Healthful Hints: Self-esteem: Staying positive through the Skidmore Winter

Posted by Zoe Silver

It happens to the best of us: we wake up in the morning and try on five different outfits before we find the one that will work, we look enviously at the girl with the great hair or the guy with the bulging biceps and we diss ourselves for our appearance, grades and so on.

Because bouts of low self-esteem are unavoidable for most of us, we have to pay special attention to ensure that we care for ourselves and don't stay in a "funk" for too long. On occasion, it is important to look in the mirror and think, "I love myself for who I am; I accept my body, I am confident and I will succeed."

But this doesn't come easily to everyone. I know it can feel silly to think those things about yourself, but low self-esteem can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, so it is important to develop some tactics to avoid it. If talking to yourself in the mirror isn't your cup of tea, try taking a day to focus on the positive. Make a list of what is going right in your life and what you like about it. Set goals for yourself and try to achieve them one by one. Accomplishing each of them should give you a great sense of encouragement and confidence.

Be sure to surround yourself with people who support you and the goals you have set for yourself. If it is frustrating for you to watch others succeed at things that you find difficult, increase the amount of time you spend on things you do well. Try to work them into your daily or weekly routine so that you can experience a positive boost of confidence regularly - and keep in mind that you can't be good at everything. Instead of being envious of others' abilities, share what you can do with them in exchange for them sharing with you.

While we may feel untalented at times, during college one of the most common manifestations of low self-esteem is in poor body image, which can be difficult to overcome. My first piece of advice would be to turn off the TV, recycle the magazines and stop browsing celebrity websites. The representations of male and female bodies in the media are distorted. Your goal should not be to look like the model on the cover of Cosmopolitan or the ad for Calvin Klein.

Remember that the photographs of models are edited on a computer. Their necks are stretched, eyes enlarged, skin smoothed, so on and so forth until the image that appears is not a person, but a culturally-created image of "perfection" and "beauty." Next time you see an ad on TV that makes you question your self-worth or beauty, talk back to it. Say, "I like myself just the way I am. I don't need you to tell me how to be or what to look like." Tear out the pages of your magazine, which send degrading and negative messages, or stop buying them altogether.

But even if we try to limit the messages we receive from the media, many of us might still struggle with body image issues in our everyday lives. To defeat this, try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Every person has a different combination of genes and is beautiful in his or her own way. The only "standard of beauty" is one that we create as a culture, so we can just as easily change it if we wish to do so. In public, avoid walking with your head down and shoulders hunched; stand up straight and make eye contact with others. This will send people the message that you are confident and, in turn, will increase your confidence in yourself.

Embrace your own style; wear clothes that are comfortable and that you like, even if it isn't necessarily the latest fashion. Lastly, I suggest that you stop and think about all of the relationships you have in your life. Do your close friends and family like you for the way you look, or the way you are? It is most likely your personality that draws them to you, so do yourself the same favor and appreciate yourself for who you are, not how you appear to be.

As the weather gets colder and wetter and we find ourselves going about our days without much zest or excitement, it is typical to also start "hating" on ourselves. So try some of the tactics I discussed above to avoid low self-esteem. If you do, I bet that your winter experience at Skidmore will be much more enjoyable and positive. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy and smile.

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