Share: does how your look affect your self-esteem?

Last week, Serene brought my attention to a demeaning advertisement aired locally that basically insulted the image of plus size women and asked if I can write a post about self-esteem in our pursuit of beauty. It’s quite a thought provoking as well as challenging topic and I’m not sure if I can tackle it well. So instead of taking on the subject myself, I thought it would make a good discussion piece today as many of us would have something to say about that.

The constant pressure to look good is real
Watching the ad, you probably would have gotten a good sense of how a woman’s look can adversely affect her self-esteem. Yes, the storyline was exaggerated and ludicrous, with less than subtle undertones of discrimination against plus size women but I have to concede that because of the values that the world is built upon, we all face some sort of pressure to look better than we really are and subconsciously, it affects how we view ourselves as well. But the question is, how are we dealing with it?

Maybe I can say something here because of my own experience.

I’ve had my fair share of self-esteem dented over the years. To being with, I’m petite and I’ve always had to deal with comments regarding my height or even assumptions that I am weak just because I am small. Next, I used to be very self-conscious about my hair, and was always worried that people who towered over me were counting the number of strands on my head. And having dealt with acne issues for a year or so, I can emphatize with women who say they can’t walk with their heads lifted up.

Don’t trivialize the issues
These issues may seem very petty but believe me, they can be life and death for some people so never trivialize them. I’ve admitted before that there was a time I had fleeting thoughts of suicide because of my sparse hair. In hindsight, it was stupidity but I was young and didn’t know how to deal with the pain too well. But I know with certainty that such pain and embarrassment are intensely real.

Don’t magnify the issues either
I guess I have the advantage of *ahem* age to say that I can deal with not looking my best on some days. I’ve also undergone various life experiences to know that even if my hair is little or if my face is spotty, I am still loved. But not everyone has this advantage. Sometimes, all it takes is one innocent comment to get you all riled up about those extra kilos you’ve gained, that plus size clothing you had to buy, or some pimples you’re spotting on your chin.

Don’t submit to the world
But know this: the world will still carry on whether or not you’re wallowing in self-pity; other people will still continue to have fun even if you’re filled with anguish about how you look. And let me be more blunt and put this plainly – even if someone dies over her looks, the world is not going to mourn over her death for too long. So instead of letting the world have its way, why not have it your own way?

Don’t focus on your looks
So my advice to those with issues of self-esteem because of how you look is – deal with it! Accept your flaws and find ways to overcome them. If it is a dermatologist you must visit, make an appointment! If it is a diet or an exercise regime you need to take on, don’t shy from them. If you believe in God, pray! Meanwhile, continue with your life AS PER NORMAL and still look as best as you can. Tell yourself it’ll only get better and then focus on your strengths and stop thinking that you’re lousy because of how you look. Now, the world can think you’re lousy but if you do not allow yourself to think that way, then what the world thinks is no longer important. And for goodness sake, hang around with those who are for you and not against you.

You have qualities independent of how you look
A lot of times, if we are uncomfortable with ourselves, it shows. However, I’ve seen women who shine even when they are far from perfect looking. There’s just something about them that makes you forget their imperfections. Speaking of which, have you watched Melanie Amaro on The X Factor debut show? She’s big isn’t she? What do you think the judges were thinking looking at her standing there? But as you were watching her, did you focus on her size or her voice? All I’ll say is that she looked beautiful to me while she was singing!

Spread some love
Okay, I’ve rambled enough so it’s now over to you. Tell us how your looks has affected your self-esteem and how did you deal with it. Or even if you haven’t had this issue, give some advice to those who are insecure about themselves because of how they look. Spread some love all round people!


