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How To Build Esteem In An Image-Obsessed World

How To Build Esteem In An Image-Obsessed World

Enough of the show. It's time to build authenticity from the inside-out. 


There’s never a dull moment in our imaginations, but sometimes that can be our greatest enemy when it comes to battling our image vs. our self-esteem 

In a nutshell, our image is the world’s perception of us from the outside looking in — how our friends, family, strangers, coworkers, bosses, and people we flirt with perceive us (or, how we think they perceive us).

Ultimately, an image is intertwined with status, title, body, personality, and all the other stuff we pressure ourselves to maintain. Many of us try desperately to create a certain kind of “image,” and the pressure to achieve it can be crushing.

Maintaining an image can force us to neglect our esteem, which is the most important of all.

Our esteem is fueled by self-worth. It’s a genuine awareness of who we are as a person and what we offer the world. It’s how we think of ourselves versus what the world thinks of us. It doesn’t rely on a title, status, or a face-lift to define us.

Here's the rub, though: Whatever you feed the most (be it image or esteem) is what will ultimately take over your life.

If we feed the image, we’re going to base our entire worth on that image. When it crumbles (and believe me there will be times when it does) our value and worth go down with it.

But imagine for a moment if we feed our esteem more than our image, if we allow ourselves to grow from an idea rooted in ownership and honesty and authenticity. We can allow inner strength to become visible. Our worth will soon follow.

Self-worth is everything — that’s why I write about it so much. It’s invisible and will never be seen by the naked eye, but it’s felt intuitively and energetically. It’s electricity that stays with us, and transfers to others subliminally, making them comfortable and open to express themselves. It gives them permission to trust us. 

Too many choose to focus on an image. Pretty soon, everything we think, feel, and say will be trapped inside a realm of delusion. Why? Because our image has nothing to do with us. We don’t own it. They do. The people. 

As a result, in our heads, we become exactly what the world thinks we are. When we let them decide we’re nothing, we fall to pieces because we have no esteem left to ignite us again. 

Alternatively, esteem is owned and managed by us. It requires us to investigate moral codes and decide how to carry forward as a genuine human being. This is something we as a culture ought to start focusing on.

In the queer community especially, many of us feel pressure to maintain an image — whatever that is for you. So much so that it eats away our authenticity, while pressuring others to build an artificial “self” along the way. It’s toxic, and spreads like wildfire.

It’s hard not to care what everyone thinks when we’re all doing it. But the second we stop, we change the monotony of our lives. Ironically, people start to notice us more than before because the “self” they see is genuine. No one is intimidated by us because we’re unafraid to show imperfections, rather than presenting an illusion that everything is perfect.

When we pretend to be perfect, we are actually limiting ourselves. We aren't living in reality, but a pretend world. So everyone has no choice but to be, well, fake, along with us. 

When we try hard to be something we aren’t, we’re basically saying we aren’t good enough as our selves. We betray our selves. 

Instead of layering our lives with masks, imagine how much stronger we’d be if we choose to shape what’s already there? 

It’s time to let go of the image and start focusing on building esteem. Our worth defines our value in the world, so we might as well feed it organic thoughts.

Let yourself grow from the inside-out, not the outside-in.

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David Artavia

David Artavia is the managing editor at The Advocate magazine and Plus magazines, as well as an editor Chill magazine and Follow him on Facebook @TheDavidArtavia and Instagram: @DMArtavia.

David Artavia is the managing editor at The Advocate magazine and Plus magazines, as well as an editor Chill magazine and Follow him on Facebook @TheDavidArtavia and Instagram: @DMArtavia.