Where Self-Esteem REALLY Comes From


By: Jess Berger, Regular Contributor




Ever felt down in the dumps? Like you just don’t feel worthy of love and connection? Like everywhere you look there’s another girl who’s smarter, prettier, cooler or funnier than you? If so, welcome to the club sister! I promise you’re not alone.

As a teen girl life coach, I consistently see girls who suffer from low self-esteem and a poor self- concept. This epidemic persists despite the fact that such girls are smart and kind, have loving friends and family, and access to resources and education. Sounds strange, but no matter how many compliments, pep talks or words of encouragement they receive, many girls just can’t seem to shake that “I’m not good enough” feeling.

In an effort to numb those painful feelings, girls resort to a number of behaviors: shopping, partying, eating, starving, and cutting, but nothing seems to work. Society has girls thinking that self-esteem comes from owning the right stuff (clothes, gadgets, make-up, accessories), looking the right way (skinny, big chested, clear skin), having the right friends (popular, good looking, athletic), and being perfect overall.


The truth is that self-esteem comes from esteemable actions. There is no quicker way for girls, or anyone for that matter, to start feeling better about themselves than to be of service to others. Unfortunately for most adolescents, community service has devolved into just another task required for high school graduation. But the truth is that being of service to others cultivates critical life skills and evokes emotions that inherently boost self-esteem.

For example, being of service provides perspective. Many of today’s girls are considered “spoiled” or “entitled.” In their defense, many girls are sheltered from the real world atrocities outside of their safe bubbles. Sure they may flip on the news and passively watch a report on hunger and homelessness. But as soon as that TV shuts off the connection is lost, girls are re-absorbed back into their bubbles and forget about reality. Getting girls involved, in a hands-on way, is critical to their development of perspective. In order to recognize the abundance in their lives, girls should periodically immerse themselves in a world of lack. For example, girls can volunteer at a homeless shelter or build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Once girls have perspective on their lives, they are better equipped to move through life without getting bogged down by society’s minutiae.

There are a variety of benefits girls receive from being of service: Empathy, compassion, gratitude, fulfillment, meaning, accomplishment, and purpose. All of these benefits add up to a positive, confident self-concept. Of course this is not an overnight process; self-esteem doesn’t magically appear after one day’s worth of volunteering. Service needs to be an ongoing commitment in order to build self-esteem over time

Being of service is not just about grand experiences like building a house or serving a meal. Small acts of service like supporting a friend in crisis or tutoring a struggling classmate can produce similar effects when put in context. These kinds of service opportunities inspire girls to look outside of themselves and invest in the greater good of their community. In turn, girls feel uplifted, purposeful and worthy.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” What will your next act of service be? Take action today!

About Jess: Jess Berger is a Certified Teen Girl Life Coach who supports girls in maximizing their potential. Jess' coaching provides girls a space to deepen their self-awareness and truly value themselves as confident, powerful and insightful young women. For more info on Jess and her process, check out her website here: www.MyCoachJess.com


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