The media and self-esteem

Social comparison theory proposes that human beings are constantly assessing themselves and others in order to determine their social and personal worth. In this process, no one can escape from the unlimited messages that we receive from the media about how an ideal woman or man should be. But how realistic is it to compare ourselves with a woman or a man who has probably been on a severe diet, exercising six times a week and whose photograph has surely been manipulated to look astonishing?

So how does that affect our self-esteem?

Probably not in a good way. If we compare ourselves with unrealistic role models, we will never be able to accept, appreciate or love ourselves. Additionally, the media reports a need among people to become known by others, or in other words to be a 'celebrity'. So the media emphasises looks and fame... then if we are good looking and famous, would that guarantee us a good sense of self-esteem? Probably not.

I remember reading an article about my fellow countryman Bjorn Ulvaeus from the music group ABBA, who revealed that he has to have therapy in order to overcome his low-self-esteem. Now you could ask yourself, how is it possible that someone who has experienced such a level of success and admiration by others, may have issues around his self-esteem? The answer is very simple... self-esteem comes from inside and not from outside. Thus, the media give us the wrong tools to feel happy about ourselves. It presents us an ideal that even if we would achieve it, it would probably not help us to build a healthy self-esteem as no amount of external validation will do that. Moreover, self-esteem is not only about how we look or how much others may admire us, it is about the essence of who we are. A good sense of self-esteem does not entail that we are the best, the most good looking, the greatest. It means that we accept and love ourselves exactly as we are.

While helping people to overcome their low self-esteem, I am always amazed to observe how little people know about their strengths and the discrepancies that I notice, between how people feel about themselves and how they really are.

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