In a world that constantly sends messages about the ways you should be better, do better, and look better, it can be really hard not to internalize those messages. It’s natural to feel less-than-great about yourself when you’re held to unrealistic standards of beauty and accomplishment. In a world that’s trying to beat you down, it can be difficult to build yourself up. But there are ways to boost your self-esteem that are easy enough to start doing right now.
It’s a radical act to feel good about yourself in a patriarchal world. Learning to love yourself and building your confidence is an incredibly brave, bold, and defiant step towards smashing the systems that try to hold us down. But improving your self esteem is more than that. Your life becomes infinitely better when you don’t spend every second of every day hating yourself or wishing you were different. You may not love yourself all the time, and that’s OK. But doing these simple things can help you love yourself just a little bit (or a lotta bit) more every day. And through time, and a lot of positive mantras, you will eventually get to the point where you consistently walk with your head (and confidence) held high.
Taking selfies is a great way to feel better about yourself. Yes, really! Selfies can be an empowering act of self-love, particularly for people who don’t fit into the image touted as “beautiful” by the dominant culture. Take as many selfies as you want, and find ones that make you look and feel good. Play around with lighting or angle, change up the style, and get used to seeing photos of yourself. It’s a surefire way to improve your self-image.
Feminism is important for lots of reasons, and boosting your self-esteem is one of them. Feminism provides a lens to examine the messages society sends that make us feel ugly, unloveable, or just plain bad about ourselves. This lens gives us the ability to understand why those messages have the impact they do and, therefore, the tools to begin to undo that messaging. The tenets of feminism allow you to view society as the thing that needs changing, not you.
Self-care is important for lots of reasons, but in the context of self-esteem, it’s important because it sends the message that you are worthy of love. It helps you internalize the idea that you deserve to be cared for, and that you have worth. When you are the one doing the caring, it can be incredibly validating.
Owning undergarments that make you feel sexy and comfortable can help change the way you feel about (and in) your body. A bra that fits correctly can be life-changing, and so can underwear that feels true to your gender presentation.
Affirmations are one of those things that can be easy to write off because they feel stupid and maybe a little bit cheesy. But the reason they’re such a popular suggestion is because they work. If you don’t feel ready to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you’re beautiful, try writing affirmations on Post-It notes and leaving them around your house as little reminders to yourself.
Self-pleasure can be a huge part of – literally– loving yourself. When you take the time to make yourself feel good and treat your body with tenderness (and maybe even passion), it’s another way to send the message to yourself that your body is good and deserving of pleasure. If masturbating or orgasm doesn’t feel good for you (due to trauma, asexuality, lack of interest, or any other reason), try taking yourself on dates where you prioritize your own needs and wants.
People in marginalized bodies, particularly cisgender women, are conditioned to take up the least amount of space as possible in public. This conditioning often causes people to internalize messaging that makes them feel small or insignificant. Challenge yourself to take up as much space as you want and not to feel badly about it. Refuse to move over for that cis dude and stake your claim to the space you’re occupying. You have as much of a right to fill it as anyone else does. Try not to feel like you have to apologize for existing. Try to move through the world like you belong there, because you do. And when you start to really believe it, it helps you feel better about yourself and your place in the world.