Caregiver – Self-Esteem & Body Image

Self-Esteem & Body Image

Shaping a healthy self-esteem & positive body image in your young person will help instill acceptance, confidence, & value in themselves and for others. Learn how their self-esteem & body image can be shaped & affected by the world around them and ways to offset these challenges and positively build their self-esteem & body image up. Explore below & learn how to teach them how to LOVE themselves!

10 Obstacles Young People Face

Distorted Body Image

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

We first begin to develop views of our body’s health, beauty, functioning, and acceptability when we are babies. As we grow up, our body image continues to develop and is influenced by comments and opinions from our family members, classmates, teachers, and coaches.

A negative or distorted body image is when someone’s perception of their body is warped or different to how they actually look to others. As with eating disorders, it is more prevalent in those who identify as female, although many who identify as male may also suffer from this.

Perfectionism & Body Image

Perfectionism and self-criticism are other personality characteristics that can contribute to a negative body image.

Many people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia also have distortions of their body image, and they often have neurological abnormalities in their parietal cortex, the region of the brain that assists people in sensing their body proportions. In other words, these people may see their bodies as bigger than they really are, because the information provided by their brains is incorrect.

Most people who lose weight are able to adjust their mental body image to reflect what they see in the mirror. But people who become malnourished as a result of anorexia or bulimia may have difficulty updating their mental picture. They may continue to perceive a larger version of their body, instead of their present physical state. Additionally, people who suffer from body image distortion often concentrate on perceived faults rather than their overall look.

It can be a challenge for people to admit that they are suffering from a distorted body image. People experiencing this might ignore the worries of friends and family members, because what friends and family say does not match with what they themselves see when they look in the mirror. For anyone trying to address an eating disorder in therapy, it is essential to address body image distortion. When a distorted or negative body image is not addressed, this can increase a person’s risk of recurrent and ongoing disordered eating.

Unhealthy Behaviors

Sometimes people participate in unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to change their body image. This can include using chemicals, disordered eating, diets, alterations of the body, hair and skin (tanning, bleaching), and surgery.

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are associated with compulsive eating habits that have a negative impact on body health, feelings, and the capacity to perform in critical aspects of life.

Typically, eating disorders are associated with an excessive emphasis on weight, body shape, and food, which results in dangerous eating habits. Eating disorders may lead to severe malnourishment and can even be life-threatening. Every 62 minutes someone dies as a direct result of an eating disorder (Source: Eating Disorder Statistics. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).

One of the main reasons that people seek cosmetic surgery is to improve their self-esteem and psychosocial functioning (von Soest et al., 2009). We would expect when someone undergoes cosmetic surgery with a successful outcome, this would increase their self-esteem and mental wellness, but unfortunately this is not always the case. A person’s negative perception of themselves can be distorted and remain deeply rooted beyond simply changing their physical appearance.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges your young person will face in their journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since day one, they’ve had everything they need within themselves — don’t let the world convince them that they do not. Know that they are inherently worthy and have the power to love themselves in the way they desire by making small choices and commitments to themselves everyday. Remind them of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and they will likely start to notice a difference in the way they feel.

 

Effects of Discrimination

Discrimination is often defined as the unjust and prejudicial treatment of people based on a particular category they belong to. This includes marginalized groups of people based on race, mental and physical disabilities, LGBTQIA+ status, religion, and other identities. When we think about what self-esteem is — the way we feel about ourselves and how we think about our own worth and value — it can be easy to see how discrimination impacts our self-esteem. When people treat someone unfairly because of things they identify with or that are inherently part of who they are, it can lead to all sorts of unfavorable impacts like chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. This in turn can impact negatively on an individual’s self-esteem, especially if that individual lets other people’s opinions weigh heavily on them.

Discrimination can cause people to begin to believe that they are not worth much. Often youth might wonder “Why me?” This is because they don’t understand why someone might treat them in a different manner. Discrimination serves to make people believe they don’t deserve certain things that are a basic right for everyone. For example, when some people don’t have opportunities to participate in certain clubs or activities, it can be because of discrimination. In some schools, certain students get to be in advanced classes more than other students, and typically it is Black students and people of color that are kept out of those classes. People with physical disabilities may be passed up for a job; or perhaps a person is not promoted solely because of what they look like or that they identify as a woman, instead of basing that promotion on the work they have performed.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges your young person will face in their journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since day one, they’ve had everything they need within themselves — don’t let the world convince them that they do not. Know that they are inherently worthy and have the power to love themselves in the way they desire by making small choices and commitments to themselves everyday. Remind them of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and they will likely start to notice a difference in the way they feel.

