- By Karla Skokan
There are many factors that affect self-esteem in women… and the biggest of all is how we view our physical appearance! And let’s be honest, beauty and self-esteem are often highly related for women.
Beauty is defined differently by individual people and by cultures. The problem comes when a person focuses excessively on what he or she believes are physical defects. Sounds familiar?
What does our culture have to do with it?
Many people wrongly believe that Latinas don’t suffer the body image issues, poor self-esteem and eating disorders that white women do. Yet studies have shown that Latinas deal with unique conflicting messages about their weight...and they hear the very same demoralizing messages white women do. While some studies show that negativity about one’s weight is higher among some groups, the truth is that body image issues are color and ethnicity blind and there are many women in all groups who struggle to appreciate their own beauty.
Unfortunately, the media has perpetuated stereotypes about Latinas and Hispanic women are big tv watchers...and have a strong loyalty to the health and beauty industry they see advertised. Why? Because these “miracle products” seen on TV promise to make you look like the Hollywood stars!
Appreciate the qualities that make you "YOU"
Instead of trying to fit to the media and social standards, it is healthier to change your perception of beauty and of yourself.
• Strive for a healthy body… Exercise, anyone?
• Focus on your positive characteristics… Yes, that sexy mole in your cheek!
• Limit exposure to negative images...Turn off that TV and read a book!
• Notice the things you can do… Are you a good friend? Worker?
• Develop a positive social support system… Hang out with friends that are not superficial or beauty-media-consumers! • Join groups that promote self-esteem and positivity… Maybe you can help others too!
• Look at yourself and accept who you are… There’s no "return department!"
If you are a parent, friend, husband or co-worker, you can help women by noticing positive attributes:
• "You look beautiful today"
• "You're smart, besides cute"
• "You're gifted and talented"
• "I love you just the way you are"
• "You're special and we are proud of you"
Adjust your thoughts and beliefs
By replacing negative or inaccurate thoughts with accurate, constructive thoughts, you will feel better about yourself. In order to accomplish that, try to:
• Treat yourself with kindness and encouragement. Pessimism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• Avoid 'should' and 'must' statements. This only adds unreasonable demands on yourself.
• Focus on the positive. Think about the good things you have in your life.
• Give yourself credit for making positive changes. No matter how small, be proud of every single thing you do right!
As you begin to recognize the thoughts and beliefs that are adding to your low self-esteem, you can actively counter them and learn to accept your value as a person. It will feel awkward at first because it goes against years of negative self-talk.
Always remember that you are you… and no matter your size, shape, color or race, you are beautiful as you are. Why compare yourself with models, athletes, singers and media-beauty-stereotypes when you are the real beauty!
University of Florida