There have been many times in college when people have asked me, “Why do you study Anthropology?” My answer: I adore people. As a species, human beings have such a variety of appearances, personalities and cultural behaviors that it’s next to impossible to get bored (unless you are exposed to my high school Calculus teacher for extended periods of time). In this case, the cheesy adage of “variety is the spice of life” truly holds meaning — uniqueness among individuals is a trait that I love and appreciate in humanity.
So why is it that everyone is in such a hurry to be someone or something else? There are cultural pressures constantly pushing against us, making us feel obligated to be some form of demi-gods. Growing up, I always felt pressured to be the prettiest, smartest, most athletic, funniest and all-around most awesome girl to have ever roamed the earth. Was this a feasible goal? No. Did I achieve it? Not even close!
Goals are necessary to keep pushing ourselves forward and growing as individuals. However, sometimes we get a little carried away and convince ourselves that we need to be a bizarre combination of Megan Fox, David Beckham and Stephen Hawking to be considered a worthwhile person. Instead of appreciating our own quirks and talents, we continuously strive to attain those of others. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?
The problem with these astronomical and absurd personal standards is that they set us up for failure. Even thinking that your personal best should be equivalent to your roommate’s can do a lot of damage to your self-esteem. If he or she happens to be a future mad scientist and all you remember about chemistry is what happens when vinegar and baking soda mix, it’s easy to feel dumb. You have to remember that just because you aren’t equally good at everything in the universe, doesn’t mean that you are worthless.
Over the course of my lifetime, I have met so many wonderful people whom have dealt with serious issues of self-worth. Every bad grade on a quiz was to them a reflection of their intellect rather than their study habits. Every unlucky romantic situation was a direct result of their “unattractiveness” rather than the other person’s personality. In my opinion, raising your own self-worth has a lot to do with changing your perspective on things. If you take every bad situation that happens and perceive it as a personal failure, you’ll be starting a downward spiral to the land of perpetual loss and inadequacy. You slide further down this slippery slope when you pay more attention to life’s little setbacks rather than to all of the successful ventures you make.
What happens if you or someone you know needs help realizing his or her own self-worth? Start by giving more credit to all of the positives in life than to all of the negatives. Focus on strengths and capabilities rather than weaknesses. Can’t throw a Frisbee to save your life? Whatever, it happens. Focus instead on your impressive yodeling skills or your extensive knowledge of Harry Potter cuisine. Point out others’ amazing talents or skills rather than harshly judging them. Treating others like the remarkable beings they are will not only boost their self-esteem, but yours as well.
I promise you that every human being on this earth is unique, beautiful, and worthwhile—try to recognize the extraordinary in ordinary people and make life meaningful.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid. “ – Albert Einstein