There is nothing like the thought of being the centre of attention on your wedding day to test the strength (or otherwise) of your self-esteem. But even before you’re ready to say your ‘I dos’, your self-esteem – and that of your partner’s – can really shape the relationship that you have.
Self-esteem, in a nutshell, is the opinion that we hold about ourselves. That is, the opinion that we really hold about ourselves, deep down, and not the opinion that we appear to hold about ourselves or tell other people about (which can be quite different!)
A healthy self-esteem means that we have a generally positive view of ourselves, whereas a low self-esteem means that we can be critical and negative about ourselves. These feelings will affect not only how we see ourselves but also the people and the wider world around us, and can have a big impact on our resilience.
If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?
One of RuPaul’s famous catchphrases on Drag Race is ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’
On the surface, this seems like an affirming statement that everyone would agree with – a call to action to feel good about ourselves and to give ourselves some love. And in many ways, it is just that. RuPaul’s mission (other than to create a fabulous, life-affirming show) is to challenge not only convention but his contestants’ low self-esteem after often years of the very core of their identities being criticised, and bring it back up. He does this by, as he puts it, putting things on to shed layers, and as the wigs, pads and crystals go on, so the stories of damage and heartbreak often come out.
But if you’re reading this, the likelihood is that you’re not a contestant on Drag Race* You’re probably not putting on wigs, pads and crystals, but you might secretly be hoping that the ‘costume’ of your chosen wedding attire and playing the role of a bride or groom will hide a lot of self-doubt and worry. And indeed, that low self-esteem might have affected your relationship too (and ones you’ve had in the past). It’s not just that you’re worried about being the centre of attention on your wedding day; you’re worried about being the centre of your beloved’s attention for the rest of your lives together, and possibly wondering whether you’re ‘worth it’. And you don’t have Mama Ru to bring your story out. Ring any bells?
If nobody else loves you, how the hell are you gonna love yourself?
And this is where the problems with that catchphrase come in. Because ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love someone else?’ can actually be felt as ‘if nobody else loves you, how the hell are you gonna love yourself?’ This then can lead to an unhealthy dependency on positive feedback from others but also a tendency to seek out the opinion that actually correlates with our own. So you might get 99 people telling you that you look fantastic but you’ll pay most attention to the person who says you’re looking tired and drawn, for example.
And on your wedding day, this can come out as a whole bucketful of anxiety about getting all your guests’ approval of what you wear, what food you serve, your venue choice and, ultimately, who you are at your very core. Ouch.
If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna deserve somebody else’s love?
Or else, the catchphrase can be felt as ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna deserve somebody else’s love?’ Because if you don’t have a healthy self-esteem and you feel critical and negative about yourself, you might find that you either mistrust someone else’s love for you, fear they love you out of pity, or don’t let them get close in the first place.
When it comes to your wedding day, this might turn into doubting how much your partner means their vows of love and commitment, wondering whether they really will love you for the long haul (or whether your many perceived ‘faults’ will drive them away), or worrying that everyone in the room is wondering what on earth your partner sees in you. Double ouch.
If you can’t like yourself (even a little bit), how in the hell are you gonna learn to love yourself (a lot)?
If any of these points have struck home, please know that there is hope. You are not the fundamentally flawed person you possibly believe yourself to be. You just need to learn to love yourself. And in doing that, you can learn to love those around you more freely, without the constraints of doubt and worry that can hold you back.
But it’s easy to say that, isn’t it? Like you can pick up a kilo of self-love along with your weekly shop…
Depending on how low your self-esteem is, this may well be beyond the scope of a simple blog post! Although I’m going to give some first aid tips here, you might want to enlist the help of a professional counsellor or therapist. It could be a lengthy journey, but one that will improve your life, your relationships and the way you see the world in a seriously life-changing way.
As the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so the good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once. Here are some steps that will help – choose the one(s) that feel most possible and take the next step from there.
6 tips to boost your self-esteem
1. Notice when you feel yourself thinking or saying negative thoughts about yourself
Even if at first you don’t do anything other than noticing the messages you’re giving yourself, just bringing attention to your own negative self-talk will be enlightening. No wonder you feel like crap! Imagine if you’d been saying this to your friend, or a child, for as long as you have been saying it to yourself! Notice it. Then just say (out loud if possible) ‘stop’. Divert your attention or change the subject. Or graduate onto the next step…
2. Recognise good things about yourself
This might feel like a big step but you can start small. Make a list (to be added to) of the things you are good at or like about yourself. This might start off with just one or two things, but you can come back to it again and again as you strengthen your self-esteem muscles. If you find yourself looking in the mirror and focussing on the thing(s) you most dislike about yourself, notice it, stop yourself and find one thing that you like about your reflection. Gradually, you can change the negative script from the first step.
3. Cut out the judgement
If you hang out with people who are gossipy and judgmental, even if it’s not towards you, you are likely to feel more judgemental about yourself. If you find that you think or say judgemental things about people, either in real life or online, you will probably find that you judge yourself more harshly too. Be more compassionate to others and you will find that being compassionate to yourself is easier. And on that note…
4. Surround yourself with positive people
It’s one thing to change your own script but it’s harder to change the scripts of others. So seek out positive, compassionate and happy people to be around, either in real life or online. Move away from bitchy groups on social media, and put a little distance between you and the negative people in your life. If it’s not possible to do this entirely, do things like go to the cinema together, so there’s less chance of getting into a moaning or gossip session.
5. Be your own best friend
Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend or your partner. Treat yourself like you’d treat them, too. That includes noticing where you’re being hard on yourself, cheap with yourself, eating or drinking things that don’t make you feel good, allowing self-destructive habits to go unchecked… Imagine it’s not you, it’s them. Would you even think of doing that? Well stop doing it to yourself.
6. Avoid ‘comparisonitis’
It has been said (although who actually said it first is debatable – maybe Theodore Roosevelt) that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. And low self-esteem thrives on holding ourselves up to others and finding ourselves wanting in some way. A huge source of comparisonitis material is social media, so a quick way of stopping (or at least slowing) the cycle is to limit our time on Instagram, curate the people we follow, or quit it altogether. Notice how you feel when you’re scrolling – would you let your best friend continue? And notice where you’re comparing yourself to people in real life too. Notice it. Stop it. Change the script.
Self-esteem and your wedding day
Self-esteem issues can really come up with all the other anxiety that weddings often bring with them. Check out my blog post on wedding anxiety here, which will help to keep some of the worry at bay.
But my biggest tip for fabulous self-esteem on your wedding day is to remember that every single person there is present because they want to see you and your beloved commit to each other in love and to celebrate with you (and if they’re not – take them off the guest list!) Everyone wants the best for you and nobody is judging you – so don’t start judging yourself!
Fuck off, I’m fabulous
My closing thought, for if all else fails, is a quotation from Joanne Harris’ excellent book, ‘The Lollipop Shoes’, whose advice I use regularly and it works like a charm:
“There’s no such thing as magic,” I said.
“Then call it something else.” She shrugged. “Call it attitude, if you like. Call it charisma, or chutzpah, or glamour, or charm. Because basically it’s just about standing straight, looking people in the eye, shooting them a killer smile, and saying, fuck off, I’m fabulous.”
Can I get an amen up in here?!
Have an awesome relationship – with yourself and your partner – and an unforgettable wedding.
And if you want a celebrant who gets it, give me a call.
* although if you are, please get in touch and say hi because #fangirl