On Self-Esteem and Body Image

Self-EsteemWe interrupt your usual programming of lipstick swatches and makeup tutorials to bring you this PSA on self-esteem.

So yeah, this isn’t my usual and I feel pretty vulnerable posting this. And I definitely didn’t post it because I found a selfie of me looking pretty pensive (lame attempt at humor). This is probably the most personal post you’ll see on here and it’s an issue close to my heart. I peruse a lot of blogs, and self-esteem is an issue I see come up again and again. So where to begin?

Bad Self-Esteem Can Happen To Anyone. This is something a lot of people don’t understand. A lot of people that don’t suffer from low self-esteem assume that the only people with low self-esteem are girls that look least like the ones in the films. Guess what? No one looks like that. Even beyond the normal confines of fat/thin, “womanly”/”boyish,” there are a lot of things women can find wrong with themselves, even things the media doesn’t explicitly portray as bad. For example:

  • Too pale
  • Too dark
  • Curly hair (i.e. frizzy, messy hair)
  • Straight hair (i.e. flat, dull hair)
  • Flat butt
  • Big butt
  • Freckles
  • Pores

I could go on with the list, but you get my point. It’s not like the media lacks people with straight hair, but I know a lot of straight haired girls who desperately wish their hair was different. Ditto for the curly and wavy haired girls. And while the J.Lo epidemic during my tween years put emphasis on larger backsides, there were no shortage of less curvy girls on the runway or TV.

Developing Good Self-Esteem: I’m happy to say that my self-esteem vastly improved when I transitioned from my tween to teenage and college years. How did it happen? In one sense, I just decided I was pretty. I took all the things I thought were wrong with me (wavy hair, pale skin, rounded belly) and decided either A) the trait was something unique about me that enhanced my beauty, or failing to do that B) the trait was a small part of the larger puzzle that shouldn’t be fixated on.

The other thing I did was focus on the person I was outside of just my looks. Not all self-esteem issues are related to beauty, of course, but many of them are, hence the focus of this article. The more I focused my intelligence and personality, the less important physical beauty became. Funny that the less I focused on achieving this impossible standard of perfection, the more beautiful I became.

Can The Media Help? Yes and no. I was a thin tween looking at photos of thin models and I still invented new things to feel bad about. I think introducing a variety of body types will help the problem but not entirely eradicate it. To some extent, self-esteem is internal, something people are prone to have high or low amounts of without the media’s influence. What the media can and really should do? Stop inventing new standards of beauty for women to live up to! Thigh gaps, hip dips? I think we are all capable of over-analyzing the smallest details of our body on our own. Thigh gaps aren’t a sign of physical fitness nor are they a sign that a woman looks like a prepubescent boy (like I’ve heard some lovely commenters say). Thigh gaps are just there. Or not. But their presence shouldn’t be on the forefront of every woman’s brain.

Finally, Does Makeup = Low Self-Esteem? Well this is important for me to throw in since I mainly write about makeup. Emphatically no! It takes a confident woman to wear red lipstick. As my self-esteem increased so did my boldness with makeup. To me it’s not about covering up or hiding, it’s about having fun and self-expression. I’m sure there are women who need makeup to feel attractive, but this doesn’t mean it’s the majority.

So what do you all think? I know this article is a bit lengthy for a Monday morning, but how do you all feel? Agree, disagree? What have been your own experiences with self-esteem?


48 thoughts on “On Self-Esteem and Body Image

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, self-esteem has always been a key word deeply related to the human being, we love showing off our confidence,strength, yet on the other hand we are fragile as ever, afraid of life and not happy with our appearance. I believe that, it is this complicated state of being that makes us unique and interesting.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. I do find that it was a lot harder to deal with this issue when I was younger. Like you, as I got older I learned to love my flaws and work with them. I’m 42 now and I am perfectly comfortable leaving the house without makeup, not having perfect hair or being a perfect weight. I am happy in my own skin.
    No one is perfect. Yes, there are days I will look at myself and hate the way I look, but even those that look perfect to everyone else will have those days.

  3. Thank you for this. It’s a wonderful post. I’ve thought about writing some more personal things like this along these subject lines (especially since it can be so easily connected to makeup) but think, ack maybe it’s a little deep to be writing about?! Haha but really I think you’ve made very true points. I could write a novel about having crappy self esteem my whole life and appreciate that emphasis that it can truly affect anyone.

    • Thank you. I didn’t even get too much into details and felt it was a little too personal, so I understand that. Just know that if you choose to write something along those lines, you have my total support. Heck, I read everything on your blog anyway! aha

      • I really do appreciate that. Obviously the same applies to you! That makes sense though, one of those very personal things where I think many of us could go on and on..

