Laurie’s Social Esteem!

Self-esteem is basically how good you feel about yourself, right? The exact definition is “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities.” But how good (confident) you feel about yourself comes from a multitude of sources. In a modern girl’s world, a lot of that confidence comes from the social realm, whether it’s social media or their closest circle of friends.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were some way to measure how all that social stuff affects a girls confidence?

There just might be! It’s time to introduce a new term into our vocabulary…

Social Esteem!
It’s my new concept that takes into consideration online and offline relationships and their effect on self-confidence.

Social Esteem means confidence in one’s own “social” worth. Online and offline. It sits at the intersection of social media, relationships, and confidence. It’s the way our social lives affect how we feel about ourselves.

Social Esteem and Social Media
We derive our confidence and sense of social worth from so many arenas, and the world of social media only introduces more outlets of influence and comparison. Online validation and positive comments can bring Social Esteem up, while naysayers and the constant competition to be “cool” can send it plunging.

Social Esteem without social media is an easy proposition:
When you were younger (before you got your hands on social media), your biggest sources of Social Esteem were limited primarily to personal relationships: your friends, neighbors, family members, kids from school and sometimes maybe even people on TV or in magazines. These were the folks who affected your social worth. Obviously, there might’ve been some over-achievers or beauty queens in the bunch, but it was still a finite group of people with whom you compared yourself. They helped you determine your likability. These were your positive or negative influences. Your Social Esteem meter was pretty much in check as long as you felt good about yourself and confident in your social circle. You know, among those you actually knew and hung out with.

But throw social media in the mix and now you have the potential to compare yourself with literally every person on the planet who has a smartphone! You are inundated with competition and influence. You can actually see endless photos of people doing cooler things than you, wearing more fashionable clothes and living it up in trendier destinations. Inevitably, it all has an impact on your Social Esteem! How are we supposed to measure up?!

Social Media Plays a Big Part, Even if We Don’t Want it To

Currently, online interactions might feel even more powerful in forming one’s Social Esteem than real life ones. The negative feelings among “friends” online and the push for “likes” create daily hurdles to developing self-confidence. When online social outlets cause us to constantly compare our lives to others, it can leave us feeling lackluster, out of shape, unsuccessful or boring.

This happens despite the fact that we know logically all these other people are only showing their “highlight reels” on social media. That’s their best of the best — and it’s edited to seem better than it really is! Regardless, we still compare ourselves to them, and our Social Esteem drops as a result. Even though it’s an uncontrollable, emotional and likely irrational reaction (and we realize this), our confidence is chipped away by these comparisons.

Social Esteem: Who is Showing it and Who is Blowing it?
Now for some real-life examples of Social Esteem and what exactly we mean by this new measurement of social worth and confidence. Social Esteem exists in people, places, and things. It can be showcased in the actions people take, the things that happen at a certain place or even a product. If we look to our “friends” in pop culture, we can point out a few of those people and things who are displaying healthy Social Esteem and maybe one that doesn’t rank so high on our scale…

Rowan Blanchard of Disney’s Girl Meets World scores high on the Social Esteem meter. She has a strong sense of self, her own real opinions, and a decidedly authentic social media stream. Rowan’s posts reflect her personality as well as the political and social causes that are important to her. At just 14 years old, she takes a level-headed approach to social media and doesn’t use it to brag or make others jealous. She attends fashion shows occasionally but also champions the rights of the Sioux Indians, African-Americans, and the LGBT community. She exudes confidence about the things she believes in.

Rowan’s recent tweets have encouraged people to donate to Standing Rock and to the nation’s presidential votes re-count of presidential votes. Her Instagram feed is eclectic; it’s full of famous artists, political issues, fashion and the occasional funny meme. Her social media accounts are a mix of personal interests, worldwide issues, and silly, girly things. Her selfies are blurry and imperfect. I think people are really starting to look up to this girl…

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Another celeb who recently made moves on the Social Esteem meter is Selena Gomez. While she might have previously had lower Social Esteem — admitting that in the past she felt broken and desperately wanted to be liked — she has since gone to rehab and come to the realization that she can no longer look outward for validation or try to please everyone. After hearing her speech at the American Music Awards, we can see that she’s now much stronger and no longer seeks the  approval of others. She’s even urged others to show what’s in their hearts, rather than just their bodies, on Instagram.

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On the other end of the Social Esteem spectrum is the ever-popular music festival Coachella. Thousands gather in the California desert to show their “highlight reels” on social media… oh, and apparently there’s music there too.

The attendees display the awesome palm tree-filled scenery, their most fashionable outfits and the fab performers and famous people they’re “hanging out with.” Trying to make themselves seem trendier and more beautiful online, in reality, leaves followers feeling jealous, left out and less than.

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Relationships Matter Too
There’s hope yet for our Social Esteem. It’s not solely based on our reaction to social media outlets (which most of us find hard to control) or our feelings about our online likeability. Thank goodness!

Our social worth is also based on offline factors, particularly relationships, both internal and external. Real relationships with ourselves and with others can help boost our Social Esteem. We just need to give them the attention they deserve.

The development of a strong sense of self and personal identity (belief in the “brand of you”) can help us withstand the pressures of social media and all its pitfalls. Knowing that we are enough and that we too have great things going on in our lives can help shield us from the negative impacts of online comparisons.

Equally important are our close friendships and family ties which surround us with positivity and cheerleading. They work to balance out all of the potential garbage feelings from social media that might harm our Social Esteem.

Our relationships help us to build our whole selves and identities. Through these important ties with others, we can come to better understand ourselves. Constructive criticism, praise, honest discussion, and encouragement from people close to us can help us improve ourselves, unlike the constant “you aren’t good enough” message that social media seems to give. We must use our real life connections to bring our Social Esteem up!

We should choose wisely how much stock we put into our online personas, the “likes” we receive, and the grand social media displays of glitzy accounts. These things shouldn’t get as much weight in determining our Social Esteem as our real-life relationships. You know, the ones that matter.

Let’s be honest — if we’re all relying on our Instagram feeds, social media “like” counts, and online comparisons to people we barely know to make us feel confident, we’re in big trouble.

What can we do about this? Well, we can attempt to control our reactions to these unhelpful comparisons, both in how we perceive and digest what others display online and what we put out there on the interwebs. We have to accept the “highlight reel” theory as fact to curb our feelings of jealousy and the blows to self-esteem that arise in the form of beautiful bikini pics with perfectly done makeup. Knowing that it’s a curated snapshot of someone else’s life at a peak moment should help ease those negative feelings… and hey, maybe even make you feel happy for them? Well, maybe. (Besides, who wears make-up to the beach?)

In return, we should try to increase the Social Esteem of others and thereby increase our Internet karma (that’s a thing right?) by introducing positivity, inspiration and authentic pieces of ourselves into social media. Maybe give a girl-to-girl compliment online once in a while too?

Like the negative feelings fed by social media interactions, our own positive input can be contagious — choosing what we allow to influence our social esteem and putting more of that in our media feeds can be the inspiration that starts a movement toward healthy social esteem for our friends, real and online.

So won’t you join me and let’s start noticing what people, places, and things lead to positive and negative social esteem and start looking to surround ourselves with those which bring us positive social esteem.

I’m going to start posting pictures and thoughts about it on my Instagram and Facebook pages so keep a look out.

Thumbs up for POSITIVE and Thumbs down for NOT SO POSTIVE

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