty. I think a lot of people, women especially, get caught up in wanting to be a 10/10 or looking "perfect". Chasing perfection will make you miserable. Accept yourself and realise that if there are things you'd like to improve, you don't need to beat yourself up about it.

Wardrobe filled with clothing
Burgess Milner on Unsplash

3) Dressing how you want to

As I mentioned in the beginning, women have so many standards and social rules to follow. They often contradict each other. You might as well do what you want because someone will have something to say regardless. Take time to plan outfits, try a new hairstyle and play with makeup. Make Pinterest boards for inspiration. Treat yourself as a canvas. What art do you want to create today? Try different colours and styles to see what suits you best and brings you the most joy. Putting in the effort to decorate yourself will increase your confidence and reinforce the idea that you are worth the time and attention you are giving to yourself.

4) The importance of your mindset

Self-esteem has to come from within. If it is solely based on your appearance, you are setting yourself up for failure. What are you good at? Do you make friends easily? Are you really good at your job? Are you a caring person? Self-esteem comes from knowing and appreciating who you are. Focusing on these aspects will help you to worry less about external matters. Looks fade eventually and people will remember you for your character, not what you look like.

In summary, it's okay to care about your appearance but you mustn't let it consume you. It's easier said than done. Don't force yourself to feel overly positive about yourself if it's not authentic. Take small steps towards self-acceptance. Self-love will follow. You only have one life. Why waste it worrying about what other people think about how you look? It's impossible to please everyone so you might as well focus on what makes you happy.


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