Advice Forum: Dealing With Low Self-Esteem

Photograph by Catarina Inacio

Whenever I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see. And I don’t just mean I think I’m not great-looking, I mean I REALLY hate how I look. And it’s not only that, I also despise my actions, expressions, choice of words, etc etc etc. I shrugged it off at first but now it’s really affecting me as a person. What can I do to love myself?

Please help me!

– Bella, 15 yrs/old

Dear Bella,

Thank you so much for your message. We are so glad you decided to reach out to us. Feeling this way, while quite common amongst teenage girls, is an awful way to feel and anything we can do to help you is our goal.

I (Freya) completely understand this feeling. I’ve been there. I struggled with this for many of my teen years and some of my early 20’s. I am now 28 and still sometimes get waves of this feeling, but mostly I love myself and have the tools I need to help myself out of these thoughts.

At 15, we have just started analysing who we are in the world. It is supposed to be a time of growth and questioning. We no longer see ourselves as just part of our parents or family; we see ourselves as individuals. This should be an exciting time of exploration, love, heartbreak, and learning, but often for girls (and some boys too) it can be a time of self hatred, low self esteem, and depression.

We are bombarded by images of who we SHOULD be and what the IDEAL woman is. We are meant to be beautiful, funny, intelligent, graceful, insightful, successful, etc. We are told we have to be so many things, but above all, beautiful. This is not fair at all, and our society runs off women’s insecurities. How many millions of businesses would go out of business if we all just decided we were happy the way we are?

I remember when I was a teenager, catching a glimpse of myself in a shop window as I walked past, and that act alone disgusted me. I thought, “How can I live with myself, walking in such an unattractive way? Who will ever love me with these short legs and chubby body?”

This type of cruel self hatred is common amongst teenage girls, and we are not to blame. The media is. My favourite way to make myself feel better was by rebelling against what society wanted of me. And that is to be skinny and perfect. Anytime I felt chubby or unattractive, I would tell myself these thoughts are a product of society and not actually reality. If I was upset at myself for eating chocolate because I was “too fat,” I would remind myself that boys are “allowed” to eat as much as they want without feeling judged (whether that’s by ourselves or the outside world).

I find affirmations helpful too, they may feel a bit lame at first, but the words we use about ourselves really do impact how we feel. Try setting yourself a goal to say three nice things in the mirror each morning for a month. For example, “I am a wonderful person who is worthy of love, acceptance and success.”

The best rebellion to conquer these thoughts is to LOVE yourself unconditionally. I know it’s so much easier said than done. These thoughts are so ingrained in our conditioning as girls and women, so it takes a lot to get out of the self hatred cycle. But if you can tell yourself, every day, that you are going to rebel against society, by loving yourself EXACTLY AS YOU ARE, I promise you things will slowly start to get a little better.

It also can help to try to find just a little something every day to love about yourself or your life. Challenge yourself to find a new thing every morning to appreciate throughout the day. This has helped me (Sophie) in the past (and the present!!) when I deal with insecurities. When I look in the mirror, it’s too easy to notice the pimples on my face, or when I walk down the street, the fact that my hair just isn’t as straight and frizzless as the girls I pass by. It’s too easy to compare myself to my friends and think, I wish I was as smart as __, I wish I made people laugh like ___. Instead of letting my mind linger on those feelings, I challenge myself to find something I love about myself instead. I thank the world that I have two working arms and legs that let me walk miles around the city to school and to run errands. I thank the world for the little mole next to my mouth, because it makes me unique. I thank the world for my body’s incredible ability to always be fighting, every second of every day, to improve and to be healthy. I thank the world for my ability to appreciate music, art, and brilliant films. I thank the world for my love of dogs. I thank the world for the fact that I can immerse myself in a great book. Some days, thinking of things are easier than others, but with practice, you can start to really appreciate tiny things about you and your life that rock, and it can make all the difference.

All in all, know that you are not alone in what you are feeling, and know that it will get better. It really will. Loving yourself is hard, and it does take work, but once you start on the path to self love, it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever felt before. Freedom.

Hang in there. If you want to talk more, feel free to email either of us directly at or

You can also call kids helpline if you’re in Australia and feel like chatting to someone straight away: 1800 55 1800

Or check out Rosie Respect for more information on being a teenager and respecting yourself.

With love,

Freya and Sophie


Catarina Inácio

Catarina Inácio is a photographer from Portgual. About her work, Catarina says:

“My dream is to become a great photographer. I want to show my feelings with photography, and create new stories based in my daily life. And I’m proud of my evolution in photography. I live with my issues and insecurities, and sometimes it’s hard to communicate and smile to life, although I know that I can’t give up, and I have to keep doing what makes me happy and live everyday with patience and calm. Photography is one of my forms of therapy, it is what makes me happy and it is what makes me feel free.” See her work on Flickr.

Sophie Pellegrini

Sophie Pellegrini is the Co-Founder and Artistic & Creative Director of Ramona Magazine for Girls. She is a 25-year-old photographer and wilderness therapy field guide in Colorado. She loves crafting, playing acoustic guitar, 90s music, the smell of summer, making lists, a good nap, cuddly animals, and the cold side of the pillow. Follow Sophie on her website and on Instagram.

Freya Bennett

Freya Bennett is the Co-Founder and Director of Ramona Magazine for Girls. She is a writer and illustrator from Melbourne, Australia who has a passion for youth rights and mental health. To combat her own battle with anxiety and hypochondria, you can find Freya boxing, practicing yoga, taking sertraline and swimming in the ocean. She believes in opening up about her mental health struggles and shining a light on what is not spoken about. Freya welcomed her first daughter, Aurora into the world on the 21st of November, 2017 and spends her days building blocks, reading stories and completely exhausted. With a passion for grassroots activism and creative community, Freya began Ramona Magazine as an alternative to boring, image-obsessed teen media. The magazine is founded upon Freya’s core values of creative expression, equality and kindness. You can follow her on Instagram @thecinnamonsociety

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