Effects of Racism

Racism is a belief system that treats one person better than another based on their race, ethnicity, or the color of their skin. In fact, racism is the practice of believing that one race is superior to another one. When people mistreat other people because of their skin color, race, or ethnicity, it has the same kind of effect as when people are discriminated against. However, with racism, it sets people up to believe that they have the right to treat other people as less than themselves or feel like they are better than someone else simply because of their skin color, or racial background.

There are many systems in the world where you can find racism embedded in their policies and practices, this is called systemic racism. Some of these systems include housing, schooling, healthcare, neighborhoods, and policing. For example, when people of color use these systems — want to buy a house in a particular neighborhood, go to a certain school, get medical care, or call the police for help — racism can stop them from getting the fair treatment they deserve. These kinds of practices can chip away at someone’s self-confidence and over time can cause anxiety, distress, anger, lower self-worth, and depression. This all negatively impacts an individual’s self-esteem.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges your young person will face in their journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since day one, they’ve had everything they need within themselves — don’t let the world convince them that they do not. Know that they are inherently worthy and have the power to love themselves in the way they desire by making small choices and commitments to themselves everyday. Remind them of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and they will likely start to notice a difference in the way they feel.

Eating Disorders

People who are unhappy with their bodies are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and eating disorders. Eating disorders may have many causes, but research shows that the most common factor leading to the development of an eating disorder is a person’s disappointment with their physical appearance (Stice, 2002).

Eating disorders are complicated and affect people of different ages. All eating disorders have a variety of biological, psychological, and social risk factors. These variables can result in very different views, experiences, and symptoms among individuals with the same eating problem.

Body image issues often begin in childhood and continue throughout adulthood. The beginning age varies by person; some people experience body image issues at a younger age, while other people never experience body issues at all.

By age six, kids (particularly those that identify as girls) begin to show worries about their weight and form. Almost half of preteen and teen girls, and nearly a third of boys in the same age group engage in harmful weight-control practices such as skipping meals.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges your young person will face in their journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since day one, they’ve had everything they need within themselves — don’t let the world convince them that they do not. Know that they are inherently worthy and have the power to love themselves in the way they desire by making small choices and commitments to themselves everyday. Remind them of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and they will likely start to notice a difference in the way they feel. To learn more about Eating Disorders, click here.

Anxiety & Self-Esteem

While most people experience temporary feelings of guilt when they make a mistake, they often bounce back. For people who suffer from low self-esteem, how they feel in a certain situation may influence how they feel about themselves in general. Every mistake they make may send them sliding into despair.

People with healthy self-esteem are able to properly assess their strengths and shortcomings while still believing that they are valuable individuals. People who suffer from social anxiety disorder or SAD, often have negative beliefs about themselves, like: “I am not able to control my anxiety around others” and/or “I don’t have the ability to deal with social or school situations.” These beliefs are sometimes based on a poor sense of self-worth, and they can contribute to higher levels of anxiety.

If your young person suffers from a social anxiety disorder, they are likely to have high standards for themselves and find it difficult to set achievable goals. They might feel like they need everyone to like them, and that they must never say or do anything wrong. When young people with SAD find themselves in a difficult situation with friends or school work, they are more likely to focus on their nervousness, to have a negative view of themselves, and to exaggerate the negative effects of making a mistake.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges your young person will face in their journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since day one, they’ve had everything they need within themselves — don’t let the world convince them that they do not. Know that they are inherently worthy and have the power to love themselves in the way they desire by making small choices and commitments to themselves everyday. Remind them of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and they will likely start to notice a difference in the way they feel.

Stress, Depression, Trauma and Self-Esteem

Some stressful situations can affect our self-esteem, which then affects how we respond to and deal with stress. According to a study conducted by Galanakis et al. (2016), toxic stress can worsen the symptoms of almost all physical and emotional disorders.

“Trauma is a reaction to an experience that results in the victim/survivor to feel helpless and vulnerable, with a loss of control and safety.” – Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative

“People of color can also experience racial trauma from forms of discrimination and systemic inequities. Weathering the cumulative effects of living in a society characterized by white dominance and privilege produces a kind of physical and mental wear-and-tear that contributes to a host of psychological and physical ailments.” – Dr. Ebony McGee Vanderbilt University.

