By Sacha Obaid
Self-esteem—the way you feel about yourself—is inextricably tied to the way you look. Of course, other factors affect self-esteem, but appearance is an important one. Society places a high value on looks, and your physical appearance is the most readily apparent attribute that people encounter when meeting you for the first time. So what exactly is the relationship between your self-esteem and how attractive you look and feel?
Self-esteem is about more than appearance.
Self-esteem and beauty are linked in a very chicken-and-egg kind of way. Do beautiful people have high self-esteem because they’re beautiful, or do people with high self-esteem feel more confident in a way that enhances their appearance?
One thing that’s important to note is that self-esteem isn’t just related to how you look. It’s also related to how you feel about how you look, which is why people who are attractive by society’s standards can still experience low self-esteem.
The truth is, while someone who isn’t conventionally attractive is more likely to have low self-esteem, people whom society considers beautiful don’t necessarily feel good about themselves because of their looks. After all, the “beautiful people” experience problems and heartaches, just like everyone else.
One contributor to this is that even beautiful people are never beautiful enough. Even the most beautiful or handsome celebrities have their images altered on magazine covers to make them appear not just beautiful, not just handsome, but completely flawless. If even those celebrities’ appearances are altered to look acceptable, how can the average person ever measure up? The truth is, nobody can measure up to the idea of the perfect man or woman, but equally true is the fact that they need not try to.
Be the best you.
Self-esteem isn’t just about how you look, and beauty itself isn’t just about how you look. Beauty is just as much psychological as it is physical, based not only on how you look, but also how much care you take of yourself and how you feel about your appearance.
When you feel good about yourself, you take better care of yourself, whether it’s with good nutrition, exercise, or grooming, and that kind of care enhances both your appearance and your confidence. With high self-esteem, someone who isn’t conventionally beautiful or handsome can feel and look fantastic.
It’s more important to your self-esteem to be the best that you can be rather than trying to measure up to flawless celebrity photos. And this goes not just for looks, but for relationships, work, and everything else that makes up life. Your life is unique, so it’s rarely productive to compare it to anyone else’s!
What effect do compliments have on self-esteem?
Compliments about your appearance can have a highly positive effect on your self-esteem as it relates to the way you look, but that’s not always the case.
Just as self-esteem is linked to your appearance, the effect compliments have on self-esteem are influenced by how you feel about your appearance. If you feel good about yourself, a compliment tends to make you feel even better. On the other hand, if someone with low self-esteem receives a compliment about their appearance, it may make them feel self-conscious or uncomfortable because the compliment contradicts how they feel about themselves.
If you find this happening to you, try to think about the intentions of the people giving out compliments. For example, if you’re complimented on an outfit you’re wearing, it can instantly make you feel self-conscious, simply because you’ve been noticed. Think about what made you choose the outfit in the first place; perhaps it makes you feel good, or it goes well with your skin and hair. Chances are, that’s exactly what the compliment-giver noticed.
Be beautiful all the way through.
Feeling beautiful or handsome means feeling good about yourself, inside and out—being your best self, rather than trying to live up to the ideals or standards of others. Society’s standards of beauty are impossible to reach, but you can strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be.
The effect of being “your best self” is one reason why cosmetic procedures are so popular. They’re not solely about improving your physical appearance but about improving those things that allow you to be your best, and the positive impact that has on your self-esteem. Those two things are linked so strongly that it’s hard to separate them, but for many people, the self-esteem boost from having a cosmetic procedure is much more important than the physical changes. The confidence you feel when you look your best puts a spring in your step and enhances every other aspect of your life.
Plastic surgery is just one possibility for boosting your self-esteem.
For some people, the desire to have cosmetic surgery is a difficult one to understand because they feel it places too much importance on appearance and on finding self-esteem in beauty. What isn’t always apparent is that there are many different ways to find self-esteem and to take pride in yourself: having a job you love and working hard, enjoying family relationships and friends, hobbies, sports, and all the other activities that make up a full life.
When cosmetic procedures are just one of a myriad of things that you do to enhance your life and the way you feel about yourself, the focus isn’t on looks—it’s about making changes that help you feel good. In short, focusing on looks is only harmful if that’s all you focus on. When it’s just one of many interests, it’s something that can help round out your life.