The "Me Too" movement caused a shift in consciousness about women in the workplace. As more and more women came forward to report their stories of harassment and abuse, companies were forced to reexamine how policies let offenders go unpunished. The fury unleashed by the movement has been channeled into the women's empowerment movement. While women fight for and lift up other women, they may unconsciously be standing in the way of their own empowerment due to body issues and negative self-esteem.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem describes a person's view of themselves. Specifically, the term refers to viewing your characteristics in a positive light. If you have high self-esteem, you value your accomplishments and skills and focus on your strengths. People with high self-esteem don't deny their faults, but they accept them and work to address them.
Why Self-Esteem Matters
Self-esteem is of the utmost importance to mental health because it:
- Leads to greater success. If you feel good about yourself, you can approach situations with greater confidence. Those with high self-esteem are less hesitant and more willing to take the risks that are often required for success.
- Promotes resiliency. Everyone experiences failure at some point in their lives. People with high self-esteem are less likely to dwell on setbacks and become discouraged and unwilling to try again. Instead of getting stuck in a rut of self-blame, they can better analyze what went wrong and move forward.
- Supports mental health. Low self-esteem often contributes to depression. When someone becomes depressed, their self-esteem may decrease more, creating a vicious cycle.
- Creates conditions for happiness and contentment. People with low self-esteem are more likely to be unhappy. Even when they succeed, they may not celebrate their successes and give credit to others instead. Obtrusive thoughts born out of low self-esteem can make it hard to find joy in daily life.
What Is a Positive Body Image?
A positive body image refers to seeing one's body primarily in a positive light. Like self-esteem, a positive body image does not mean believing that you are perfect. Instead, it means that you notice what makes you physically beautiful and accept things that you perceive as flaws. Although self-esteem is about more than physical appearance, a negative body image has a destructive impact on self-image. People with low self-esteem are often limited by a negative view of their appearance.
What Is Women's Empowerment?
Women's empowerment is a movement that seeks to cultivate independence and success in women. There are a few dimensions to the term:
- Women's economic empowerment involves helping women grow wealth so that they can be self-sufficient
- Women's social empowerment focuses on encouraging women to take action to affect social change in their local communities as well as on national and global scales
- Women's personal empowerment strives to support women in their personal lives to form positive relationships and escape abusive, destructive ones
- Women's political empowerment seeks to give women more of a say in legislative efforts across all levels of government
Challenges of Women's Empowerment
As previously stated, poor body image and low self-esteem can significantly interfere with women's empowerment. Women who do not believe in themselves are less likely to take action even when others empower them. Low self-esteem becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It causes women to think they won't succeed, leading to uncertainty and hesitation that makes actions less successful.
How to Improve Your Self-Esteem As a Woman
Taking steps to improve your self-esteem can put you on the path to empowerment and in a better position to empower others. To promote high self-esteem:
- Look inward rather than outward. Studies have found that people who base their self-esteem on external factors are more likely to suffer from stress, anger, and depression. To begin cultivating self-esteem, think about what makes you the person that you are. Recognize the value that your traits have rather than defining yourself by how you look and what others think of you.
- Improve or end toxic relationships. Research has revealed that a woman's relationships significantly contribute to her self-esteem. Positive, healthy relationships with mutual respect and support can improve your self-image, while negative ones can rob you of it. Seriously evaluate your relationships, identifying ones that may be holding you back. Consider ending those relationships or seek counseling to improve them.
- Stop inwardly comparing yourself. When you notice yourself comparing your physical traits to another woman's, interrupt your train of thought with a positive message that reaffirms your own beauty.
- View social media with clear eyes. Social media is detrimental to self-esteem. The main job of a celebrity is to look good and paint an unrealistic picture of the ideal body, setting standards that an ordinary person living an everyday life can never achieve. Remember, too, that even your friends and family are likely only to show the best moments of their lives on social media. Just because you don't see their struggles and shortcomings on your feeds does not mean that they don't exist. Remind yourself of this as you scroll so that you can maintain perspective and not fall victim to the self-limiting act of comparison.