  1. domncroxd says:

    thank you for this entry! i relate most to not focusing on looks. i have pretty low self-esteem when it comes to my looks, but i think the important thing is not being lazy and still trying to enhance what are my favorite features. a friend said the other day that she liked the way i laughed, and i thought that hey, a compliment like that, which doesn’t focus on looks, is a great pick-me-up. so on the note of spreading the love, always know that there are aspects of you that aren’t looks-specific which people appreciate, be it your laugh, your sense of humor, or the sheer force of your personality and attitude ?
    domncroxd last post is: Review: UNII Palette

  2. xin says:

    very well written. i have low self-esteem when i think about my thinning hair and the fats i have ? but what the heck, i am still loved ? in fact, i suffered from nasty depression and frustrated people near me when i was on a mega diet. now i am back to happy-with-food self, life is actually happier, when you dont have to count the calories ?
    xin last post is: Beauty Saloon Review: Remoisturizing Treatment at Mellisachens Skin Beauty Spa 1-Utama

  3. sesame says:

    Yes, be who you are! Don’t let those “perfect” image on glossy magazines get us. Anyway, who is to say people who look perfect are happy and secure? We’ll never know.

  4. sesame says:

    Very good tips about focusing on other qualities…I’ve seen this particular girl who has less than perfect complexion but something in her personality just attracted me. She was interesting and as I spoke to her longer, I found her pretty. She was conscious about her complexion because she told me about it but she didn’t spend her time focusing on it.

  5. fwy says:

    If you flip open the papers in Singapore, you get to see a lot of slimming advertisements from salons, slimming pills distributor, etc. Even local TV from time to time collaborate with slimming centres in certain programmes. It is really common in our country. I am bless by our Lord to be born slim and these things does not affect me.

  6. EcoBeauty says:

    Thank you for this entry, Sesame. And you are right… these things really happen and just because it was trivialized on TV to the point of looking ridiculous doesn’t mean it’s not true for some people. I’m sorry but I actually laughed when I saw this video as I felt like I was watching a highly melodramatic Spanish teleseries that suddenly, so sharply and with total disregard for any proper transition, cut into a pre-Christmas advertisement. I think it was really the unfitting presentation, not the actual idea or reality, that left a highly negative impression on a lot of people, even to those who don’t even see themselves as having weight issues.

    As for me, I’ve been underweight my entire life and like you, quite a lot of people used to interpret it as a sign of weakness. During high school, a lot of guys used to tell me that I could have been pretty if not for the fact that I was like a walking set of bamboo sticks and a lot of guys didn’t dare to court me, thinking I was very young (due to certain “undeveloped” curves) when I was actually older than most of my batchmates. It might sound silly but at one point during my late teenage years, I even asked God why He couldn’t give me the extra few pounds I’ve always asked from Him; why He had to give the “blessing” to other girls who misuse their “extra pounds” to bully tiny, under-developed girls like me. Now, being more comfortable with my weight and my limits (as I can’t seem to go beyond 100 lbs), I laugh whenever I remember that silly moment. It has become a personal joke between God and myself, hehe.
    EcoBeauty last post is: Review: Marie Veronique Organics Anti-Aging Day Serum (Everyday Sheer Coverage)

  7. Alexandra says:

    A very well said post Sesame! I have my fair shares of low self esteem as well.. but I have learnt to overcome them and to be beautiful from the inside. Some people may be beautiful from the outside but unfortunately, their heart is not.
    “..for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”
    Alexandra last post is: Eucalyptus Oil and It’s Uses

  8. espenine says:

    I have acne prone skin all my life since adolescence. I take great care of my skin but no matter what I do, it just never gets perfect like baby skin. With age, it gets easier to accept one’s flaws & ignore hurting comments from others. When I was younger, I used to use heavy makeup & concealer to hide every acne spot/mark because I was so self conscious. I don’t do that anymore now because I am fine with some imperfections on my skin. (Hey, you don’t look perfect yourself so why should I??) Still, I wish for the day when I get compliments about my complexion but I guess it can only happen in my next life.