In addition, people who experience abuse, neglect, or life-events that leave them feeling unsafe, including those who are discriminated against based on their neurodivergence, learning and physical differences, or gender and sexuality are also more vulnerable to trauma reactions.

If your young person suffers from depression, mood disorders, trauma, or other illnesses associated with poor self-esteem, they may experience more stress and find it more difficult to handle the daily pressures of life. Here are some factors to consider.

  • The size and strength of our social support network — friends, family, etc., has a big effect on how we experience and deal with stress. Youth who have a strong social support network experience less stress than their more isolated friends.
  • Young people with low self-esteem and low self-acceptance sometimes lack social support from friends, family, teachers etc. and this has been linked with higher levels of stress.
  • Physical and emotional fitness can also affect how we deal with stress. If your young person is physically and emotionally fit, dealing with stress becomes a lot simpler.
  • Often, poor self-esteem means that preteens and teens are emotionally unprepared to deal with the inevitable difficulties of everyday life, and this increases their feeling of being under stress.
  • The frequency and intensity of stress will also impact our reaction to it. If our preteens and teens have well-dosed time and space to recover and feel safe, they are better able to manage the stress in their life.
  • People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often battle with poor self-esteem. They may lack self-esteem or believe they are worthless. This can have long-term consequences.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges your young person will face in their journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since day one, they’ve had everything they need within themselves — don’t let the world convince them that they do not. Know that they are inherently worthy and have the power to love themselves in the way they desire by making small choices and commitments to themselves everyday. Remind them of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and they will likely start to notice a difference in the way they feel.

Unhealthy Relationships: Conflict, unhealthy feelings, and behavior

An unsupportive family, bullying, an abusive relationship, and negative partnerships and friendships can also greatly influence an adolescent’s self-esteem and confidence. If a young person experiences negative behavior where they are consistently put-down, ridiculed, made to feel like they do not belong or have worth in the partnership, or are treated like they cannot perform tasks adequately compared to others, this will lead to insecurity and a low sense of self-confidence.

Relationships can be difficult at times, especially if your young person or their friend or partner are experiencing low self-esteem. Insecurity can create feelings of jealousy and envy that can greatly affect how someone acts and treats others.

Common feelings and behaviors someone with low self-esteem may exhibit include some of the following:

  • Acts of jealousy that may present with aggression, frustration, or conflict
  • Acts of manipulation to coerce their friends or partners not to spend time with others
  • Feelings of insecurity in their relationships (partners and friendships)/thoughts that their friends do not want to spend time with them or frequently feel left out
  • Acts of infidelity or searching for attention to justify self-worth
  • Feeling that their partner is attracted to someone else or not attracted to them
  • Frequently feeling criticized, hurt, or attacked
  • Not wanting to admit or own up when a mistake is made
  • Perceiving that others do not believe in their abilities
  • Feeling isolated and/or unsuccessful at school
  • Struggling with schoolwork, due to pressure caused by negative stereotypes (stereotype threat)
  • May try to put others down, talk about others, or bully others to make themselves feel better about themselves or more worthy
  • Lashing out or being violent to others, as a way of trying to protect themselves/if we believe we will be attacked or criticized, we may feel that we need to attack the person or people who are judging us (or who we imagine to be judging us)
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, or loneliness that arise when worried about rejection in friendships or other relationships
  • Feelings of insecurity, shame, or embarrassment if teased or bullied about appearance
  • Feeling anxious or nervous in social situations/worried that others may not like them or they will say the wrong things
  • Remember that in order to achieve a successful, healthy relationship with others, your young person must recognize their own self-worth and self-love first. Loving oneself and keeping true to the things that you love to do will develop a healthy path to successful relationships.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges your young person will face in their journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since day one, they’ve had everything they need within themselves — don’t let the world convince them that they do not. Know that they are inherently worthy and have the power to love themselves in the way they desire by making small choices and commitments to themselves everyday. Remind them of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and they will likely start to notice a difference in the way they feel.

Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia, or BDD, is a severe type of distortion of one’s body image. It affects 2% of the population and is strongly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People suffering from BDD often get obsessed with small or nonexistent physical abnormalities. For instance, someone may be concerned about their eyes being uneven or their hands being too large. They are often far more aware of their perceived faults than others around them.

