The Truth About Low Self Esteem

The other week my attention was grabbed when Sunrise decided to go makeup free for one hour of the show with hosts bearing all and showing what they really look like underneath their metaphorical mask. This was something I personally had always wanted to do, as I wish that younger women were aware of how much work goes into being presentable for TV.  When they compare themselves to people in the media, they are looking at a dangerous false reality. My only criticism of the stunt was I wish they would have done this for more than one hour and continued it on through the network for the day.


Recently, I saw a photo of Lisa Wilkinson on Instagram also bearing all and going makeup free and filter free. Again I applaud her, but this photo was also taken at a distance in dim lighting and it was not obvious of her natural intensions. What I took away from these stunts is many of us are not aware of the full impact of low self esteem. If we were, maybe we would be doing more about it. We are only just scratching at the surface of the issues.


Yesterday I opened up a magazine and was saddened at the images of young, thin gaunt looking models on the pages. No matter what we say or how much we say it, this look is still widely used in fashion and media and by young women as a goal, one that is unachievable for most. Only a small percentage of the population have this look, which in most cases is a matter of genetics, but yet it’s what we promote to the rest of society.



Many think when we talk about low self esteem we are referring to not going to the beach because of bad body image or covering up because we are too ashamed or not talking to a boy because we don’t feel pretty enough. But I want to talk about the real killer when it comes to self esteem – our sex lives and the continual negative spiral.


I was told of a story about a girl who was on a man ban because she suffered from such low self esteem that she would not take her clothes on in front of any guy. Hence, she figured she would put herself on a man ban as sex was out of the question. She was also a size 8! Low self esteem effects all people.


When low self esteem stops us going to the beach it’s one thing, but when it stops us getting into relationships or having sex with our partner it’s a domino effect. Think of it this way, a women has bad body image, doesn’t want to tell her partner but is too sacred to have sex with the lights on, sex in certain positions or sex at all. Her partner sees it as rejection, might take it personally, is not feeling loved and connected, conflict and tension start and the relationship along with both people’s emotional state goes down hill. There is tension in the relationship but it might have all started from low self esteem and a sense of rejection because of this.


What about those single girls?  A single girl feels bad about her body, doesn’t want to date until she feels she is at her goal weight or does not date at all. She only feels validated when the opposite sex is showing her attention and when they are not, she feels even worse. She might end up in a harmful relationship or a relationship with Mr Wrong because that someone is showing her affection.


But it can get worse. A girl with low self esteem meets a boy who validates her because he shows her attention and affection. The boy yells at the girl and controls her but the girl still stays because she thinks no one else will ever love her.  The boy hits the girl but the girl still stays with him, as she believes she’s lucky to have him. I once worked as a counsellor with women who were being abused and there were many reasons and different circumstances, but one thing stayed the same – they all had low self esteem.


Low self esteem is not just about the clothes we wear or the activities we don’t do. It’s about our entire lives and our relationships with our selves and others. I don’t think there is an immediate answer to how we solve this problem, but we do need to be more aware of the larger impact it has, talk about it more with our friends and partners and do more than remove our makeup for an hour, take a natural instagram photo or occasionally put a plus size model in a magazine.


Last month I was asked to pose in my underwear for a campaign with the Cancer Council. I had just arrived back from LA, had been drinking and partying and not going to the gym for the last month and not feeling my best. But I figured, besides the fact that it was a worthwhile cause, did I want to say no and always be waiting to be better or to be at my goal or did I jut want to embrace who I am right now and say this is me. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life and I was made to feel proud about my body. I only wish I could bottle up that feeling and the support I received from those around me and give it to other women.



Instead of talking about what we don’t like and what we want to change we need to express what we love about ourselves. We need to celebrate that every body is unique and love ourselves just a little but more. If you can show one other person that you love yourself and accept your body the way you are than you might just let them know it’s ok to love themselves too.  This might sound a bit mushy, but we need to start somewhere and our attitudes towards ourselves is one way we can role model positive body image to those around us. The presenters on Sunrise made a bold choice to take off their makeup, but you don’t need to be a presenter on a TV show to make a difference. What will you do to help yourself and others improve their body image?



Dr Nikki

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