Love Me Love Me Not: Why Do We Stop Loving Ourselves
After spending the weekend with my four-year-old granddaughter, I admired the confidence she has in herself. The love she has for herself and everyone around her is truly awe-inspiring. For such a little thing, her concept of self-love is way beyond her years. I started reminiscing about when I was her age, and the love I had for myself. As with many other women, things change, and our ability to maintain the same level of self-love we had for ourselves dwindles. I tried to remember when it started, but there is no clear moment. There are a million little things that cause it.
For some it could be as little as a comment from a peer, for another, it could be caused by a traumatic incident. No matter the reason, a great deal of the female populations has low self-worth, low self-esteem, or low confidence. The terminology doesn’t matter. The fact that so many of us cannot see the great qualities we possess is disheartening. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to find out why.
First, there is no doubt that a female’s body image is largely based on the media’s portrayal of what a woman “should” look like. According to a study done by Dove, “Only 4% of women worldwide consider themselves “beautiful.” I knew the percentage would be low, but never in my wildest dreams thought it would be this low.
If this isn’t bad enough, “80% of all 10 year olds are afraid of being fat,” and “42% of all 1st through 3rd-grade girls want to be thinner.” This statistic is completely gut-wrenching. When I tell my four-year-old granddaughter she is beautiful, she responds by saying “I know.” I want to do everything in my power to keep her believing that.
I know for me, I don’t have a lot of confidence in myself, especially the physical aspects. I can’t say there is much about my physical self I am happy with. This isn’t something new. I can remember becoming self-conscious about my appearance at the end of elementary school. I feel bad for my younger self. What a young age to start self-esteem issues.
This morning, for the first time, I noticed a couple of gray hairs on my eyebrows. Now I know it is a ridiculous thing to get upset about, but for me, it was something else to add to the aging process. I can dye my hair, but the more permanent changes like eyebrows and wrinkles are upsetting.
Our ability to have self-love goes beyond our body image. We as women feel unworthy or not good enough in many aspects of our lives. Take for instance the workplace. “Women make up 50.8% of the US population, they’ve outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988, and they control 80% of consumer spending in the US.” Yet, women in the CEO position of CEO at Fortune 500 companies is only 4.6%. In fact, “In a KPMG Women’s Leadership study, 67% of women said they needed more support building confidence to feel like they can be leaders.” As for CEOs in other professional areas, the statistics are lower, and in some cases, non-existent.
The question should be why does this happen? Why do so many women think so little of themselves? Who is it that we are so critical of our bodies, minds, and souls? How did we go from confident, self-loving little girls to women who think so little of themselves?
As I stated above, trauma can play a large role in it. A lot of times we develop self-esteem issues when we are young. They can range from poor academic performance and dropping out, to sexual activity at a young age and teen pregnancy. That can be a start to it, but I believe the media plays such a large role in the problem. This includes social media.
If you think about the models that are on commercials or in ads in magazines, as women we measure ourselves against that unattainable level of perfection. The bodyweight of these models is unrealistic and unhealthy. Then when you consider the fact that their photos are airbrushed, well looking like they do is impossible. So why do we still measure ourselves to them knowing this?
Social media has become filled with selfies, and most are filtered. We are again putting ourselves into a position to measure ourselves against an image that is not realistic. We have also become very critical of ourselves and the women around us. Some judge the way another woman looks, the choice to stay home with kids or go to work. Whether a mother chooses to breastfeed or not. It is no wonder that women have such a low level of self-love.
I have another theory as to why self-love has become such an issue within the society of women. We have all been raised to take care of others. To be pleasing and happy. We have been told how to act and react. We have been taught to be “good girls”. How are we ever supposed to learn to love ourselves if we are constantly told what to do, or what we are doing isn’t right?
We as women and individuals need to say no more. We need to stand together and uplift one another. We need to practice self-care and self-compassion so that we may set an example for younger generations. We need to show ourselves and others that not only is it okay to love ourselves, but critical to our overall wellbeing.
Feature Image Ruth Cowan