i promised a sneak peek of a new t-shirt design would be up on my instagram yesterday. for two hours i sat in my bedroom taking picture after picture after picture, ultimately feeling worse and worse and worse. crippled by how horrible i felt about myself to the point that i somehow thought i looked disgusting wearing a loose, non-fitted white t-shirt.
the problem with self-esteem is that people who perceive you to have a comparatively 'better' body or face or hair or life than them not only resent you for not feeling good about yourself - but also actively avoid trying to understand why you feel this way.
being annoyed at people who you think ought to feel hot or confident or happy is a tragic insight into the world's non-existent understanding of mental health. thinking self-esteem is a direct correlate of physicality or wealth or lifestyle is just ignorance.
1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. the DSM (the diagnosis bible to us psychologists) doesn't have an entry for self-esteem. but could anyone argue that poor self-worth is not manifested in depression, anxiety, ADHD, to mention a few? it's easier to focus solely on the disorders that arguably result from low self-esteem - to treat the actual, obvious, diagnosable illness - than it is to target the cause. it's easier to treat the symptom, than to understand the often terrifyingly complex reasons for it. if there was a profitable, lucrative pill that solved low self-esteem, would the issue seem more viable?
as it is, low self-esteem is currently being marketed as an unfortunate by-product of the media age. we hate ourselves because magazines and tv shows and social media apps show us pictures of the 'ideal' body and we feel inferior. ...if only it were that simple. as much as i applaud the calling-out of just about every available platform on the planet telling us that we should look a certain way - the problem with citing that as the source of low self-esteem is that it perpetuates the idea that looking that certain way will make us happy. that that's how we will finally feel good about ourselves. 'the media is awful because it tells you that you should look that way, but you don't look that way, so you must be sad'. read: 'if you did look that way you would be happy'.
but it's bullshit. if you cannot grasp that self-esteem is a construct of mental health you probably haven't actually even made to this point in the essay. the concept is not a complicated one, and yet it is one that our lazy world hasn't taken the mere seconds to work out.
being skinny and having a perky butt and a small waist and also big tits and a permanent tan and voluminous hair is not where happiness comes from. actual self-worth is not achieved by achieving what you've been told to by instagram. squatting your body weight in the gym every day will eventually give you a wondrous ass, but don't let social media trick you into thinking that it will give you inner peace, or fulfilment, or high self-esteem.
and, consider for a moment, looking that way and still hating yourself - and then not being allowed to by a society who demands that you have achieved perfection & that you should be happy with it.
my instagram is full of people captioning their photos with 'feeling disgusting today' and others commenting in response 'don't be ridiculous, you're so pretty, i wish i was you, i'm so jealous, you're so lucky'. stop it. i'm begging you. stop. you have no idea how damaging it is to tell someone how they should feel based on how they appear.
i will never achieve the appearance that the media tells me i should have, and that the anti-media tells me i don't need to be happy. i don't know whether having that appearance would make me happy. i'm not unhappy without it. some days i look in the mirror and i feel good, other days - like yesterday - my self-loathing is crippling. but i'm self-aware enough to know that my mind is to blame for that - not my body. i've targeted the real problem, and i'm trying to fix it - by actively loving myself a little bit everyday - even when i don't feel deserving of it. i suggest you all do the same.