We live in an era where academic and professional opportunities are, more than ever, accessible to the majority of South African women. However, a significant portion of the female population continue to suffer from confidence difficulties. More so than men, a woman's self-esteem begins to decline already in infancy.
Typically, young girls learn to dress and behave in a manner that is accepted by their peer groups and to attract the attention of boys, as deemed appropriate by their parents. If the opinions of others continue to dominate, girls learn to adapt to the tastes of others, losing their identity. This is halfway to the start of a life of unhappiness, including professional and relational difficulties. It is also one of the reasons why, generally, women in South Africa are less happy than men. Moreover, they are more vulnerable to the emergence of depression, addiction, and sexual dysfunction.
To talk about self-esteem it is essential to understand its meaning. Self-esteem refers to the positive and negative feelings a woman has about herself, with a focus on her perceived capabilities and self-worth. Self-esteem can also be considered the degree of satisfaction, acceptance or rejection that a woman has towards herself. Research in South Africa and abroad has linked low self-esteem with many psychological disorders, emotions and destructive behaviours, including anxiety, jealousy, unprotected sexual activity, substance abuse, and depression.
Fortunately, it is possible to promote self-esteem and increase the ability to perceive a woman's own talents and skills. As her self-esteem grows, so her creativity, ambition, physical and emotional health and resilience (ability to rebuild after adversity) increases. This new perception of herself is not determined by comparisons with third parties. Instead, promoting self-esteem is through directing attention towards personal satisfaction, which is not based on beauty, talent, intelligence, social status or popularity. This is to be able to tell herself "I have value and deserve to be loved." The value of a woman cannot be based on her beauty or what she has reached in her life. And the proof is that there are women who are socially admired, achieving professional and financial success and still lack self-esteem.
Modern life does not facilitate the high pressure that many South African women instil on themselves, imposing an increasingly frenetic velocity of stress that becomes a craft of sorts, coordinating family and work commitments. It is not uncommon for a woman encumbered by numerous obligations during periods of high pressure to end up neglecting herself, losing confidence in herself or ending up with burn out. Women who demand this sort of lifestyle often abandon their self-esteem and emotional needs in exchange to penetrate the fast lane or the expectation of too much from herself. This is especially true for women who grow up in a culture that wants things only in a certain way.
Having good self-esteem, confidence in themselves and in their abilities does not mean that women need to feel infallible but rather that they know their strengths and limitations to be able to face their daily challenges. Having self-esteem is feeling happily adjusted to life. Failing to do this, thinking that women must operate at their maximum, takes them away from their most profound and most authentic dimension.
Every woman in South Africa - globally, in fact! - can learn to love herself, finding ways to connect with herself, with her own needs and desires, by finding the courage to live the life she wants to live, not what others chose for her. This means giving space to her own soul, awakening the part of herself that is more instinctive and authentic. It also means being able to be with her own weaknesses and limitations and allowing herself to be her true self, looking at herself through loving eyes. Without self-love, a woman's psychological well-being is severely compromised.