I am TIRED.
Tired of hearing women putting themselves down and getting de-railed by self-doubt. Sick of hearing my friends, sisters, mothers, aunties, teachers and heroes tearing themselves down over their appearance and abilities.
It’s as though we as females have an automated response system, a quick-fire self-depreciating reply on hand for any given situation. We weren’t schooled in this, there was no class on it and certainly no handbook - “How to Put Yourself Down and Other Womanly Traits” doesn't exist. And yet whenever I say, “hey girl, haven’t seen you for a while, you look great!” I get “oh, shut uppppp, I’ve put so much weight on!”. Or “oh wow, congratulations on your new house/job/other acceptable To-Be-Proud-Of achievement” I am returned with a “ohhh, yeah, no, that’s no biggie, I’m nervous/worried/stressed.”.
Dressing rooms walls everywhere are haunted by the sounds of unhappy women complaining about the way an outfit doesn’t look good on her. Every group chat is backlogged with sad words that pick apart photos from nights out. 100’s of selfies that are scrutinised and discarded for not being perfect when we should be caring more about what we do than how we look.
I wanted to find out why. Why do we put ourselves down instead of saying THANK YOU and accepting the compliment - what about not needing the affirmation from others in the first place and just knowing within ourselves that we are amazing?
What factors are influencing those negative self-images and what we can do to combat our insecurities – l wanted to find ways to stop them from holding us back, from applying for that job or joining that gym class or posting that #nofilter. See below for my 4 reasons you're putting yourself down but then more importantly - how to fix it.
The feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on something.
Self assurance rising from an appreciation of ones own abilities or qualities
"The most alluring thing a woman can have is confidence. - Beyonce"
If I asked you to hold your hands up if you would describe yourself as confident, I’d probably see a room full of hands. But ask you all to tell me something that you love about yourself and hands drop like Gemma Collins falling through the floor at the Radio 1 Teen Awards.
I actually know this because I asked some of you. Of over 20 girls, only one wanted to name a physical attribute they loved and only a handful had some confidence about their abilities. The stats reflect this – the UK has one of the lowest confidence ratings in the world with only twenty percent of women claiming to have high self-esteem. We are being derailed by all this self-doubt. We constantly reply to compliments with sentences that start with an opinion that undermines ourselves.
How are these traits represented on a bigger scale?
A study in 2003 by Dunning & Ehilinger, which was focused on women’s preconceived notions of their abilities, showed women repeatedly marking their performance down when asked how well they thought they had done on a given a test. Women all underestimated themselves and assessed their achievements lower than they actually performed. Men who were presented with the same test on average over-rated themselves and believed they had done far better than they actually had. SUPRISING? Not really…
So, what causes this deeply embedded insecurity? Why is it common nature for us as women to put ourselves down?
There are plenty of factors: if you have support, encouragement and positive attitude surrounding you. Family and friends and their influences and opinions on your looks and skills. Consumerism – no one can capitalize on a woman who already thinks she’s perfect, so the cosmetic industry needs us to believe we need makeup to buy their products. The self-esteem industry makes millions from telling us the ways we aren’t adequate enough and selling us products to fix those things.
Of course it doesn’t stop there, does it. When it comes to what is working against our self-love, the list is as long as my Christmas wish list..
Let’s do some science.
I did some research for this article so I could find out how the structure of the female brain could affect how we think about ourselves. It turns out that in the female brain, the area that is assigned to negative thinking is larger and more influential than the same area in a man’s brain.
This part of the brain responds to negative emotional stimuli - meaning we women are more likely to form negative memories of events. So, the bad is stronger than the good and we pick up on criticism. This means we never remember the good stuff when it comes not just to physical insecurity but also abilities, work life and relationships.
Oh yes, those wonderful things that turn us bat s**t crazy for ¼ of the month also have a hand in making us feel bad about ourselves. The theory is that it's all due to our high production of estrogen. Estrogen is the hormone that supports the part of the brain involved in social skills and observations; it's important for encouraging bonding and connection. Both of these things make us amazing and loving human beings but estrogen also discourages conflict and risk taking – the effect of this could be that it hinders our confidence and causes us to second guess ourselves.
A lack of faith could truly be a byproduct of how we are biologically built.
4. BODY LANGUAGE
Pretty woman, walking down the street, pretty woman…
When I think of a confident woman, I picture her to be stood up tall with her shoulders back, chin up and a spring in her step. Body Language is SO important in conveying confidence, but it can be so hard for us to avoid attracting the wrong attention. A woman walking with her chest pushed out can so easily be mistaken and sexualised. Often our posture doesn’t reflect our confidence for fear of receiving negative attention. On the other hand, maybe our posture does. I remember before I had by Breast Augmentation with MYA, I would walk with my shoulders curled in to hide my chest, hunched over with my head down.
It really doesn’t sound too good for us on the confidence front, not with all the biological and societal influences stacked against us - the great news is - WE CAN CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT OURSELVES and help others to feel better about themselves too.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Confidence can be acquired and insecurity can be a decent motivator.
Start by embracing your imperfections, they are what make you unique. Remember that those things that you don’t feel so good about are only a teeny weeny A cup booby bikini part of who you are. Try taking responsibility. Insecure people will make excuses and minimize their mistakes and flaws. OWN IT. It’s okay to make mistakes and not be perfect. Remember that loving yourself can be absolutely revolutionary but it has to be forgiving too. Love yourself even when you’re not at the top of your game. Talk yourself up. Give your girlfriends a compliment. STOP THEM when they start to call themselves out. Remind them you are okay with them saying nice things about themselves.
We can blame the cultural and institutional influences for not feeling good but maybe we are holding ourselves back by not putting ourselves out there. Go Google the confidence gap if you need to understand what that means – in the meantime, don’t ever let self-doubt stop you from doing or being whatever you want.
Be enough for yourself, it’s better to be worth knowing than well-known and there’s always time for improvement. We are changing and growing and getting better every day, wake up and choose to be whoever you want to be.
Focus on the things you can change and put together a plan to make yourself improve in those areas, be proud of your small achievements and try to kindly accept the things you can't change.
It’s time to re-wire our brains and behaviors to start to have that self-love, send love to strangers and to yourself. I understand that it’s not constructive to just tell someone to believe in themselves, or have more confidence just like that.
My helpful tip: assist other women to feel confident by providing affirmation, validation and support.
GO OUT AND GIVE IT TO OTHERS AND YOURSELF