I just returned from the apartment complex’s laundry room, five trips back and forth, hauling my stuff. It’s a block away. I’m in such a sweat. It was so hot inside, at eighty-six degrees it’s cooler outside.
I passed my time looking at People Magazine, seeing all the most beautiful women—stars—posing on the red carpet, and dressed by the most talented designers. YIKES! This is what we average women compare ourselves to.
I’m blessed to be fairly good looking. Cursed to be fat. Lucky to be old. (Beats the alternative.) How do women cope, especially those who aren’t so fortunate? No wonder most women feel inadequate. No wonder we struggle with self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem.
This reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago.
What is it?
By Jan Golden
A group of women in a recent workshop on self-esteem, puzzled over why they didn’t feel better about themselves. They were an interesting group, I thought. Not much different than groups of women I have talked to in many settings.
But the energy was low and everyone was feeling kind of shy about being in a group and talking about their own feelings of lack of self-esteem. I could see them looking at each other and thinking, “I wonder why a person who seems as confident as she does would be here.”
Later, I was taking to a group of the women. After much maneuvering of the conversation, I finally got some comments from them on self-esteem. It seems they felt confident in certain areas of their lives, often career and sports. But in some areas they also felt a lack of self-esteem, usually in relationships. I wondered why this is a topic men and women hardly ever discuss together. I think we go to great lengths to guard the secret that we feel insecure in some areas of our lives.
How did we get that way?
Our parents, our schools, our churches and the marketplace set expectations for us. We are labeled as customers, employees, wives, lovers’, party animals, kids, and relatives.
With each of these labels comes an image. We are told how a successful man should look, how a good wife should cook, and how a good child should behave. So we begin to get divided into the external self and the internal self. We have to put on a big act sometimes to carry off the image that we have taken on.
The external self is trying its best to look successful and if the internal self doesn’t feel successful, then we create the imposter syndrome. We feel that if people really ‘knew’ us they might not like us.
The imposter syndrome leads to a growing internalized sense of shame, a feeling of basic unworthiness that can remain with us the rest of our lives. Underneath is the fear that we won’t be good enough to get the love we need from others.
The images we see on television and in magazines are pretty hard to live up to. The great body of an athlete or the beautiful appearance of a model is what we are trying to emulate. These are professional images of people who devote a great amount of time, energy, and money to achieve their image. If we can’t look like them we feel like we don’t measure up and our self-esteem slips lower.
In the rapidly changing world it is important to define your own role and decide on fair expectations that are right for you. Our outside appearance is like a uniform that we put on for our job, it does add to how we look, but not to who we are.
To build self-esteem decide that you are willing to quit living up to expectations set by others. Discard the images set for you by others; they aren’t usually based on reality. They are media images created by advertisers who want to sell us something.
Tip for the week: Find one thing you really like about yourself and focus on that, build on it and the seed of self worth begins to grow. And the next time you receive a compliment accept it, internalized it, and say thank you. Especially important is to pass this message on to your daughters and grand-daughters.
Jan Golden is a writer, consultant and trainer. She welcomes your comments and questions.