This lesson helps young people reflect on the messages they get and give (including to themselves) about personal worth and value. They learn steps they can take to feel confident and good about themselves.
Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about self-esteem. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.
- Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. These feelings can change as things in your life change, such as going to a new school or becoming a brother or sister.
- Self-esteem can be positive (you love, respect, and trust yourself) or negative (you feel insecure and helpless).
- Body image is part of self-esteem. It is how you feel about how you look. Body image also includes how you think others see you.
- Having a positive body image means that you:
- feel comfortable in your body and with the way you look
- feel good about the things your body can do
- feel empowered to take good care of your physical health.
- It is common to struggle with body image, no matter who you are, but there are things you can do to help yourself feel good.
Ask young people to brainstorm a list of ways people are different from each other. Include physical differences (such as eye color) and non-physical (such as favorite kinds of music). Make a list on a whiteboard or flipchart. Things on the list might include:
- abilities (some of people are good at math, some at writing, some at art, some at sports, some at music, etc.)
- body build (slender, muscular, etc.)
- hair colors/type (straight, curly, etc.)
- eye color
Point out that some things we can change through effort (by studying, practicing, learning), some things are out of our power to change (height, race, who our parents are), and some will change over time (our natural hair color, our joints and muscles, our experiences).
- Ask the youth to list on a piece of paper or in a journal, three things they like about themselves and three things they are good at. These can be the same things. Ask for volunteers to share examples of what they wrote. Write down these things on a whiteboard or flipchart. Point out that everyone has strengths and that these strengths are part of what make us unique and special. The fact that we are all different is also part of what makes the world interesting.
- Ask if anyone has ever been teased or picked on for something that makes them unique or picked on someone else for being unique. How did that feel? How did you deal with the situation? How might you deal differently with the situation today? Allow this to be a sharing time without a lot of processing or attempted problem solving. Don’t let it turn into a time to make fun of or further tease participants. Thank young people who are willing to share these reflections. Acknowledge that being made to feel different or weird can hurt a lot. Reinforce positive actions or thoughts that are shared. If young people share things that are currently happening and are of concern, follow-up privately with them afterward to learn if they need additional support or intervention.
- Ask the class to make a list of things they can each do to have a positive self-esteem and body image. Encourage them to be creative; they may come up with surprising and fun suggestions. The list might include:
- Spend time with people who treat you well and help you feel good about yourself.
- Use positive self- talk, such as “I am strong, self-confident, and capable.”
- Keep a journal to help you see what areas in your life need attention.
- Celebrate what you like about yourself and work on changing things that you don’t like as much.
- Remind yourself that you are unique, special, valued and important.
- Get out and participate in activities with your family and friends.
- Eat foods that are good for you and make you feel great, such as lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthful fats such as from nuts, avocados and olive oil.
- Be active at least 60 minutes each day.
- Talk with a trusted family member or friend if you are feeling low.
- Treat others with the kindness and respect that all unique individuals deserve.
Self-esteem can’t be taught, but it can be strengthened. This lesson could spark difficult feelings for young people who are highly insecure, depressed or otherwise struggling. Encourage young people to talk to a trusted friend or adult if they find themselves feeling down about themselves on a regular basis or over a long period of time.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing positive self-esteem and body image at home.
Additional Instructor Resources:
Eating Disorders and the Family from PBS
BodyWorks from WomensHealth.gov
Developing Your Child’s Self-Esteem