People suffering from BDD often think their claimed defects make them seem ugly or even deformed. They often spend a great deal of time engaging in compulsions to compensate for this defect, including excessive grooming. People often experience significant discomfort as a result of their body dysmorphia. Some may avoid being in public, out of embarrassment about their looks. Still, people often delay getting treatment for their problems out of fear of seeming vain.

In contrast to eating disorders, body dysmorphia is often not associated with worries about one’s weight. Rather than that, BDD is often focused on a single body region, such as the nose or ears. An exception to this is muscle dysmorphia, a kind of BDD in which individuals are concerned about their muscularity.

According to the International Society of Aesthetic Cosmetic Surgery in 2012, between 8% and 15% of people who suffer from BDD seek plastic surgery. Unfortunately, 90% of individuals with BDD who have cosmetic surgery are unsatisfied with the outcome, and many report that their symptoms worsen. Suicide is 45 times more common among individuals with BDD than in the general population. This is why mental health therapy is essential for anyone suffering from bodily dysmorphia.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges your young person will face in their journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since day one, they’ve had everything they need within themselves — don’t let the world convince them that they do not. Know that they are inherently worthy and have the power to love themselves in the way they desire by making small choices and commitments to themselves everyday. Remind them of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and they will likely start to notice a difference in the way they feel.

6 Ways to Improve Self-Esteem & Body Image

#1 Teach Them to Build their Mental Strength

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Mental strength is a person’s capability to cope successfully with stresses, demands, and difficulties and achieve their full potential regardless of the conditions they encounter. Developing mental strength is critical to living one’s best life.

Just as people go to the gym and lift weights to strengthen their muscles, we can also improve our mental health by using certain tools and methods.

When we are mentally healthy, this helps us to live a life that we like, with significant social relationships and a positive sense of self-worth. It also enables us to take chances, do new things, and cope better with any tough circumstances that life may throw our way.

Mental strength is something that your young person can develop over time, by prioritizing their personal growth. Just as exercise and a healthy diet can bring physical benefits, good mental habits — such as practicing thankfulness and taking healthy risks — can bring mental health benefits.

To experience improvements in our physical health, we must also consider giving up harmful behaviors like eating too much junk food. In a similar way, if we want to see mental improvements, we need to give up bad habits like making negative comments about ourselves.

To learn more about building mental strength, check out BLOOM’s Mental Strength page.

#2 Self-Acceptance

If your young person needs to improve the way they see themselves, here are some strategies they can use. To begin, they should try to stop treating their body as an object, and avoid comparing it to the “ideal” bodies that they see in the media. Encourage them to think about how much time they spend mentally assessing their physical appearance, and worrying about how others see them.

Your young person can begin to love their body by recognizing that how they think others may see them doesn’t matter, only their own viewpoint matters in this regard. Encourage your young person to take pride in themselves by standing tall with their chest wide and shoulders relaxed, to demonstrate love for their body. Suggest that your young person continually remind themselves of all the things they like about themselves, inside and out, and all the things their body can do and accomplish. By doing these things over time, they can slowly develop an appreciation for and acceptance of their body.

Helping your young person to fully appreciate their individual physical, social, and learning strengths and challenges will also help them grow their self-acceptance. Is your young person neurodivergent? Do they have motor or learning differences from many of their peers? Are they dyslexic or have ADHD?  Are they deaf or low vision? With each of these unique differences come so many amazing strengths and abilities. Help your young person celebrate their individuality and find successful role models.

For your young person to change their mindset of how they see themselves, they will need to work to stop any thoughts that focus on only one aspect or part of themselves that they have negative thoughts about. Encourage them to see themselves as a whole person and not just negative parts.

Advise your young person to try to change the way they talk to themselves and about themselves from negative, to positive. To develop a healthy connection with our bodies and minds, we need to stop speaking so harshly to ourselves! We must unlearn society’s method of doing things and do things our way! Propose that your young person treats themselves and their body as a friend — this is a major step toward developing a good self-perception. Encourage your young person to be kind to themselves.

Your young person will also need to remove any negative influences that cause them to feel shame, anxious, or insecure about themselves. This can include, stopping the viewing of negative and distorted media or distancing themselves from anyone or anything that does not support and love them for who they are.

Above all, remind them that it is alright to make mistakes along the way. Be patient; improving our everyday habits is a marathon, not a sprint. Self-love may contribute significantly to a healthy lifestyle.

