What is Self-Esteem?

Another program that I think is awesome for fostering girls' self-esteem is the Girl Scouts' uniquely ME! program. Girl Scouts is partnered with the Dove Self-Esteem Fund that I mentioned in my last post. Anyways, they created their program in 2002 to help girls face life's challenges while building self-esteem. The program addresses topics such as handling peer pressure, healthy eating, the power of positive thinking, and relationships. I especially love their tagline:
"you can change the way you look or you can change the way the world looks at girls." 
 You can check out their website here for more information.

Today, I'm going to talk a little bit about what self-esteem is, and I mentioned uniquely ME! because that's where I'm pulling my information from. A lot of it is word for word. They have one of the best definitions of self-esteem that I've found and I love the way they discuss it. (Plus, you know I'm not just making this up!)

So what IS self-esteem?
According to the National Association for Self-Esteem ,someone who possesses self-esteem feels capable of meeting life’s challenges and also feels worthy of experiencing happiness. Individuals with high self-esteem can be characterized by the following traits: 
• Tolerance and respect for others
• Ability to accept responsibility for their actions
• Having integrity
• Taking pride in their accomplishments
• Being self-motivated
• Willingness to take risks
• Being capable of handling criticism
• Being loving and lovable
• Seeking the challenge and stimulation of worthwhile goals
• Wanting to take control of their lives

Self-esteem means having confidence in oneself, in addition to being capable of feeling self-satisfaction. It is important to note that a strong sense of self esteem is based on values and self awareness; it is not a sense of "false bravado", which often contributes to bullying behaviors.

What causes low self-esteem? (List taken from "Empowering Teens To Build Self-Esteem,” Suzanne E. Harrill, M.Ed. 1993.)
• Believing the negative and hurtful words and
actions of others
• Living with people who did not or do not love
and respect themselves
• Having negative thoughts about performance,
looks, family income level and I.Q.
• Being under or over-protected as a child
• Not being taught “I am good and of value and
loved no matter what”
• Doubting the love of one or both parents (the
absence of parents also hurts)
• Being punished without ever being taught to
separate self from bad behaviors
• Being compared to others or to perfect standards
that cannot be met
• Thinking that “you” are your possessions,
clothes, car, grades, job, looks, or I.Q.

Why is low self-esteem so dangerous?
Low self-esteem is becoming more and more prevalent among pre-adolescent and adolescent girls in our country. Research conducted by organizations including the Dove Self-Esteem Fund demonstrates that risky behaviors (smoking, drinking, cutting) and eating disorders are often associated with low self-esteem.
Do you remember some of the statistics I reported in my initial post? Well, here's a re-cap...

Low self-esteem significantly impacts girls' feelings about their own beauty:
• 71% of girls with low self-esteem feel their appearance does not measure up – they report not
feeling pretty enough, thin enough or stylish/trendy enough (compared to 29% of girls with high selfesteem).
• 78% of girls with low self-esteem admit that it is hard to feel good in school when you do not feel
good about how you look
• 92% of girls think they need to change something about themselves to be beautiful

Low self-esteem negatively affects girls' confidence in all areas of their life:
• 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including based on their looks, performance in school and in their relationships with friends and family members.
• 62% of all girls feel insecure or not sure of themselves.

Girls with low self-esteem are significantly more likely to engage in dangerous and/or negative behaviors:
• 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking, or drinking when feeling badly about themselves (compared to 25% of girls with high self-esteem).
• 25% of teen girls with low self-esteem practice disordered eating, such as starving themselves,
refusing to eat, or over-eating and throwing up when they are feeling badly about themselves (compared to 7% of girls with high self-esteem).
• 25% of teen girls with low self-esteem resort to injuring themselves on purpose or cutting when they are feeling badly about themselves (compared to 4% of girls with high self-esteem).
• 61% of teen girls with low self-esteem admit to talking badly about themselves (compared to 15%
of girls with high self-esteem).

“Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem” commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, 2008.

I think that those statistics are scary, and unfortunately, low self-esteem is more pervasive than ever before. What do you think? Were these statistics surprising to you?
So I think it's pretty clear that we need to help girls build self-esteem. But how do we go about doing this? Well, that's going to be the focus of my next few posts! So, stay tuned!


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