When Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor recently wrote an article detailing she looks the way she does because of a huge team that includes makeup and hair artists, nutritionists, and gym trainers, she struck a chord with many. Her post, which went viral, hit upon a very relevant topic: how people’s self-esteem suffers when they are expected to meet unrealistic standards.
A recent study by UK-based charity Girlguiding found that 47% of girls between 11 and 21 years of age feel that the way they look holds them back. In 2011, 73% of girls aged seven-21 were happy with how they looked, but that number has fallen to 61% this year, according to the study.
Experts agree that such comparisons are unfair and such attitudes need to be checked for a person’s overall well-being. They also say that self-esteem is the foundation of not just mental health, but is important for your physical health as well.
Namrata Dagia, clinical psychologist, The Illuminating Zone,Kandivali (W), says, “Self-esteem is basically how a person evaluates their self-worth. Research has indicated that mental health is highly influenced by the kind of esteem an individual has. Esteem of the self is like a subjective evaluation of one’s abilities, characteristics or perceptions. How we perceive ourselves influences our personality and behaviour to a great extent, which makes self-esteem a very important factor in overall development.”
The perks of having high self-esteem:
- A healthier and better lifestyle
- It makes you happy and lets you enjoy life
- Higher confidence, which leads to more success
- Enables you to cultivate healthy relationships.
Apparently, the foundation of self-esteem is often laid during a person’s pre-teen or teenage years. If the child comes from a joint family, the age can drop as low as five years, which is just about the time when children begin to learn of worldly things. “Very critical parents or neglectful caregivers can create a sense of low self-esteem. Even teachers or people who mould our thoughts can lower our self-esteem if they are too harsh or discouraging,” says Dr Parul Tank, consultant psychiatrist and therapist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.
Low self-esteem can lead to:
- Academic or work performance issues
- Difficulty in maintaining relationships
- Higher chances of social isolation, hopelessness and insecurity
- A propensity to view oneself, others, and the world at large negatively
- Lower self-confidence, which may lead to mood fluctuations
- Higher chances of anxiety and depression, and in some cases, greater risk of suicide
- Impulsiveness; higher risk of turning to alcohol or drugs to overcome low self-esteem
Experts also say people with low self-esteem display a range of tell-tale signs. If noticed at an early stage, one can help the person take remedial measures.“If you know someone who lies in order to fulfil their own versions of a fantasy (ideal world), watch out. Such people are usually perfectionists. They imagine a world with high standards, and do not mind lying to make it seem as if this ideal state exists,” says Neeta V Shetty, psychotherapist, Blissful Mind Therapy Centre, Wadala..
She further explains, “These people are also needy, and seek external validation more than others. They are also extremely defensive. But at the same time, they are unassertive, indecisive, and, more often than not, do not take credit for their successes. They always play down their talents and achievements.”
Here are some ways to turn things around if you’re suffering from low self-esteem:
- Start appreciating yourself and be less harsh to yourself
- Stop comparing yourself to others
- Do something that you like and enjoy the little things in life
- Be with people who help and encourage you rather than those who put you down
- Learn from your failures
- Understand what is under your control and what is not
- Use calming strategies when you find yourself being negative to yourself
Don’t be overconfident
“Overconfidence is a trait when one feels elated and has an unrealistically high sense of self-worth. It is a slightly pathological trait that can be harmful in the long run. This is different from self-esteem, which is completely in sync with a range of emotions and helps people feel good about themselves,” says Dr Tank.
Dr Ashish Gambre, psychiatrist, SRV Hospital, Goregaon (W), lists some signs of overconfident people:
- These people are usually quite loud
- They always try to prove that their point is right
- They often feel superior to others and can’t appreciate others easily
- They have difficulties in accepting their faults or admitting mistakes
- They enjoy putting others down.