#3 Change their Mindset with Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a kind of meditation in which a person focuses on being aware of what they are experiencing and feeling, without judgment or interpretation. Mindfulness training includes the use of guided meditations, and other relaxation approaches to help the body relax and decrease stress.

5 Simple Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a kind of meditation in which a person focuses on being aware of what they are experiencing and feeling, without judgment or interpretation. Mindfulness training includes the use of guided meditations, and other relaxation approaches to help the body relax and decrease stress.

#1 Attention

They should try to slow down and observe things around them, and make an effort to engage all of the senses while experiencing their surroundings — touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste. For instance, when they eat their favorite food, they should take time to smell, taste, and appreciate it.

#2 Living in the moment

Encourage your young person to make a conscious effort to bring an open and accepting awareness to everything they do. Discover delight in little pleasures.

#3 Accepting yourself

Suggest that your young person try to respect and accept themselves as they would a good friend.

#4  Gratitude

Teach your young person to recognize the amazing things their body can feel, do, and accomplish. Encourage them to view themselves as a whole person with many attributes that they are grateful for. Suggest they give themselves thanks and self praise for the incredible things they are able to do and achieve in their body.

#5 Kindness

Remind them to practice acts of giving or contributing to something that makes them feel good about themselves.

Your young person can practice these mindfulness techniques anywhere and at any time. Some other mindfulness activities, such as a body scan or sitting meditation, require some time in a quiet location free of distractions or disruptions. Your young person may want to do these kinds of mental workouts first thing in the morning before beginning their daily routine. To learn how to practice mindfulness and listen to audio practices, visit BLOOM’s Mindfulness page.

#4 Help them Take Care of their Body

Our physical and mental health are completely connected. By making healthy choices with nutrition, sleep, exercise, and activities that bring pleasure, young people can take good care of their body. Many aspects of our lifestyle and behaviors affect our mental health and general well-being. Just as good sleep, food, and exercise habits are critical for physical fitness, they also have a strong correlation with mental health.

Consuming nutritious foods, engaging in regular physical activity, and ensuring your young person  receives enough high-quality sleep each night may help improve their psychological well-being and decrease their chance of developing disorders like depression and anxiety.

Likewise, a lack of exercise, sleep, and healthy food can have a detrimental effect on your young person’s mood and perspective. We should all try to eat, exercise, and sleep in ways that benefit our bodies and minds. However, according to a study published in “Frontiers in Psychology,” sleep seems to be the greatest predictor of mental well-being — specifically, sleep quality, probably followed by sleep quantity (Rönnlund & Carelli, 2018). This means that, although your young person should prioritize nutrition, exercise, and sleep for optimum health and longevity, focusing additional attention on their sleep patterns may be the most effective approach for maintaining a positive attitude and avoiding stress, anxiety, and mood swings.

To learn more about helping your young person take good care of their body, visit BLOOM’s Healthy Body page.

#5 Setting Achievable Goals for their Health

Over time, goal-setting methods have been shown to assist people in beginning and maintaining healthy behaviors. Goals can motivate us, and help us to start new habits, guide our attention, and sustain a feeling of momentum in our lives. Goals also help us to concentrate our attention, and achieving a goal can foster a feeling of self-mastery. Setting goals is not only inspiring, it can also help enhance your young person’s mental health and their level of personal and professional success.

Start by asking or helping them to set an achievable goal. This goal can be broken into a number of steps that they can achieve along the way. Having smaller steps will allow them to see the gains they are making, and help them stay on track. It will also help manage their ability to adapt in case there is failure along the way. The hardest part about a goal is starting, so give them encouragement to just jump in, to tell others about their goal, and to expect some hiccups along the way. Just making a goal and getting started on achieving it is a huge measure of success! Remember that what you model as their trusted adult has a huge influence on their life, so sometimes the best place to start is by modeling this skill yourself. When your young person sees your progress towards your goal, they will likely be inspired to start working on their own. When setting goals, it can be helpful to remember the S.M.A.R.T. acronym.

Specific: Every goal should be clear and specific.

Measurable: It is important to have measurable goals so that you can track your progress, stay on track, and keep motivated.

Achievable: A goal that is within your skill set or that stretches your abilities a bit is far more likely to be attainable and accomplished.

Relevant: It is helpful to have realistic and relevant goals. When making a goal, be sure that it is relevant for your life and lights you up with inspiration. Also be sure it is reasonable according to your skillset and resources (time and money) available.