  9. MereMakeupManiac says:

    the key indeed is to love what has God blessed you with. i was born big so i have a tough time getting to slim down. although i am inclined to envy other skinny people since am just human, i readily dismiss it and pats myself and say, “You’re beautiful just as He created you.” now, i admire beautiful people across all types – fat, slim, fair, dark-skinned, tall, short. indeed there is beauty in all our differences. why settle to look all the same? #k8SjZc9Dxk_#k8SjZc9Dxk
    MereMakeupManiac last post is: LOTD: MAC Dazzleglass Miss Dynamite

  10. sesame says:

    Yes Amen! It’s okay to envy others as long as you know you are beautiful in your own ways… ?

  11. sesame says:

    I share your thoughts. I also wish for better skin and as a beauty blogger, I have more pressure on that account. LOL. But I don’t and I’m fine with that. I just do what I can and keep my head focus on other strengths. ?

  12. sesame says:

    Amen! The heart is key! But the world doesn’t think like that and so there are those who are insecure as a result of trying to conform. It is an era where while internal beauty is prized, but it’s just given lip service most of the time.

  13. sesame says:

    I’m glad you’re way pass that insecurity…He teaches us in His own ways and it helps to strengthen us. It’s not silly; it’s good you have some experience so that you can relate to others with the same problem and possibly help them. Who knows? As for the ad, I thought one of the hair loss ad was bad but this one is totally crap. I have no respect for the said salon and hence, do not wish to even write their name down here. That bad. ?

  14. Soos says:

    Is Melanie Amaro big? She looks like a healthy young woman to me! With so much talent and poise – THAT’S what shines! All my life, I’ve wanted people to see that I am intelligent, so when they comment on my looks, I struggle to keep from being irritated.
    Soos last post is: Stories Children Love

  15. sesame says:

    Yes, those add to the insecurities in many women, making some of us want to pursue perfection in every area. But the truth is, many of these ads are fake. Skin care companies will pick models/celebs with the best skin to represent their products even though the models/celebs did not use their product prior to that. And as for those slimming ads, there is something called photoshop, which is being abused.

  16. sesame says:

    I would definitely not consider her the typical celebrity frame but she’s not huge. She’s bigger but she carries herself very confidently. And I understand why you are irritated but most people are visual oriented, me included.

  17. Julia says:

    Aren’t you defeating the purpose of your own post by calling that Melanie girl “big”? Only in a world where size 0 only is seen as beautiful, she can be considered big. I admit she’s not very thin (neither am I), but BIG? Those obsese kids in the US, they are big in my opinion.

    Maybe the first thing we need to do is stop calling other girls fat when they’re not as slim as those models in the ads. (Calling other people names just shows that you’re insecure with yourself anyway.)
    Julia last post is: My first GMarket order

  18. Lydia says:

    To be very honest it took me quite some time to accept who I am. To learn to love myself with those imperfections since nobody is perfect in this world! I blame the media/commercials etc. for creating a false image of what beauty is. We only see the slim models with flawless skin and seriously is it really normal when someone is already in her 40s but look like 30? Of course it’s flattering but it’s not realistic to remain wrinkle-free with cream/serum only.
    Lydia last post is: I’m lucky

  19. Klara says:

    i think almost the same, but a woman needs to feel like a woman. always. i don’t mind that it depends on your look. it depends on your mood. i had a low self-esteem, too. i was fatty, depressed and my wardrobe was old. than i began to do some sports, i lost some pounds, although it was not so significant. BUT i was getting feel much better. i was smiling all the day, i felt more energized and my mood was not so blue anymore. So think that the self-suggestion only does not work. you have do something to feel better. really do.
    Klara last post is: Fettabsaugen

