Women and self esteem have long been regarded as bedfellows. For the happy and secure women self esteem is an asset she carries with grace. For those women who’ve never known security in their lives, self esteem is the weight they carry, unable to full grasp its value. After all, what is self esteem? Self esteem is something that gives us our sense of self worth, dignity, regard and respect. For women who have been brought up with little regard for their worth as human beings, the notion of self esteem is rather obscure. Why would this be the case?
For some, the family situation would have warranted a low sense of self esteem if there was any esteem at all. Homes where women have been mistreated, where their thoughts, wishes and feelings were always regarded as second rate to that of the males in the house. In such homes, the concept of a self and of any worth as a human being had been snatched from them from day one. For these women, the notion of being regarded in any way as a person with rights or of any brilliance is simply non existent. For women who’ve been taught to believe that they were inferior to others out there, be it someone richer than them, more educated than them, the feeling of inferiority rides supreme and it is hard to overcome it to establish a sense of self esteem.
As if the family situations weren’t enough to shake the foundation of a woman’s self esteem, often the way a woman is viewed by society is enough to riddle holes in her self esteem. Society dictates that slim, fair, petite, curvy women are desirable and likely to be successful while women who are constantly fighting to lose the pounds are viewed as undesirable. Women of color have long been told that their fairer counterparts are beautiful while they’d need to work on the lightening of the skin tone. Shows like the Tyra Banks Show strive to dispel that idea that women of color are less desirable.
At one point in time, even a woman’s marital status worked against her self esteem as society tended to view married women with higher regard than they did single women. However, as more women hit the work force and a higher educated, this trend seems to be reversing. With more celebrity role models being single for a longer period and still being successful, this dent on self esteem linked to marital status is slowly being reversed.
While at university, I remembered a house mate of mine telling me how she’d been proposed to the day before. She’d turned down the proposal and laughed as she thought it was crazy, how could anyone fall in love with her, and want to marry her. Surely it wasn’t possible? This was a beautiful vibrant young woman. She had never felt loved by her family and therefore she felt no one could possibly love or want her. The fact that someone had asked her to marry him, made her think he was joking. She hadn’t laughed at him but at herself believing it impossible, after all who would fall in love with her. If things had been different and she’d always been secure in her sense of worth and felt loved as a child and young woman, she would have thought it possible and even natural for somebody to be in love with her and want to marry her.
Self esteem doesn’t only give a person their self worth, it gives a person the right to carry themselves with confidence and to believe that they have a right to happiness. Women who are secure in this belief are bed fellows with positive self esteem. Women who question their basic right to happiness are bed fellows with negative self esteem. For women with negative self esteem, there is a need to learn to re-evaluate their sense of worth. The core notion of their worth as people should be brought home to them to effect real change.