Growing up as a girl, I always heard my mother and aunts constantly telling me what to do to be better. Countless comparisons to other girls of my age followed; they were always “more beautiful” than me, or they were doing much better than me on some aspect that we happened to share.
Thinking about the time period in which our elders grew up, it seems like questioning the norm was not something that would have crossed their minds. What I really appreciate with people my age is that we have collectively decided to stand up against such harmful practices. However, many of us have internalized what we constantly heard throughout our childhoods, and I am no exception.
There are 2 habits that we engage in, consciously or unconsciously, that ruin our self-esteem: comparing ourselves to others and negative self-talk. We often compare ourselves to others in terms of physical appearance, achievements, or abilities, among others. Let’s say you are scrolling through your Instagram feed and you come across a picture of a celebrity. You unintentionally start comparing yourself to that celebrity; for instance, that person has the body type you wish you had. In another case, you are applying for jobs and realize that most of the candidates have so many achievements, and worry that your qualifications look weak in comparison to them. These are two examples of moments when you compare yourself to others and end up feeling disappointed, frustrated or even angry at yourself. Why aren’t you as good as them? You often don’t realize that you are engaging in this practice, which makes it a hard habit to remove.
Negative self-talk goes hand-in-hand with comparisons to others. Speaking from the examples above, you might criticise yourself about why your body is the way it is or you might reproach yourself about why you have such weak qualifications. By doing so, you are causing yourself harm, as you end up basing your worth and happiness on the idea that you need to be a “perfect” person.
Always remember that you are your own person, and that you have your own abilities and niches. Instead of trying to be like someone else, you can focus on finding out what works best for you. It is important to remember that eventually, to be a truly happy person, you must be happy with who you are: your appearance, your abilities, and your achievements. When you view yourself in a positive light, you can then focus on trying to improve yourself. What will change is the fact that you will be improving yourself to make yourself happy, not to live up to an ideal that has been set by another person. This is not an easy task; it takes time because it requires that we remove what we have internalized and replace it with a new way of viewing things around us. However, it’s worth it if it means that eventually you will be happy with yourself.