Last week, I shared the first post in the Girls Rocking 2015! series and talked about the health and beauty companies and other organizations that are promoting healthier body types in their ad campaigns. Today, we're going to talk about negative thoughts and what they do to self esteem.
I recently polled several hundred women and asked them to share real thoughts they had that were negatively directed toward their bodies, the way they looked or their skin type or hair texture. I also asked them about things other people had said to them and how this affected them.
Here are some of the things they shared with me: (names have been removed to protect privacy)
"I grew up with an emotionally abusive father who made it very clear through his actions and comments that the only way to be pretty was to be skinny."
"Some of my most abusive and hateful thoughts towards myself were how disgusting, unlovable and worthless I am because I am overweight."
"When I was growing up, I always wished I had straight hair and lighter skin. Some of my friends were light-skinned and I was always jealous of them."
"You have such a pretty face, if only you would lose weight you could do anything you wanted in life."
"I was teased my entire childhood because my weight and the way I looked. I ended up dropping out of all school activities because I thought I was worthless."
"My father used to tell me I was getting too thick and I needed to lose weight or I would never find a guy who loved me."
"My ex-boyfriend told me the reason he broke up with me was because I had gained too much weight."
"I was a cheerleader in high school and was always pressured by the team and coaches to stay thin. I had gained a little weight during my college application process and my coaches asked me to resign from the squad because according to them, 'I now longer fit the uniform.'"
"My negative thoughts started with my mother. I never felt bad about how I looked until she decided my thighs were getting too big and a muffin top was forming. I wasn't fat... my body was just morphing into a woman. It worsened over the years, especially when she let me know that I was an embarrassment to her. She tried to soften the blows with words like 'caring' and phrases like 'I only say this because I love you' but the seed of self-hatred had already been planted."
Many of these women were criticized by parents, siblings and friends, but a lot of the damage came from their own mouths. According to The University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center, some childhood experiences that may lead to low self esteem are:
- being harshly criticized
- being physically, sexually or emotionally abused
- being ignored, ridiculed or teased
- being expected to be perfect all the time
They go on to say that "people with low self esteem were often given messages from parents, teachers, peers... that failed experiences (losing a game, getting a poor grade) were failures of their whole self."
On the contrary, childhood experiences that lead to positive self esteem are:
- being listened to
- being spoken to respectfully
- getting appropriate attention and affection
- having accomplishments be recognized and mistakes or failures be acknowledged and accepted
Having low self esteem can lead to anxiety and depression, impair performance at school or work, cause loneliness and problems in relationships and can even lead to dependence on drugs and alcohol.
Considering the U.S. suicide rate for girls 10-14 years old rose 76% from 2003 to 2004, don't you think it's about time to start promoting a healthy self esteem in young girls? Let's start raising confident and strong girls who are not just beautiful, but brilliant.
What can you do about a battered self esteem, you ask? There are some steps you can take to repair damaged self esteem. First, you need to quiet the negative self-talk. Challenge the negative thoughts you have. When you hear the little voice in your head say, "I didn't get the job promotion. I won't ever get a promotion.", instead acknowledge that you didn't get this promotion because you weren't the right candidate, but you will be the right fit for another opportunity.
Next, you should be compassionate to yourself. Learn to accept your mistakes and forgive yourself. You're only human, after all! Let yourself experience your emotions without letting negative thoughts take over.
Third, ask for the support of family and close friends and consider talking to a counselor. Ask the people closest to you to talk with you when you are feeling bad about yourself. They are the best people to help provide healthy compliments and constructive criticism when you need to hear something other than the voice in your head.
The above Verizon commercial gives an example of comments a little girl might hear that will de-value her self worth and make her feel like her intelligence isn't as important as the "feminine qualities."
You can also read these articles on raising a confident girl.
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