  20. Michelle says:

    I have SUPER fair skin, which became a huge insecurity for me starting in middle school. Let me also say that I grew up (and still live) in Texas, where being tan is a way of life. I’m sure it sounds ridiculous to people living outside of the US, but there is a lot of pressure on women to be tan. I knew girls who started using tanning beds in middle school! I was always self conscious in shorts and skirts, and I hated wearing a swimsuit because people would always comment on how white I was, saying that I was “blinding” them or that I looked like a ghost. So I jumped on the tanning bandwagon in my early years of college, but after losing some loved ones to cancer, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
    What aggravates me is that even when a lot of people, magazines, beauty blogs, etc. talk about the harmful effects of tanning, they still push women to use sunless tanning lotions or spray tan. The pressure to be tan is ridiculous. And then you have a lot of women walking around with orange or red skin from too much tanning or tanning lotions, and of course their skin ages faster from all the UV light exposure. When I got married last year, my friends kept asking why I wasn’t tanning. What was I going to do about my pale, white skin? When I told them tanning was out of the question, they said things like, “Well, that’s ok. You can still use sunless tanners.” What’s wrong with having fair skin? In so many other cultures, fair skin is admired and considered beautiful.
    What I did to overcome this was to finally listen to my husband, who always complimented me on my skin (he LOVES fair skin). I also do my best to take good care of my skin and my body, and I wear colors that flatter my skin tone. Now I love my fair skin, and I love showing it off! I wear almost nothing but dresses in the summertime, something I would never have done a few years ago. I think all skin types and tones are beautiful, and they should be embraced! Love what you got, let your personality shine through, and do your best to live a healthy life!
    Michelle last post is: NaNoPaMo and "An owl for Owl"

  21. sesame says:

    I expected some people will not be pleased with my choice of word to describe Melanie. I’m calling a spade a spade as I see it and I don’t see a point of trying to be pretentious. Should I have then minced my words and call her “not so thin”, “not so small” or maybe just “plus size”? I’m still talking about her size isn’t it and it’s just to draw an example that people can be of a bigger size and still be beautiful. Please remember that words are relative: what is big to me is not to you and vice versa – I would call those kids you mentioned obsese, which is not just big to me. Picking on a word without understanding the post in context is unconstructive and also shows me that you’re insecure about it yourself. And please, I did not put the word in capital letters like you did and I did not call anyone names like you implied.

  22. silvergreen says:

    “These issues may seem very petty but believe me, they can be life and death for some people so never trivialize them…” true enough. I was actually infested with acne 2 years back (thank god it is all okay now) . Prior to that, i had no issues with acne or whatsoever, it devastated me so much that i avoid meeting my friends, waking up in the middle of night and staring myself at the mirror…. the “self-conciousness” was so bad that at one point, i woke up, chuck away all the mirrors and tried all my best to curb the breakouts. I am so glad that it is all over now and yes, i totally agree with you,instead of letting the world have its way, why not have it your own way?

  23. sesame says:

    Yup…the media does get us to attain what is impossible with deceits and lies sometimes. So we just have to be realistic and love ourselves for who we are. And then what others say and think will not matter.

  24. sesame says:

    That’s really great! I’m glad you did things to make yourself feel better. That’s the type of spirit and energy that keep us feeling great.

  25. sesame says:

    You know what? Your husband is so wonderful and you’re so blessed! Don’t conform to the world’s pressure. If you’re fair so be it. I’ve had people calling me pale and white like a piece of paper and I don’t care. I’m glad I’m not dark because having spots later in life is no fun really. And trust me, at the end of the day, you’ll have the last laugh cos your skin will look much better than those who went for all the tanning.

  26. sesame says:

    I know exactly how you feel because I battled with acne for a long time too and I felt quite exasperated at one point because nothing I did seem to be stopping the outbreak. I was so self-conscious but thankfully, I just believe there is a way out and today, that nightmare is gone. We can fall but we need to learn to get up on our own!

  27. fwy says:

    Some TV programmes made their contestants sponsored by slimming centres look like some sort of disasters with nothing to live for unless they lose some weight. Kind of pathetic, if you ask me.

  28. sesame says:

    I know…and I also wonder why the contestants subject themselves to such antics.

