In the midst of a mother – daughter argument, with the topic of conflict being her dress, in a last ditch effort to appease her – I said, “Baby, you look so beautiful. Go and see for yourself in the mirror.” She looked at me, screwing up her eyes in thought, went to the mirror and stared at herself for a moment. And she says, “Of course I am beautiful Amma, it is my dress which is not.” I was stumped, a little speechless. What came out of my 3 year olds mouth was something which got me thinking a little deeper into the meaning and inference of her innocently uttered words.
In today’s fast lane, I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t spend a little time ruminating about making something more beautiful or presentable for themselves– whether it is about losing the extra kilos to look good, or changing the furniture or curtains to make the house more welcoming, or buying the new iPhone to get themselves in the cool club. Fitting in, having an image, looking beautiful are few things that marketing gurus hook people on for sales of their products and services. The one mantra that never fails.
When we live in a world where image or persona of a person means a lot, do we actually pause a moment to think whether we FEEL beautiful. How many of us can stand in front of the mirror and without a trace of doubt tell ourselves – I AM Beautiful…
Do you think when you are size zero or have 6 packs, dress yourselves in designer wear and mingle with what is the right crowd for you – then you will feel beautiful? We are sometimes caught in these fairy tale scenarios which hardly exist in this real world and attach our personal goals to it. Not for one moment we pause to think that it is not the world which is telling you – “you are not beautiful” It is YOU. The inner voice that sometimes takes us over, criticizing us for whatever we do.
As per Mathew McKay & Patrick Fanning (Self Esteem 1995), who are leading psychologists and authors of various self – Esteem books “human beings are the only beings in the animal kingdom to have the ability to form an identity and attach a value to it.”
If the value that you attach to yourselves and your identity is very low, whatever you do to the external image, you will internally feel a lack in your worth. And you suffer from what is commonly used by everyone as low SELF – ESTEEM. The core of any personal issues – be it self-confidence, academic achievement, lack of social life to anything which is as serious as addiction, body image issues, violence or depression are in some way connected to the core of the person having low self – esteem.
It is shocking to see the statistics which says, “85% of the world population have low self – esteem (Rubino,J, The Self Esteem Book (2006)).
So how does having a good self-esteem help? The more solid our self-esteem, the higher we have the resilience to pick ourselves up during hard times, We tend to have more energy to begin again and better equipped we are to cope with life challenging situations whether it is personal or professional (Branden, N. !994). In short for me personally, I would really feel beautiful from inside.
The few things that can help so that we value ourselves more are:
1. Accepting yourself for what you are: When is the last time you told yourself, “It’s okay I didn’t get … (promoted, invited, the car, slim etc.). Do remember that when you feel like criticizing yourself, you are surrendering to the harsh inner voice. Instead saying “It’s Okay” a few times takes you into the path of forgiving yourself. When you are able to accept yourselves, so are the others.
2. Self – Responsibility: Taking responsibility for your actions and behaviour is very different from taking blame. Blaming yourself lends itself to hearing your inner critical voice. Taking responsibility puts you in a place of choice for you to decide how you want to contribute so that the situation is managed or goals achieved.
3. Listening to your feelings: When you are aware as to what you are feeling at a moment, it gives you clue to whether the inner critic is active or not. When you feel negatively about something or someone, then be sure that you are listening to the critical voice inside you and not the rational voice or nurturing voice. Tuning into your feelings also opens a window for you to communicate with the inner you.
The road towards developing a strong self – esteem starts with awareness. The awareness that it is an internal need to feel valued, to feel worthy, to feel beautiful. In this journey, in case you need support there are resources available in terms of counselling that you can reach out to. Remember seeking help is a sign of strength.
Have a beautiful day!
Branden, N.(1994). The six Pillars of Self Esteem. Bantam Books, NY.
McKay, M & Fanning, P (1995). Self – Esteem. St. Martins. Paperback, NY.
Reubino, J (2006). The Self-Esteem Book: The Ultimate Guide to Boost the Most
Underrated Ingredient for Success and Happiness in Life. Vision Works Publishing.
Ms.Sunitha Sivamani is a partner and therapeutic counsellor in The Listening Tree Counselling & Allied Services. She has a dual Masters in Psychotherapy & Counselling and Business Administration, is a Parivarthan Alumni and currently pursuing advanced training in Transactional Analysis and EMDR. In a previous job role, Sunitha has donned the hat of a human resources professional and brings in with her a deep understanding of the strengths and challenges in organizational and employee management.