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How to Improve Self Esteem of Overweight Teenagers 15 Years & Below

Self-esteem can be defined as our basic sense of worth that comes from all the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that we have accumulated about ourselves in life. These impressions and evaluations add up to our feeling good about ourselves or feeling inadequate.

One does not possess self-esteem overnight. It is thus crucial for parents or teachers and families to foster self-esteem among teenagers from early childhood. Teenagers themselves should also be thought  to respect each other and not to ridicule others in order to promote self-esteem among peers.

Parents, teachers, families who shower the teenagers with love, positive regards, encouraging words, respect, positive relationship and communication, will enhance the teenager’s self-esteem. There are extrinsic as well as intrinsic factors that affect self-esteem. The extrinsic factors that impact the teenagers confidence, that is, the external stimulation received by the teenagers from their parents, teachers, families, peers and others. The intrinsic factors are the teenagers own inner being or perception or affirmation of their self-worth.

For example, overweight and obese teenagers 15 years and below are undergoing drastic pubertal changes and increase in body size as a result of various factors such as hormonal metabolic changes, over eating, lack of exercise, poor family role modeling and media influences. These overweight or obese teenagers may feel ashamed especially if they are being teased by peers as ugly, sluggish and ‘fatso’. Teenagers who have low esteem do not feel good about themselves and are badly in need of peer acceptance.

When a teenager is being shamed there are two responses. One, healthy shame and the other toxic shame. Healthy shame is a natural human emotional response that arises when we are exposed, embarrassed or unexpectedly caught off guard. Toxic shame arises when a teenager internalizes the negative feelings and sees himself as a flawed and defective human being. A healthy teen will respond, “Ok, I made a mistake, I will learn from this mistake and be a better person or improve myself next time”. However a teenager with toxic shame will respond, “I am a mistake, I am no good, I’m stupid, I’m ugly, everything I do is a failure, I am useless”. This shaming self-talk will be reaffirmed in the child’s mind repeatedly each and every day. Thus it is very important for a teenager to break this vicious cycle through positive self-affirmation.

Tips  for Adults (Parents, Teachers, Caregivers):

The following are some tips in order to help the overweight or obese teenagers:

  • Understanding adult such as doctors, parents, teachers, families, peers and others, play a very important role to advise, counsel and reassure the teenager’s feeling of self-worth.
    • Help teenagers come to terms with their problem.
    • Help them explore and try to understand their own self-worth, their strong and weak points. For good or for worse they must first learn to love their own self because each and every one is unique. Each and every one is special in his or her own way.
    • Help teenagers list down their good and bad points. Identify their feelings with regards to obesity or any other negative perceptions.
  • Supportive adults or peers need to assist teenagers to
    • Be aware of the associated problems and dangers of being overweight or obese as well as the benefits of controlling them,
    • Motivate them to change at their own free will or desire,
    • Encourage them to list out strategies how they can overcome their overweight condition or obesity,
    • In the process, it is important to respect the teenagers opinion, support and encourage their creativity,
    • Let teenagers explore and take risks avoid comparing them to other children,
    • Always acknowledge their success or their right things that they have done and avoid criticizing what they did wrong.

Tips for Teenagers:

  • The teenagers themselves also have important role to play.
    • Question oneself, for example “Am I really overweight or obese, do I need to do something about my overweight or obesity”.
    • Make a decision to change at their own free will or desire.
    • Set the desired goals and list out strategies how to overcome the overweight condition or obesity.
    • Be brave to take calculated risks and explore creative ways to reduce weight.
    • Use the technique of positive self-talk to build self-esteem and be steadfast to change for the better.
  • The following are some examples of “positive self-talk to build self-esteem” Example 1:
    1. The teenagers need to always remind him or herself “I like myself, I am special,
        I’m a lovable person, I am kind and considerate, I’m good in my studies etc.”. These qualities are based on the positive values that teenagers have explored exist within themselves.

    Example 2:

    1. Use positive self-talk to overcome shaming self-talk.
        Any time the teenager has thoughts of putting himself or herself down, he or she can say “CANCEL! CANCEL! to himself or herself. Then focus his or her mind to imagine a positive him or herself. This statement short circuits the negative self-talk and stops it in its track. The teenager then follows up with positive reaffirmation that replaces the shaming thought with a loving positive thought or healing affirmation.

    Example 3:

    1. The following are some examples of shaming self-talk and healing affirmation:
Shaming self-talk Healing Affirmation
You’re no good I’m okay
You’re fat I like my body
You’re ugly I’m beautiful, I’m sexy
You’ll never change There are many things I can do to change for the better
You’re lousy Nobody shall push or bully me around, I
I am and I can change for the better because I love myself
  1. The use of imagination, creativity and mental visualization of positive image.
    1. The teenager then uses his imagination, creativity and mental visualization to overcome the negative perception, example obesity, if that is what he desires.
    2. The teenager can imagine his positive daily activities as he wakes up, imagine positive habits of eating healthy breakfast every morning, not skipping meals, having regular balanced meals, taking food of smaller portions, regularly exercising and feeling more energetic, happy and at ease with his new self.
  1. Setting goals, targets and rewarding oneself.
    • First, it is important for teenagers to set goals of what he wants to achieve. Then, divide each goal into small targets, and rewards each small successes achieved. The reward may be through self-reward or positive regards from others.
    • Examples of self-reward are as follows:
      • Able to have regular balanced meals… Say to oneself, “Good!”
      • Able to have lots of fruits/ vegetables/ high fiber diet like cereals/ oats to increase fullness… “Good!”
      • Able to eat small portions… “Good!”
      • Able to reduce food high in carbohydrate and fat… “Good!”
      • Able to reduce rich high calorie food cakes/ ice creams/ fast food etc… “Good!”
      • Able to reduce fried oily food and choose boiled/ steamed/ stewed food… “Good!”
      • Able to reduce high calorie sweetened/ carbonated drinks… “Good!” (there is lots of hidden sugar in carbonated drinks).
      • Go for plain water or less sweetened drinks… “Good!”
      • Able to exercise regularly1/2 an hour per session at least 3 x per week… “Good!”
      • Body weight reduced by 0.5 kg in one or two months… “Good!”, “I’m achieving my goals, I’m closer to my target!”
    1. Don’t forget and always remember to give positive regards whenever small goals or targets are achieved.
  1. These tips are best when working in groups and involve friends or peer who are also obese or overweight. They are also fun activities for achieving ideal body weight or body mass index (BMI).
  1. It is also important to write down your goals, targets, ambition and schedules. Having a “time table” and using “visualization techniques” reinforces what the teenagers has planned.
  1. Having supportive adults such as parents, teachers, families and peers are important. Therefore, let your parents, teachers know your goal and seek their support and assistance to help you to be motivated and remain steadfast.
  1. The highest level of reward is internal reward whereby the teenager with positive self-esteem is happy and pleased with himself and his positive efforts.
  1. Though external reward is most welcomed, teenagers with positive self-esteem does not rely on extrinsic reward so much because he is aware sometimes external reward may not be so forthcoming. The most important thing is that he feels happy and good about himself and knows he is taking the right steps to reduce his obesity.
  1. GOOD LUCK!!

Reference: Positive Self Talk For Children “Teaching Self Esteem Through Affirmations: A Guide For Parents, Teachers, Counselors. By Douglas Blotch With Jon Merritt. Bantam Books. New York, Toronto, London, Sydney, Auckland .

Semakan Akhir : 15 March 2011
Penulis : Dr. Nik Rubiah binti Nik Abdul Rahman