There's a little bit of back story before we delve in to this. This blog is based on a video I uploaded to YouTube in April 2013. Since uploading, I've received a handful of really lovely comments about how it helped them. One of them suggested I write it down. A few months later, I've finally gotten around to doing it.
I don't tend to talk about my own self-esteem issues often, if at all. I don't know if I'm the best person to give advice about it but I had this idea and I thought maybe if I could help one person, it would be worth it.
Let's get started with things not to say.
1. You're pretty. You're beautiful. You're stunning. You're gorgeous. You look good today.
You're not complimenting them - you're lying to them. Your friend won't believe you. They might think you're saying it to be nice, or just to make them feel better or maybe you feel sorry for them. But they certainly won't take this as an honest compliment.
2. Don't be stupid, yes you are
Again, this doesn't work. The main thing I, personally, would take from that is "you're stupid." I know that's not logical, but it's true. So if you say: "Don't be stupid, you look pretty," your friend might think something along the lines of: "I'm stupid and she's lying to me." I know this sounds ridiculous but it's such an ingrained thought process, it can't be helped.
Also by saying you're stupid - because for me self-esteem isn't just about looks, it's about how you feel about your personality - it could make them feel like a stupid person. They could start to think: "Of course I'm going to think like this. Oh I'm just pathetic. "
That's putting it quite lightly but this can be a bleak, downward spiral of thoughts to fall in to. Whether you've intended to or not, you've made them go down that spiral, which they could potentially keep plummeting in long after you've finished talking.
3. Say something you don't like about yourself
Maybe you think you'll take the more subtle approach and say there's something wrong with you, to make the other person feel better. No. This doesn't work.
You may think there are a couple of things wrong with you; they think there's everything wrong with them.
To give an example, my friend who is a size 8, took what was essentially skin, squeezed it and said: "Look at all this flab." It instantly brought up all of my weight and body issues. It made me feel huge, like I took up so much of the room. It made me feel like I was expanding in my own skin and it was so horrible.
Or it could be the other way round. Say you've got a really skinny friend and you're going "Oh my dress is so tight. Look at my hips!" And maybe they really want curvy hips and you're rubbing it in their face. Making them aware of their perceived flaws.
More often than not, I'm going to guess your friend will think you're a better person than them in both looks and personality. So by you finding flaws in yourself, that will make them feel even worse. "If they're thinking that about themselves, I should be thinking even worse things about myself because I'm so much worse than them."
I know you don't intend to cause this reaction but it just happens.
4. Love yourself
I really hate that advice.
When you think so little of yourself, you kind of hate yourself. You cannot instantly do something that is the polar opposite of how you think and act.
Say if you're right handed - it's like someone coming up to you and telling you to write with your left hand. You begin to wonder if there's something wrong with you, why can't you do that? You can't do it. You feel wrong.
Now here is where I want to make this in to something more positive - what to say to someone with low self-esteem. I don't want it to seem like I'm gathering everyone together to discuss how little we think we're worth. Instead, I want to tell you something I wish someone had told me before.
1. It's ok not to like yourself
Really, it's fine. So many people feel the way you do. It's normal. I wish it wasn't the case but it's true - a lot of people will be feeling like you. Don't tear yourself up about it. You shouldn't feel pressure to change instantly because it's going to take time.
2. Find one tiny thing you like about yourself
I know this sounds cheesy and stupid advice but the summer of first year I wore a bikini for the first time, ever, and I can honestly say I've never felt more confident about myself.
Nobody told me to do this, I was just sick of not being able to look at myself in the mirror. So I found one thing I liked about myself. I'm not talking about my eyes, or my smile or my hair. The first positive thing I thought about myself (at the age of 17 or 18) was: "I have an average shoe size. I can go in to a shoe shop and not have too many problems. Good."
From this occasionally stemmed the thought: my feet aren't terrible, my toes look a bit weird, but I guess they're ok. It was just little things. Like thinking my hair didn't look greasy or my nails were in ok shape for once. It wasn't anyone encouraging me to. It was just myself.
3. It's really just up to you what to tell yourself
Again, I apologise for how cheesy this is but it's your self-esteem, it your self. No one's going to fix it for you. You're going to have to tell yourself things. It's going to be hard and it's going to take time.
You don't have to love yourself. Possibly your first step should be not hating yourself. Let's aim for self-tolerance first. That's slightly easier, right?
You can do this
If you don't have faith in yourself know that someone will - even if that someone is just a stranger on the internet, typing away this blog post. Trust me, you've got this.