“How do you manage to stay so fit and still accomplish all of your goals on your own?” “I’m a vegetarian who does a lot of martial arts and cardio exercises every day, and I always make sure to touch base with myself at the end of the day.” Questioning looks. Silent glares. “Is that even humanly possible?” they whisper.
Self-confidence and self-esteem are two of the most common issues that women and girls face. In order to help them reach their full potential, we need to address these issues.
When I was 15, during lunchtime, my classmates would stare at my lunch filled with an array of different vegetables and fruits and ask whether I had eaten enough to fuel my body for the rest of the day. Even in college, whenever I chose not to eat meat, people would give me blank stares and whisper behind my back.
What’s wrong with the choices that I have made for myself? Although many people are not vegetarians and are not committed to a rigorous exercise and sleep regimen like I am, it still does not mean that I cannot live my life in a way that works best for my body.
I do realize the topic may seem trite. However, the issue of a lack of self-confidence in women is prevalent in many countries. In fact, according to a 2015 study published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” across 48 nations, self-esteem increases with age from late adolescence to mid-adulthood. In addition, there are significant gender gaps, with males reporting higher self-esteem than women. Moreover, according to a 2004 report published by Dove, nine out of 10 girls wanted to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance and only 4 percent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. Furthermore, 72 percent of girls feel an enormous amount of pressure to look beautiful.
The issue of low self-esteem has serious consequences. In fact, according to a 2002 study published in the “Journal of Social Issues,” college students who try to seek approval from others reported more stress, anger, academic difficulties and higher substance abuse problems than those who do not.
While my way of living may not work for everyone, I do believe it is important for girls and women to do what they feel is best for them rather than trying to conform to other people’s standards. It is about listening to your body and knowing what will make you happy. After all, you are the central figure in your life.
So, please, do not tell me how I should live my life. And girls, next time, when someone criticizes a part of your life that is vital to the accomplishment of your dreams, do not fall prey to their judgment. Instead, listen to the cues that your body is giving you, and I assure you that you will be on a path to living your best life.
Cover photo: Kiran Foster