Time Bound: Be sure to give your goal a time frame or target date so that you have a deadline to work toward.

To learn more about setting achievable goals and building healthy habits, visit BLOOM’s Mental Strength page.

Tip #6 Let them Know - They are Enough

Self-worth is a measure of how much you respect yourself. It is not determined by what others think of you or the accomplishments you have made — it comes from within.

Self-acceptance is probably the greatest gift your young person can offer themselves. Self-acceptance is unconditional: it means accepting yourself as you are, faults and all. If we make self-acceptance or self-love conditional, the reality is that we will never be satisfied with ourselves.

The truth is that our bodies are continuously evolving and will never be the same as they were the day before. If we put our self-worth on something as fluid as our appearances, we will perpetually ride the emotional roller coaster of body preoccupation and humiliation.

If they want to alter their appearance, they should do it for themselves. However, they must keep in mind that one’s body image does not determine one’s value. A lovely body or a gorgeous face will not last forever nor change the way they truly feel about themselves inside. If your young person’s self-worth is based only on how they look, then imagine how their self-worth could change from day to day. It’s important that they explore self-worth beyond the boundaries of their appearance. Once they understand who they are and are content with that, they can find serenity even while they navigate life’s unavoidable highs and lows.

The most important thing for your young person to remember and repeat to themselves is this: you are already whole, you are unique, and you are enough just the way you are.

What to Expect during Puberty

What to Expect as your Young Person goes through Puberty

Written by Lori Reichel, Ph.D.

  |  Reviewed by Hina J. Talib, MD

Caregivers can expect several growth and developmental changes as a child grows into adolescence, including: physical development, social and emotional development, cognitive development, and motor and sensory development. Between the ages of 11 to 14 years your young person should grow  stronger and taller. They will also begin to feel, as well as think, in significantly more mature ways. You may feel surprised as you watch your preteen or teen start to develop into a grown-up.

  • Those assigned female at birth will start their periods and begin to grow breasts, while those assigned male at birth begin to grow facial hair.
  • Young people of all genders will experience growth spurts, weight gain, grow body and pubic hair, and experience body odor, sweating, and acne.
  • In the area of cognitive development, your young person’s brain will grow in its capacity to think, reason, learn, and remember.
  • Regarding social and emotional development, you can expect your young person to prefer to be more self-sufficient and independent from their family; hormonal changes can also affect their mood and emotions.
  • You may even notice your preteen or teen becoming more clumsy or awkward, this is simply a phase of their motor and sensory development.

All of these changes can feel awkward and confusing to a developing adolescent. They may compare themselves to their peers and feel insecure about certain aspects of the way they look, how they are developing, and the many changes that are happening to their body (such as acne, weight gain, breasts, hair etc.)

As a caregiver, it is important to communicate with and educate young people about the normal changes that they are experiencing during puberty. Encourage them to appreciate and identify the strengths and abilities that make them unique. Use this time to let go and promote some independence in decision making and responsibilities. To learn more about what to expect and find tools to navigate puberty explore BLOOM’s Puberty section of the HUB.

Gender Dysphoria & Body Image

Gender Dysphoria & Body Image

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Eating disorders in the transgender community

Transgender and nonbinary youth experience the same diet-culture and social pressures about “ideal” bodies that cisgender (non-trans) people experience. In addition, experiencing transphobia or simply living in our strongly gendered society can cause gender non-conforming youth to struggle with their body image and self-esteem.

The incidence of eating disorders in the transgender community is much higher than in the cisgender population. One 2015 study found that 16% of college-aged transgender students surveyed had experienced or were experiencing an eating disorder.

Differences between Gender Dysphoria & Body Dysmorphia

Gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia are not the same thing, although some trans and nonbinary youth may experience both. Body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder, but gender dysphoria is not.

Gender dysphoria is the name for the distress and/or discomfort caused by the difference between a person’s gender identity and their gender assigned at birth. This can apply to boys and men who were assigned a female gender at birth, girls/women who were assigned the male gender at birth, and nonbinary people who were assigned either male or female at birth. People with gender dysphoria may identify as transgender and/or nonbinary.

It’s important to remember that not all transgender people experience gender dysphoria, and not all stress or discomfort experienced by transgender people is due to gender dysphoria. Someone with gender dysphoria experiences discomfort or distress because their body does not reflect their true gender. On the other hand, a person with body dysmorphia experiences distress because they perceive flaws in their body or weight that do not exist.