  29. Julia says:

    I’m not picking on the word here, I’m picking on the image of big. There’s no need to start calling me insecure about anything, calling someone “big” means just that. And this girl is not big. She’s not stick-thin, if that is your beauty ideal (I guess it is most of ours), but I find it offensive to call someone “big” simply because they’re not a size zero. Especially in a post where you tell people not to care about their looks all that much.
    (And I put the word in capital letters to emphasize it in my sentence, mind you.)

    I’m sorry, I like your blog, but there is some wording in this post that just ticks me off.
    Julia last post is: My first GMarket order

  30. Julia says:

    Nothing else but this. I completely feel with you.
    For me, there’s no husband (yet), but I studied in Japan for a year and people loved my white skin. <3
    Julia last post is: My first GMarket order

  31. sesame says:

    Words can always be misunderstood especially because this is the Net…and we don’t speak face-to-face so when you write something, I’ll think you imply something and when I write something, you’ll think likewise. Perhaps the word ‘big” is offensive in your context but t’s not offensive from where we are. The words ‘fat’ , ‘overweight’ and ‘obsese’ are. Perhaps one advice I should have added is that we should all learn to be less sensitive as well. And about calling you insecure, perhaps you want to check your last line in your last comment – to me, that’s directed at me. Maybe it wasn’t but you see where this is getting?

    Anyway, let’s face it…the image of big is an issue whether I write about it or not and oh, by the way, that’s the point of this post because the ad I mentioned was about weight issue! So I chose to write about that using Melanie as an example but to emphasize that despite what is, she is beautiful. I could have used other examples but it so happened I was watching her. I’m thin and pple comment about my size like I’m sick or have problems in my life. The point is, to be okay even if someone says something you don’t like in your face. A comment from others that is innocent can mean something more when we focus too much on it.

  32. Julia says:

    My last sentence in the first comment wasn’t directed at you, but at girls who do things like that. Seriously, English needs a pronoun like the French “on”. -.-
    I still don’t think it’s okay to call people big, because it’s just another way to phrase fat. Just that it’s being fake-polite. “Look, I’m not calling anyone non-thin!”. The fact that we DO refer to people as something like big shows that we don’t see them as “normal”.
    And I don’t think that telling people to stop being overly sensitive is helping anyone. I know it’s not your intention and all, but really, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
    Julia last post is: My first GMarket order

  33. N. says:

    I’ve always been very skinny. But in the past couple of years I gained a lot of weight. I’m not huge. Thank god. But I am overweight. And it was making me depressed. But I signed for a gym and am trying to go back to my former thin body. However with gaining weight I also gained a lot of stretch marks and nothing I do seems to make them go away. And I feel quite embarrassed with using shorts.
    N. last post is: Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) – Short Review

  34. sesame says:

    Thanks Julia…I’ve learned something from our discussions because sometimes, we can be caught up in our own thought process and it’s definitely not all encompassing. That’s why I said I wasn’t sure if I can tackle this topic myself and actually hesitated when my reader asked me to write about it. It’s good to agree to disagree and that’s where the sharing can take place. ?

  35. sesame says:

    Try applying some body oil to those areas with stretch marks so that when you grow thinner, it won’t be so obvious. I regretted not taking good care of my belly when I was pregnant…the stretch marks are still there.

  36. Jasmine says:

    Sesame, I agree with your positive attitude. The thing about appearance for us women is how intimately it is linked to our sense of self-worth – it causes us to be unable to see it in perspective (with a cool, objective mind) and rather lapse into introspective, personal feelings of low confidence. When it comes to problems, I think it’s very important to take a step back from the negatives (I have flabby arms, acne scars, dull skin, etc…) or think of negative fixes (I am not going to indulge in big meals, I am so fat I should endure a terrible session in the gym, etc). What we should do is to think of how we’re gaining things in the long run – each bite of bland-tasting vegetables is nourishing me from the inside, each second on the treadmill is giving me better circulation. Fighting flaws is something we do all the time, but it’s the way we approach it that really counts.

