In 2006, a three year study was published in The Journal of Health Psychology entitled “Self-concept, Self-esteem and Body Weight in Adolescent Females.” As stated in this study, “Eighty girls aged 12.8…years, completed self-concept, depression and anxiety scales over three years and had their height and weight measured.” And after three years this study found that the heavier girls consistently had lower self-concept than the lighter girls.
And as far back as 1999, Current Psychology published an article entitled “Correlates of Body Satisfaction and Self-Concept in Third- and Sixth-Graders” that claims, “…extreme body concern may be a major source of the widespread eating problems. The size and appearance of one's body has become so important to some individuals that they judge their self-worth solely in terms of their body.”
While not every overweight child is depressed or overly concerned about their weight, eating disorders in this country are on the rise. This is no surprise to most of us as we watch the media bombard us with images of unrealistically thin females. But what do we as a society do to fight back and help our adolescents develop self-esteem when their self-worth seems to be tied to their dress size?
Well, what exactly is self esteem? Nathaniel Branden, Ph. D., and noted self-esteem expert claims that "Self-esteem is the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness." Dr. Branden doesn’t mention weight, but for so many girls happiness is directly linked to their body image. How did we ever get so far from this definition?
Logically, we know the answers to developing healthy self-esteem should be found in the home and in the schools. Girls need to be encouraged to develop their individual talents. They need help to excel in areas that matter such as pursuing the best grades they’re capable of, being on sports teams and doing what makes them truly happy.
But girls as well as boys require support from families and schools. And with so many two-paycheck households and overworked teachers, children’s self-esteem issues are often not addressed. Often exhausted parents are too tired to help with homework, go to the PTA meeting or drive their children to a Saturday game. However, there is nothing more important to our young girls than investing our time and energy in them. They are our future mothers. We don’t want them passing on a distorted self-concept to their children.
But parents, teachers and concerned relatives can logon to www.goodcharacter.com and other websites to learn how to help children build their self-esteem. On goodcharacter.com, there are lists on how to develop self-esteem, discussion question, videos and lesson plans for teachers.