Struggles with Self Esteem
By Kim Tran
When I signed up for the new journalism class two years ago, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. If you know me, I’m not the most vocal person about my issues which is why I haven’t written a personal piece before. But now I’m deciding to speak up on an issue that affects me and plenty of people.
Low self-esteem is an issue that has plagued me for most of my middle and high school years. Self-esteem is how you value your own worth. People with healthy levels of self-esteem are confident in themselves and stand by their decisions. However, according to kidshealth.org, people with low levels of self esteem “focus on the times they fail rather than the times they succeed, feel self-critical and are hard on themselves, feel insecure or inferior, think of themselves as defective or not deserving of good things, expect other people won't accept them and may allow themselves to be treated badly by others, and doubt their ability to do well or succeed.”
As a student journalist, I am very aware that people might comment on my articles. My low self-esteem causes me to always care about what other people think. Ironically, writing this article has been an idea I have had since last year, but I’ve been too afraid to pursue it because I didn’t think I would develop it correctly, provide misinformation, or end up writing a cheesy or cliche article. Because I thought this way about the article, it has taken me until now to write about it. The reason why I haven’t written a personal piece is because I am scared of being judged.
Last year, when I was writing an article on video games, I was very scared of the reception it would get since it ended up on the front page. I questioned whether I deserved front-page coverage as I still think that “Parents Stack Pressure on Students” deserved that spot. I’m not trying to be humble; I truly meant it.
To most people, I think that I come off as a quiet and reserved person. I hold back on my comments because I don’t think that my opinions are well-informed and can be impulsive. When I do speak, I feel that I have pressure to say something insightful. It's not always the case and I don't think I’m that wise. When given serious questions to discuss, I always struggle. I often don't have anything to say at all and my mind just goes blank. After a conversation with a friend, I find that I scold myself a lot for the way I acted, with questions of “why didn't I say so much about this?” and “why didn't I keep my mouth shut?”
The first realization I made into my low self-esteem came at a time when I felt really self-conscious and anxious. In this moment of self-consciousness, I quickly asked Psychology teacher Jenn Russell if I could meet with her. After spending the entire lunch period talking to her and simultaneously crying, she gave me advice that really resonated with me. She said that while not everyone will like me and I can't control their feelings, I can control the way I feel and act. That phrase really clicked with me when I heard it. I had always wanted to be liked and admired by everyone. I know that is not realistic and I don't think that I can be this person they admire.
A great self-esteem analogy that I found in a Huffington Post article was a comparison to a peach. The article had this amazing line: “Girl, you might be the perfect peach, but some people just don't like peaches.” This refers to how nobody is liked by everybody, no matter how perfect they might be.
The second piece of advice I received from Russell was to forgive myself. I admit that I spend a lot of time festering over my old mistakes. Even though it happened a while ago, I always find myself thinking of how I could’ve made it better. Learning to forgive and forget what happened has been a difficult process. It’s hard to not dread your mistakes and let them go. Realistically, I know that I should allow myself to make mistakes. I know that I’m not going to get a perfect score on the SAT or get into a dream college, and that’s okay. I know that I’m not perfect. No one really is.
In an interview with Russell, she listed more ways to build self esteem. Some ways are focusing on the positives, finding situations where you help others (like volunteering), allowing yourself to do something you’re good at, setting mini goals of things you want to achieve, adopting a growth mindset, and being nice to yourself.
“If you have the negative thoughts about yourself, give yourself permission to dismiss them and tell yourself something positive instead,” Russell said. “Create daily mantras: ‘I am worthy of love’, ‘I am a good person’, ‘I don't have to be perfect’. If you can't hear it in your own voice have someone else say it so you can hear the message in a loving voice until you can internalize your own.”
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that everyone has issues. Senior Emmanuelle Knox explained that it’s something common in students.
“I’m not sure what everyone feels, but there are going to be times that you doubt yourself. It’s normal to feel weary about what you’re doing. I think it’s a normal thing that people have and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something we all get,” said Knox.
Words mean more than we realize. A simple comment could brighten someone’s day tremendously. To the person reading this, even though I don't know you, please know that you are loved and that you cared for. You're not alone in how you feel. It's a tough time of the year, but you make it through. You can do this.