With gender dysphoria, there is no failure to see the body as it is, and gender dysphoria can be eased by changing the body. For example, top surgery (a procedure to remove breast tissue) is known to help reduce or eliminate chest dysphoria for those who were assigned female at birth but whose gender identity does not include having breasts.

While gender dysphoria can be reduced by making changes to one’s body, this does not work for cases of body dysmorphia. People with body dysmorphia and eating disorders like anorexia don’t actually feel better about their body when they use eating disorder behaviors or have surgery, even if their body is physically transformed.

Healing body dysmorphia involves deep and long-term therapy, where one is encouraged to challenge their own thoughts. Whereas gender dysphoria can be improved with gender-affirming actions, like hormone replacement therapy or wearing different clothing.

Trans people face so much discrimination that they are less likely to seek medical care or psychiatric care. Therefore, it’s essential that transgender people with eating disorders can access medical care which is respectful of trans identities, and understands that gender dysphoria is not a mental illness.

6 Tips to help build Self-worth & Confidence

6 Ways to help them build Self-worth & Confidence

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

According to Gonzaga et al. (2019), there are several ways that caregivers can encourage and promote strong self-esteem and positive body image in their young people. A healthy body image is pivotal to growing the self-esteem of young people. When it comes to how to talk about a healthy body and self-image, there are several things that can help.

  1. Set a great example.
    Be a role model for your young person, show how you accept your body and be mindful of how you talk about the bodies of others (Hartman-Munick et al., 2020). Caregivers are among the most influential examples and role models in an adolescent’s life (Arroyo et al., 2020). You can encourage your young person to feel good about themselves by guiding them on how it is done and through leading by example.
  2. Promote a healthy diet and exercise.
    Provide your young person with nutritious meals and encourage them to be physically active. Remind your young person that exercise and a balanced diet are essential for growth and development of the mind and body. Start cultivating a positive relationship around foods that are nutritious and provide their body with the fuel it needs to not only help them grow, but to give them energy, a positive mood, mental clarity, and prevent disease.
  3. Body positivity.
    By encouraging your young person to be active physically and take part in activities for physical health and fun, you help them to appreciate and recognize what their bodies can do, instead of focusing on the appearances of their bodies. When a young person recognizes what their bodies are capable of doing, rather than focusing solely on what they look like, they are more likely to feel better concerning their body. This goes hand-in-hand with greater self-esteem.
  4. Be mindful about media.
    Think of what your young people watch, monitor their social media use, and read along with the products they purchase and the messages these choices send. Talk about self-image and a healthy body, including talking about distorted images and messages that media and social media can portray.
  5. Use positive language.
    Instead of discussing your adolescent’s physical attributes, you should praise their personal characteristics like persistence, kindness, and strength. Avoid pointing out any of your young person’s physical or cognitive characteristics that you perceive as negative. Explain the impacts of puberty so your young person can understand what physical, mental, and emotional changes to expect (Hartman-Munick et al., 2020). Ensure that your young person understands that gaining weight is a normal and healthy part of growth and development, particularly during adolescence.
    Communicating about self-image and a healthy body is important for self-esteem, as it allows adolescents to take care of themselves spiritually, emotionally, and financially. If you are worried about your young person’s self-esteem, body image, physical activity behaviors, or eating behaviors, consult with a doctor or other health care professional.
  6. Affirming diversity and inclusion.
    Cultural, racial, ethnic, gendered representations of children in books, images, media, art, teachers, etc., help foster and affirm positive/high self-esteem, especially for Black people and people of color.

 

Resources

A list of BLOOM's trusted resources to find more information and support… VIEW ALL

Trusted Organizations
Dr RJ – Life Coach

Coaches teens one-on-one with a focus on leadership in relationships, academics, and personal development.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

The nation’s largest mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)

Supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders through prevention, cures, and access to quality care.

Books, Apps, & Podcasts
The Ultimate Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens
By Megan MacCutcheon, LPC

A workbook to help build up self-esteem and confidence, with creative activities and advice on how to think positively, release self-doubt, and love yourself.

Shine App

An inclusive self-care app that inspires users to look after their mental health with the help of meditation, gratitude exercises and journaling.

Moodfit

A free app that helps you track your moods and gives you exercises to help address negative emotions.

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