  4. Such an important article for beauty bloggers! On bad days, it can be so easy to tear yourself apart, and I think that young girls need learn to realize when they’re being critical of themselves. For a long time I had very low self esteem, but this past year I began changing the negatives into positives, and just accepting what is there and seeing things in a more positive light!
    As for makeup as a “crutch” per say… I totally agree that it takes a confident woman to experiment with dramatic makeup. My hope is that women who use it to cover up their imperfections can become more confident in doing so, and then push themselves from blending in to standing strong!

    • Thank you for your comment. It’s encouraging to see that even though so many of us have had low self-esteem, many of us seem to grow out of it. I’m glad you see yourself in a more positive light.

  5. Here’s my male perspective. My appearance doesn’t really affect my self esteem positively or negatively. My bigger concerns are where I am career-wise for my age, if my skills match up with my peers, etc. In terms of beauty I can’t relate, I don’t feel the pressure or the “gaze” women feel (usually I’m just ignored). For that I am grateful, I think about how tough it would be to be a girl and “compete” with each other the way some girls do, and its scary to imagine. Great post, hope you feel better soon.

  6. Personally, it’s been a roller coaster. I had self image issues when I was a teen, especially because I was a late bloomer. So, I wasn’t being noticed that way by guys which led me to pick myself apart to find out why I wasn’t being noticed. Then, after high school I gained some confidence. I think it has a lot to do with how we define ourselves and the pride we take in what we do. I was more confident when I was in college and working because I was doing something positive with my life. I’m much more confident now as an adult. I have my down days, but who doesn’t? And you’re right about the media putting focus on things that shouldn’t be main priority. Those things only make the down days that much worse. Thank you for this great post!

  7. Excellent post, self esteem is a tough issue and it’s hard to accept the body you were born with when bombarded by the medias narrow image of beauty. I’m glad I’ve been introduced to your site and thanks for liking my book review blog. BTW love the Bridget Bardot pic I’ve always been a fan of her style in the sixties.

  8. Thank you for this great post! For me, a low self-esteem problem comes not only from the outlooks, but also from personal life issues or job prospects. I can see the point of women that use make-up to feel better with themselves -at least, on their physical appearance-, but for me it’s just like hidding yourself behind a mask. I love using make-up, but as years pass by, I have noticed that is when I feel more confident that I tend to experiment more with colours and styles -even with my clothes or my hair-. Maybe it’s a matter of time until you realize that you have to be comfortable in your skin and love yourself in every single way.

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  10. Thanks for this post. I hear so many people talk about natural beauty but I feel we as women are like blank slates. We are an artists canvas and it is truly up to an individual to decide how creatively to express ourselves. Yes it is so important to build a beautiful inside to allow what is on the outside to shine. Self acceptance is difficult. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

  11. I think most of us outgrow a lot of our insecurities. I know, I did. Not to say that I still don’t have it know, because I still have plenty but I’m learn to manage how I feel about it.

    I really enjoy the personal posts like this:)

  12. Lovely post 🙂 Everything you say is right on target. I wish schools would teach regular self-esteem classes, debating issues like the ones you’ve raised here. Not just one lesson, but one each week. Maybe some schools do, but here in Uk don’t think it’s nationwide. Thanks for this post x

  13. Hi V! I just found you through my “recommended” list. I really like the voice of your blog! Plus, self esteem/body image issues really speak to me. I’m an advocate of loving ourselves as we are in the moment, and reading your take on this was spot on.
    Please feel free to stop by when you have time:)
    xx Melanie.

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  16. Great post! 🙂 I completely agree with that you said about makeup. I don’t get it why most of the people think that women who wear makeup have low self-esteem. I mean, of course there are women who wear makeup because they’re insecure, but there are women who don’t wear it because of that, like you and me, for example. Usually women who are insecure without makeup will always stick with neutral tones and I’m sure as hell they won’t wear red lipstick, especially with bold eyes. Of course, some women wear neutral makeup not because they’re insecure, but because they like neutral makeup. And it takes confidence to pull out red lips, colourful eyes etc. I wear makeup because I want to hide some flaws on my face, yes, I am insecure about them, but I’m not insecure in pulling out a heavy eye makeup, colourful eye makeup, bold lips etc. Makeup is a form of art and I think the most amazing part of it is that you can totally experiment with it, change your look, it makes you feel a lot better, it is so powerful that you can even fake a plastic surgery, but at the end of the day you just wipe it off and you’re again “normal”, but still equally beautiful! 🙂

    • I completely agree with all of that! Like, if I only wore makeup to cover up my flaws, a little foundation, concealer, mascara would do it for me. But I like to play around with makeup. I like seeing not only how I look different, but how I can make the makeup itself look good.

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