Before children become aware of gender differences, a girl child will feel herself equal to, if not better than her male peers. She will be unafraid to voice contrary opinions, to beat some big boy into the dust, to argue the case and to win. Then she reaches puberty and looks around and finds herself lacking in many ways. She has greasier hair, more spots, puppy fat, receives less male attention than her sisters; her unconscious self-esteem plummets, leading her to question her own self-worth. She looks at the “popular” girls with all the physical attributes of perceived beauty. She is bombarded with media images of perfection and begins to imagine herself as a failure. The feisty little girl loses her self esteem because she cannot possibly match up or conform.
Those women who are happy with what they are, who recognize that worth is not reliant upon looks, sweet disposition or being the same as everyone else, will hold on to their self esteem. They realize that what they are inside is more important than outside appearances. They may well be termed women of character. Thankfully, there are a lot of them around, holding fast to their own value and keeping their self esteem. On the other hand, there are those who never made it beyond the destructive pressures of puberty, who will never value themselves unless they meet the standards set by others. They often need male admiration to define them. Without a loving partner or a lot of beautiful friends, they are lost. They question how worthwhile they are as people and their self esteem drops when these things are not permanently present in their lives.
When self esteem is low, women really do doubt their worth. There are other factors that can contribute to creating such a situation. For example, restrictive or critical parents, an unequal or abusive partnership, a bullying boss; these all help to erode self belief and thus, self esteem. No matter how strong a woman may be, any or all of these factors can, over time, bring them to low self esteem. But this can be overcome by taking a long hard look at just what is happening and making changes.
One of the most important ways to regain and keep self esteem is for a woman to examine just how much she has achieved in life. A notebook or journal is one of the best tools in the box. In this, every good thing, little or big, that has been accomplished should be written down. Small things like learning to tile the bathroom, big things like raising two very good children. Everything from household budgeting, managing a trip, getting a better job, being promoted, learning to salsa, should go in the book. When any woman starts to write down her achievements, she will soon find she needs a bigger notebook!
Self esteem for all human beings is about recognizing their worth and valuing their contributions to their own and others’ wellbeing. Women are excellent contributers and once they see this, then self esteem should be always part of their character. It is not just about “I can do this” for women, but “I did this!”