By Ene Elizabeth Adeka
I recently received this email from a 23 year old university student:
I am a 23 year old student of Biochemistry here in Nigeria and I have been silently following your blog. I recently read your article on “Teaching Teens How to Develop Healthy Lifestyles” and I feel the need to seek help with low self-esteem.
Although I am not a teenager (laughs), if I had been taught this while growing up, I sure would have turned out to be much better. People say I am beautiful and intelligent but I do not believe them. Why do I always feel like the ugliest girl in the room?”
And she goes on….
Low self-esteem issues when ignored or left unattended to can later develop into cases of full blown self-loathsomeness, self-hate and ultimately failure. An unhealthy self-esteem does not only hurt you, it suspects others and ultimately damages your relationship even with people who love you genuinely.
I Used to Walk With My Head Down: My Story of Low-Self Esteem
My biological father bought me a house of books when I was little; it had about 24 little books in it that contained stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Robin Hood.
Next he got the Queen Primer 1 & 2 and so began the days of my learning how to read. I still see myself in bed on those windy Saturdays moving from reciting two letter words to three letter words to Parts of Speech and then Phrases and Sentences.
Sometimes I’d cry while I recited the Queen Primer’s Module:
We go up
Up we go
He is up
Can we go up?
Yes we can
My father would ignore my tears while he made me start all over again until I had perfected a particular lesson while the other children played House or Hopscotch in the streets to my hearing.
While growing up, I was a tall lanky girl whose primary interests centered on books. I lived, ate and breathed books. When the time came to transition from childhood into adolescence, my uncle sent a McGraw-Hill book on adolescence.
It had over 1200 pages and thus began my schooling on the development of breasts, bloody periods and the much dreaded pimples and acne breakouts that would follow. Then the time came to leave adolescence behind and step into teenagehood and yes, you guessed right again; my father walked in one day with two books:
- Everything a Teenage Girl Should Know
- Everything a Teenage Boy Should Know
I grew up to be quite competent where books were discussed. In fact, I remember an incident when my teacher sent me out of the class because she found the book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl in my bag. According to her, I was too young to be reading about Hitler and the Jewish Holocaust. I was about 10 years old at the time.
We are First Products of Our Environments
Self-esteem issues do not just begin in a day. They are ultimately the resultant effect of the things said or left unsaid by those around us. In the formative years, children do not have the ability to live independent of the validation of others nor do they have the super intelligence to tell themselves they matter whether we think so or not.
If for instance if you grew up to hear people say you were too tall for your age, too slender for the clothes you owned and too ugly for the boys in the neighbourhood, chances are that you would end up scoring low on the self-esteem index. Well, we have all had our share of these knife-cutting remarks and I can tell you they leave many people scarred for life.
But you don’t have to be one of such people.
How You Can Win the Battle Against Low Self-esteem
1. Acknowledge every good virtue in your life
This is a biblical principle I teach even my non-Christian friends. I remember writing every single thing I felt was an advantage in my life in 2017 including my height.
Yes! Long legs are rare, my darling. I use to have a friend who wore heels even to the toilet because she desperately wanted to be tall and here I was feeling bad because “I was too tall for my age.” The devil is a blatant liar!
2. Be friendly
Another sure-fire way to deal with low-esteem is to be friendly. If you want the kinds of friends you desperately need in your life, you must first be that kind of person.
Your second step out of a life of low self-esteem is not makeup or better clothes, it is competence. My father, the President of Eternity Network Int’l Joshua Selman Nimmak taught me that one of the greatest keys to dealing with low self-esteem is to find something you are good at and pour your soul into it.
Practice makes perfect and I add, makes you beautiful to behold too. When you have gained mastery in a field of endeavor, it becomes a defence against the scathing remarks of unhappy people. My father also reminds me that the “greatest answer you can give critics is more result!”
4.Change your environment
Lola is no longer in the environment she grew up in a child but as you can see, the impact it left on her followed her to the university. Maybe like Lola, you still cannot afford to leave your environment. However, you can create a new reality for yourself by changing the people you are friends with and the things you feed your mind.
At every point in your life, you will always have these three people:
- The ones who are better than you (mentors, role models, etc.)
- The ones who are your colleagues
- The ones you are better than (mentees, apprentices, etc.)
Until you have commanded some level of results, if you have too many of the last category, you will fail in life. There should be a healthy mix of 1, 2 and 3 in your life for you to make progress. Read our article on who should be your mentors to understand better.
5. Seek Exposure
Stop locking yourself indoors and thinking the worst of yourself. Once in a while, I travel to Abuja because as much as I love my city Zaria, you do not get exposure by staying in your shack of an apartment.Travel, take yourself out on a date or pay the price and learn the principles of greatness on YouTube.
Don’t watch movies that validatve your self-loathsomeness, don’t read books that describe your situations without obvious solutions and stay away from people who think they are too good for you. Anyone who leaves you feeling bitter and not better is a suspect.
6. Everyone has a weakness
I am not going to tell you I have stage fright when we first meet, I’d rather watch out for your areas of imperfections and turn down the volume on my insecurities and weaknesses or increase the volume of my strengths and advantages so you can feel bitter or better depending on how good or bad my intentions are.
Remember, we all have skeletons in our cupboards, some of us just have them securely locked.
7. Build commendable habits
Find strength to change the things you can about yourself, accept the ones that will never change and pray for the courage to know the difference between these two. I’ll give you an example, I have baby cheeks and I sincerely hated them.
I’ve had hurtful remarks like “See your fat cheeks,” yada, yada, yada but you see I cannot do anything about those cheeks so who needs dry and wry cheeks anyway when you can have them succulent?
8. Be part of a healthy circle of friends
Even in that circle, you may still find kill joys and Nay Sayers but the most important thing is you have the absolute freedom to choose who you are friends with. Toxic people are liable to kill you early.
9. God loves ugly
My friend Dipo gave me a song when I was in 200lv, “God loves ugly” and I want to leave that with you just in case nothing I have written makes sense.
Someday, you are going to look at the things that make you cry now and thank God for beautiful imperfections. You are worth your weight in gold my darling. Yes! You are…
Have I helped you today? Would you like to tell me your own self-esteem story? Let’s talk the comment box! YOU TOO CAN SEND YOUR EMAIL HERE