SELF-ESTEEM AND COLLEGE
College is the time when most students are developing their sense of identity, "who they are." For many, it is the first time away from home, and some students are the first member of the family to ever attend college. Students are finding things out about themselves and figuring out what college life is all about.
For the first time, students decide whether or not to go to class - with no "principal" to call their parents. They decide whether or not to do their assignments. They decide how much to work, socialize, party, and study, if at all. Prioritizing and responsibility are brought to a new level as students are in charge of their new world. It can be very overwhelming. In addition to all of this, students are trying to make friends and be "accepted" by peers. This is the time when self-esteem is very much needed.
Being on your own for the first time can be scary, but if you have the tools to face the world, you'll probably be a lot more successful in it!
SO, WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED SELF-ESTEEM?
Self-esteem is important to everyone. We all need positive self-esteem to feel good about ourselves. Positive (High) self-esteem is feeling good about who we are; liking ourselves regardless of successes or failures. Positive self-esteem means that we don't judge ourselves based on what others think or say, or how much we can accomplish. High self-esteem is being comfortable in your own skin, knowing that you are a good person, and feeling good about it!
HOW DOES LOW SELF-ESTEEM AFFECT ME?
Low self-esteem can have intense emotional effects on an individual. Low self esteem is when you feel badly about yourself, and who you are, and have little confidence or control over your life. You may be easily swayed by others. Many times, others can sense someone with low self-esteem and take advantage of him or her by coercing them into doing things they wouldn't normally do.
Low self-esteem can affect your relationships with significant others. If you do not like yourself, it is difficult to truly like others and share yourself with another person. The negativity that low self-esteem brings can damage a relationship because it is also very difficult to accept love and affection from other people if you do not love yourself first.
Your work and school success can also be affected. With low self-esteem, you may lack the motivation and confidence to succeed in school and at work. If you are not feeling good about yourself, you may hold yourself back from finishing projects and even self-sabotage so that you purposely do not succeed. Because if you feel badly about yourself, you may feel as if you don't deserve to have anything positive happen in your life.
Some students who feel this way cover it up by drinking and using drugs and being the life of the party. Others are angry and isolated and can take their mood out on others around them. The real truth is that these individuals are most likely very sad inside and need support and encouragement to change these destructive ways.
HOW CAN I FEEL BETTER AND RAISE MY SELF-ESTEEM?
First, you have to recognize that you have low self-esteem and want to feel better about yourself. Linda Tschirhart Sanford and Mary Ellen Donovan, authors of Women and Self-Esteem, describe the impact of self-esteem in the following way:
"Our level of self-esteem affects virtually everything we think, say and do. It affects how we see the world and our place in it. If affects how others in the world see and treat us. It affects the choices we make - choices about what we will do with our lives and with whom we will be involved. It affects our ability to both give and receive love. And, it affects our ability to take action to change things that need to be changed."
The effects of self-esteem are far-reaching. But we need to take little steps in attaining a positive self-worth. The following are a list of things you can do everyday to improve your self-esteem.
*NOTE: If you feel overwhelmed, sad and/or depressed and are unable to help yourself, we encourage you to call Counseling Services at (203) 837-8690 to set up an appointment to talk with one of our therapists.
These steps can be hard work - because you have to practice them. But with time and persistence you can make a difference and start to feel better!!!
- Accept yourself. Know that you are a good person despite any flaws or imperfections you may have. Think about this: Do you judge your friends flaws as harshly as you do your own? Probably not. So go easy on yourself.
- Take control. Make your own decisions - and change the things that need to be changed. You have the right to be in control of your destiny. Take pride in that and do something about it. You will gain a sense of power and confidence to continue doing so. It's a domino effect! Try it!!!
- Think positive. Negative self-talk can have devastating effects on your self-esteem. Your thoughts affect your emotions, and your emotions affect your behavior. So, if you tell yourself everyday that you are never going to pass Biology 100 - then chances are you won't! It's like having someone stand over your shoulder every day telling you that you are going to fail. After a while you start listening to that voice and believing it! So first, catch yourself talking negatively (it may be out loud or in your head), then take that negative statement and make it a positive one. And, don't let yourself rethink the negative thoughts anymore. It really helps. For example, if you tell yourself everyday that you will pass Biology, then you will start to feel that you can, and you will probably start acting more positively, like studying more, etc.
- Be good to yourself. Let yourself enjoy life. Relax, take a walk, do the things you like. It may seem difficult amid exams, work and the hectic pace of college life. But we all deserve and need to do enjoyable activities. Even if it's only 15 minutes a day to meditate or exercise, that's time you're spent treating yourself positively. Find the time to do one nice thing for yourself, or someone else if it makes you feel good, every day.
- Get involved. Try things that you have always wanted to try. You can meet new people and develop new friendships. You will also learn new skills that will help you feel better about yourself. Even if you turn out not to be good at this new hobby, at least you had the guts to try it!!!
- Become self-reliant. Don't depend on other people to make you feel good about yourself. Compliment yourself. That way, you won't sit around waiting for someone else to boost your esteem - you can do it yourself. Then in the event of criticism or rejection, think about who you are, not just what you have accomplished.
- Set goals. Set sights for your future. It is important to have things to look forward to. Whether it's as simple as, "I will get enough rest each night"; or as complex as, "I will get some career counseling to find a major and focus on my future." When you decide what you want to do and when you want to do it, you make an investment to learn more about yourself that can build inner strength and confidence (i.e., SELF-ESTEEM!!!).
References: Donovan, Mary Ellen and Tschirhart Sanford, Linda. (1984) Women and Self-Esteem. Viking Penguin Inc.: New York.