This is the new age of self-esteem threats, and they are more backhanded and discreet than ever. We all know the classic tale of society and self-confidence: Glamorous celebrities poisoning young minds, photoshopped billboards, makeup marketed for ten-year olds. Yet now there is a wrinkle to this narrative in the entirely different beast of social media. Challenges to self-confidence aren’t just for the front covers of the magazines or the red carpet anymore––they are in every pocket, on every screen. In many ways, corporations have strived to target the victims of this generation. Recent years have seen a variety of self-love campaigns, from Victoria’s Secret to Dove, all with a similar self-love selling point.
While this mantra of self-confidence is certainly a positive shift in tone for these companies, it is important to examine their validity within the climate of social media. This September, Huffington Post reported that 60% say their self-esteem has been negatively impacted by social media.
If social media is meant to be a platform for the advancement of meaningful messages, then why hasn’t the mere visibility of these “Love Yourself” campaigns doubled their impact? The push to sell self-love as a product is an ill-advised approach, and the adoption of these campaigns by companies has made this important value simply a trend to be capitalized upon.
Developing self-confidence cannot be reduced to a catch phrase. For many, managing insecurity can be a full-time strain, and the progression toward a stable sense of self-esteem is scarcely consistent. Carrying a constant reminder that you do not “#loveyourself” as much as the users you follow does little to streamline this growth. Yet this has become the accepted strategy––the same taglines, the same imagery, the same impersonal approach to a highly personal matter. This cycle has gained the ability to silence those who need the most attention. The most dangerous insecurity is that which cannot be seen, hiding beneath a normalized mentality until it manifests through destructive action. Insecurity is a matter beyond indifference, therefore creating a confident generation demands a highly subjective understanding of the issue.
Progress begins with listening to what victims of insecurity truly desire from others. In my personal experience, I can say that hearing “You just have to make the choice love yourself” has never really gotten through to me. Even when I tried, I found myself falling back into a cycle of negative self-talk. My point is not to bash this message in its entirety; it is to prove that it is not an insecurity catch-all. If this message changes the course of even one individual struggling to find confidence, I believe they should continue. In fact, I believe they should reach even further. Yet with this must come an even more diversified and inclusive approach, coupled by improving awareness in our personal lives. Awareness that not every tale of low self-esteem is the same in depth, length, or direction. This demands the ability to truly listen––to go beyond complacent sympathy. The most significant help I have received throughout my relationship with insecurity was not a compliment; it was simply an ear and an attitude of loyalty and support. However, this is my experience, and I am able to recognize that the smallest words of kindness may be more than enough for some. We cannot prescribe the same treatment to each case of low self-esteem––what we can do is develop a climate that encourages the insecure to discuss what they wish and pursue what they need.
So we abolish the notion that all insecurity is the same. We encourage personal travels to healthy self-esteem at their own pace. We listen, and through listening create a safehold for more dialogue. We frame “Love Yourself” campaigns as positive reinforcement, not universal demand, and encourage further inclusivity and sincere advocacy within the message. We recognize invisible insecurity and work to find the source. We see social media as a choice, not an obligation or a requirement for self-love. We strive to counter the cynical tones used to bash others with those of understanding. We admire the staggered progress in a community of growth, and we are present when that growth turns awry. We work, we reveal, and we listen.
Silva, Clarissa. “Social Media’s Impact On Self-Esteem.” Huffington Post, 22 Feb. 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/social-medias-impact-on-self-esteem_us_58ade038e4b0d818c4f0a4e4.
Art by Annalise Sacamano ’18