The body image factor for self-esteem

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My parents were concerned about how my height would impact things as I repeated 4K. It did. I was self-conscious about it. But being tall is one of those characteristics you really can’t change.

I attempted to fit in better by slouching and not standing up as tall as I could. I even remember several occasions in elementary school of kneeling to talk to someone much shorter than me just so we were more eye level. Which seems generous, except it sometimes happened while trying to walk. (Oh, that makes me cringe!) It took a very long time to be proud of my height.

In third grade I was about 5’5 or so and actually taller than the teacher. We did a back-to-back test in class.

Over the years I’ve been asked if I was wearing stilts, and if my parents fed me Miracle Gro. I’ve been called the jolly green giant. People have asked “How’s the weather up there?” and “When’s the flood coming?” because my pants weren’t long enough.

While mostly meant in a harmless way, these comments always added to my insecurities.

But there are three situations which further affected my self-image and my body image. These aren’t necessarily sensory-related, but the sensory problems fed into my insecurities enough that the following instances just made things worse.

First, when I was taking swimming lessons. I was an older kid in the beginner class. At the time I had a little extra weight around my stomach. Not so much that it was noticeable with regular clothes, but enough to concern me when a kid in class asked if I was pregnant. I was in fourth grade.

Also about fourth or fifth grade, we started learning about the wonders of our changing bodies. Boys and girls separately, of course. I was among the first in class to start developing breasts. One boy decided to start calling me Training Bra Lady. Our school uniform consisted of a white shirt so it was easy to see the outline. But he didn’t just use that name to my face. He would call it out across the playground as an attempted greeting. It got to the point where I would suffer through wearing a school-approved sweatshirt so he couldn’t see anything. No matter how warm it was.

The last situation was a class assignment, a combined math and science lesson. We were told to write down our weight. That was our weight on Earth. Then, to practice advanced multiplication, we multiplied by some outrageous factor to get our weight on other planets, to show the impact of other atmospheres or something. I don’t know. And because that wasn’t enough, we were told to switch papers with someone to “check the math.” I was paired with one of the shortest girls in class. My current weight of about 140 pounds seemed astronomical to her 60, even though my weight was very reasonable and healthy for my height. I had no concept of the impact of height on how much you weigh. I just saw the numbers. And seeing that I would weigh nearly 900 pounds on a different planet didn’t help.

I know I’m not the only one to go through situations like this. And I know there are much worse scenarios to encounter. But they made an impact. And made it that much harder to like myself and feel comfortable in my own skin.

You can’t always fix what other kids say or do, but you can talk to your child and build up confidence and self-worth so that comments and situations like these aren’t as hurtful and traumatizing.

I didn’t talk about this stuff at home. I wasn’t sure how to bring it up. I just absorbed it. While it would be nice if kids always addressed problems that happen at school, a lot of times it gets hidden. So parents need to take a little initiative sometimes to help open the line of communication. Especially if you notice changes in attitude and behavior.

Resources for addressing positive body image:

  • How to Help Your Daughter Have a Healthy Body Image | Child Mind Institute
  • Encouraging a Healthy Body Image | Kids Health
  • Talking to Kids About Body Image | Parents
  • 5 Ways to Promote a Positive Body Image for Kids | Eat Right
  • 5 Ways to Prevent Body Image Issues | Parents
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5 thoughts on “The body image factor for self-esteem”

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and experiences regarding body image. Your honesty and clarity on the subject will help anyone who reads this, especially young people. Thank you

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    1. Thanks Cathy! It’s so much easier to write things out and share publicly rather than speaking it aloud. But it still requires being vulnerable enough to share. Body image doesn’t get addressed enough, and it can be such a fragile thing.

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  2. Gah, that was rough. I was 5’5 in the 4th grade and often heard the string bean and jolly green giant comments, too. (I only grew another two inches in height, though, sigh.) Thank you for posting this; I haven’t really thought about addressing that sort of thing with E, but I definitely need to with him going into the 4th grade in August.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh poor E. Girls are a landmine no matter the age, but this particular time it can be particularly difficult. Yes, please help him realize how sometimes girls don’t see comments the same way he does.

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