Gross: Finding self-confidence on campus

Hailey Gross

In an increasingly visual society, maintaining our appearance seems all-important. It’s nearly impossible not to feel self-conscious amidst the hundreds of commercials, advertisements and movies that showcase men and women with perfect hair, flawless skin and toned muscles. Though self-esteem is usually associated with females, it affects everyone. And thoaugh we were supposed to have left behind our crippling lack of confidence in high school, college life can often bring it right back.

One route that I’ve noticed many students take in the attempt to boost their self-confidence is sexual activity. There are many reasons people may condemn this solution, including the opinion that promiscuity is either sinful, dangerous or emotionally damaging. Though this can often be true, it usually occurs when two people enter such an interaction with different expectations. However, looking beyond the social stigma attached to it, sex can boost your self esteem.

Whether it’s casual or within the boundaries of a committed relationship, sex has proven to be beneficial for many men and women. MedicineNet, BBC Health and hundreds of other proven sites claim that sexual release triggers the parallel release of endorphins. Not only do these chemicals make you feel good, but they are good for you as well. It’s incredible how many calories having sex burns, how much longer you’ll live if you’re sexually active and other such statistics. WebMD has a page dedicated to these and other benefits of sex.

Though the science is quite convincing, sex can be a self-esteem booster for more ordinary reasons. There is the simple idea that having sex means that someone desires you and finds you attractive. That knowledge alone can make many people feel better about themselves for an extended period of time. Whether you’re male or female, feeling wanted can have extremely positive effects.

However, all of this doesn’t mean you should go out and sleep with 10 new people every weekend. No one who’s been through sex ed once wants to be lectured again on all the dangers and consequences of sex, but they are consequences that have to be considered. Your self confidence is probably not going to rise with an unplanned pregnancy or a STD test that runs positive. But risks aside, sexual activity may not be the right answer for everyone’s self esteem. It shouldn’t be anyone’s go-to solution.

You might think that self esteem amounts to what you think of yourself when you look in the mirror every day, but that’s not completely correct. Maybe your hair is sticking up one day or your shoes are a little careworn. Even in a society that values looks so much, it’s important to recognize the other ways in which you are valuable.

An extremely effective aid for those who suffer from devastatingly low self confidence is volunteer work. A study done at Cornell University in 1998 claimed that “Volunteering boosts self-esteem and energy and gives Americans a sense of mastery over their lives.” A more recent study done by USNews confirms this idea. Whether it’s at a pet shelter or a nursing home, helping others can make a person see how important he or she is. In addition to feeling better about yourself, or stacking karma, volunteer work is great because it forces you to meet new people, and it’s extremely time consuming.

Extra time can be a big problem for people struggling with low self esteem. With too many extra hours in the day, there is too much potential for loneliness or narcissism. If you spend a lot of time thinking about how others perceive you then you could probably use a hobby. Whether it’s the aforementioned volunteering or a club on campus, filling up your schedule will help take your mind off of you.

If your miserably low self confidence really just boils down to appearance, there are ways to feel better in that category too. Set certain days of the week as sweats days and dress as slovenly as you wish. But also set aside a few days of the week in which you wake up 20 minutes early to make yourself look as good as possible. Girls, pull out your curlers and hairspray, and guys, dig that ironing board out of your closet. Put on those running shoes that have been buried under laundry or head into town for a haircut. Even if you aren’t the snazziest person on campus, knowing that you look better than you did the day before will make you feel good.

There are many ways to boost your self esteem on a daily basis, and first and foremost is: Get busy! Help out with clubs, organizations; pick up knitting, intramural soccer or whatever suits you. Sure, sex can make you feel awesome about yourself, but it shouldn’t be the primary route. There are limitless other options for making you realize that everyone, including yourself, is valuable.


Hailey Gross is a sophomore in English from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.