Building self esteem

As Friday 11th October is International Day of the Girl, I was asked if I’d like to write about the new project by Dove Self Esteem Project, which focuses on addressing body issues and self esteem primarily in girls. This is an area I feel quite strongly about. But then what woman wouldn’t? I didn’t think I had any particular issues about my body image that would affect my children. I know I am prone to the odd low self esteem thought or mood (and I’m very aware of it being an issue from the experiences of others I know well.) I was interested in this project because I realise how important having a positive body image is. But after being invited to think about my own body image in more depth whist browsing the website, I realise that I am prone to the odd throw away comment about my tummy or my legs. Except they’re not ‘throw away’ words, not when you’re a parent, and not when you’re the mother of a young girl just beginning to become aware of herself and how she fit’s into the world.

I have direct experience of some the dramatic things young women have attempted to ‘keep their weight down’, even though there’s nothing wrong with their weight or their body. It upsets, shocks and saddens me that they felt the pressure and need to have to try. What are we silently condoning by allowing these pernicious ideas of the ‘ideal body’ to exist?

I don’t want to pass on any body issues or worries about low self esteem to my daughter (or son for that matter.) I tell them both that they’re beautiful. I talk about their bodies openly and answer any and all questions (even if sometimes inside I’m squirming with embarrassment or struggling to find the right words.) Having looked through the Dove Self Esteem Project however, I realise I need to be a little more proactive in some areas. Especially it would seem in being more positive about my own body.

The site has been arranged so that parents, teacher’s and mentors can access appropriate information and advice, including activities to try out. The subject areas covered are friends and relationships, teasing and bullying, growing up and body image, boosting self esteem and interestingly the role of the media.

20131005-191044.jpg Snapshot of the website courtesy of the Dove Self Esteem Project.

The driving force behind the project is the idea that so many girls miss out on taking up opportunities because of low self esteem relating to their body image. That makes me so sad, but unfortunately I can well believe it.

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I really liked the tone of the articles-helpful and targeted with practical tips to follow. One of the activities I really liked was around boosting self image by choosing a favourite photo and listing all the things about yourself that you like and are proud of and sharing these between mother and daughter. I also liked the pointers to young women to remind each other of why they like hanging out together-and that it’s about more than just appearances.

The mission of the self esteem project is “to improve the self-esteem of more than 15 million girls and young women by 2015.” No small feat. And they’re asking for our help. They want women around the globe to talk openly and positively about issues that contribute to a poor body image and low self esteem. After reading the articles about body image, one of the tips I’m going to try is to be more positive about the scars I have on my tummy. I have three. I feel self-conscious about them, but they are a part of me and each one has a story to tell that I shouldn’t be embarrassed by. I’m not exactly going to advertise them, but I’m going to be more accepting of them as a part of me. If I lead by example, my children will follow.

I wonder just how easy and comfortable it might be though to work through some of these tips with an older more self conscious teenager, especially if it’s a mother and daughter. I think some of them may well work better delivered by someone with a bit more distance perhaps. From my own point of view, I am going to make more effort to be proactive with my daughter now whilst she is young enough to understand but not old enough to have already developed the natural self consciousness of youth.

My only other observation is that the sight clearly focuses on the mother daughter relationship and on girls and women, but I feel that body image issues are just as important for boys and men-maybe there needs to be a separate site for this or a separate section? As a mother of a boy too, it still feels important to talk about it with him.

It seems to me the main learning point from this site is to talk openly and positively about our bodies with our children. How we act as parents and adults provides the single biggest influence over our children, particularly when it comes to body image and self esteem. I’m going to be kinder to myself as well as remind my children how wonderful their bodies are.

A disclosure note: compensation in the form of a ‘thank you’ was received for this post, but all the views and opinions expressed are my own.