    It’s a common idea that appearance is ‘functional’ for women – we have to be attractive to appeal to men – in that it serves a social or reproductive purpose. But as women know privately, it is a measure of self-worth. Of course on one hand a woman who fixates on her appearance becomes no more than a ‘functional’ and superficial woman, if her character and mettle grows with each hurdle she overcomes with positive grace, she becomes a stronger woman. It’s not wrong to be vain, it’s how you nurture those independent qualities along with being more beautiful on the outside ?

    I am quite tall and strong in build, with terrible hair and a no-nonsense, plain dress sense. I have dull, scarred skin, clogged pores and to top it off I am really hairy LOL. I am by no means conventionally attractive, nor am I extraverted like the life of the party. Sometimes I do get twinges of insecurity when I wonder why I am adored by my partner when I am so plain – I have to remind myself that it’s not only my appearance, but also what we’ve been through and where we will go and grow together that matters. Self-pity might be a reality check but always pull yourself together – and in the right way too ?

  37. sesame says:

    This is so well said Jasmine! You have put it across much better than I did. I like how you said that it’s not wrong to be vain, but it’s how we nurture those qualities along with being more beautiful on the outside. Seriously I feel strongly that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and people who love you will always know how to love you for who you are and hot just how you look.

    And about fight flaws, yes, true…we do it all the time and to an extent, I find it good because it means we’re also trying to improve. But it’s not to fight those flaws with a depressed spirit and feeling beaten out even before starting. Like what you say, battling with these issues through strength and grace makes us stronger emotionally and one who is strong will look confident. Some are beautiful but they lack the character/personality to carry it off and it’s a pity too.

  38. Chelsea says:

    I think a big part of feeling good about yourself is surrounding yourself with people who ALLOW you to feel good about yourself. My high school “friends” used to make vicious jokes about my body whenever they got the chance–especially if there were men around. Even now, I will reflect on their past “observations”… and I haven’t even seen any of them in eight years! My husband insists their comments stemmed from jealousy. I’m still not sure whether he’s wrong or right or both, but being around him instead of them, in and of itself, has done wonders for my self esteem.

  39. sesame says:

    I don’t know about jealousy but they were certainly unkind. It’s good you are not with them anymore. And yes, surrounding yourself with people who allow you to feel good about yourself in a sincere way and I mean to even get away from those who have poor self-esteem about themselves unless you can help them feel better. People with poor esteem about themselves also often want to “drag” others into the mud along with them to feel good.

  40. Amanda says:

    I can empathize with what you had felt. For you, it’s your hair; for me, it’s my aging appearance. I know I have become too conscious of my appearance during the past year. Questions like “Do I dress too old/young?” or “Is my make-up look great?” often comes to my mind whenever I look in the mirror (I can’t help it).

    While I can do whatever I can to make myself seem less old, I know I’m still aging. That I cannot change. So, I’ve learned to accept it as well as pride myself on having a younger-than-my-actual-age look. Besides, appearance isn’t everything ?
    Amanda last post is: Dealing and Living With Rosacea

  41. sesame says:

    I understand what you mean Amanda cos I go through those thoughts myself! It doesn’t help when you see most of the celebs at our age or older than we are having flawless looking complexion and botoxed tight skin. But they’re not all real. Still, I’m conscious too like if I have white hair showing, I’ll quickly try to cover them up. I recently mentioned in an article that it’s never ending…we can strive to look younger, etc but at the end of the day, like what you’ve mentioned, we have to learn to accept. No point pursuing so hard and then losing the joy of living or being so obsessed that we’ll go for every anti-aging treatments.

  42. ioan says:

    Why bother yourself in being conscious about your looks. God created us equally and nobody’s perfect! We have our own beauty. It’s up to those people on how they will perceived you. Be confident enough to do your things. Don’t let anyone down you. You don’t owe them a favor. Important is you know who are and you don’t hurt anybody.Bankruptcy Lawyers Phoenix Az

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