I’ve spent years talking to women and men of all ages about self-esteem and body issues and the lack of self-confidence they feel which has enveloped their lives since they were young. A common theme is that they didn’t have anyone to talk to when they were young children, or when they did talk they didn’t receive the support or understanding they needed. When I did talk to them and they shared how they felt, the single most common sentence they said was “finally someone who understands”. How sad that it had taken some of them 50 years to find someone who understood, when in reality there are thousands and thousands, maybe millions, of individuals who also understand but do not communicate it or do not talk about.
A huge percentage of self-esteem issues in both men and women stem from other children bullying them when they were young or as they were moving through puberty into adulthood.
Bullying is defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behaviour intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally or emotionally (Wikipedia.org). In this case the hurt is mental and emotional and long lasting.
I firmly believe that by tackling bullying and peer pressure at the root, and that is in young children, and teaching them resilience, we can prevent the sad and enduring issues faced by so many individuals as they grow up. In other words, educating the child, in the best sense of the word here means ensuring the mental wellbeing and happiness of the future adult.
By teaching and encouraging young children to feel that who and what they are is already fine and to love themselves, they will grow in confidence and recognise that the differences they see in others is fine too. By teaching them how to solve problems, how to talk about them, how to handle friendship issues and not to feel pressurised by outside influences, children will grow up with a healthy self-esteem and a growing confidence in themselves as an individual.
Children also need to be taught that they have no right to make another child feel bad about themselves, that seeing another child smile and laugh is preferable to seeing them cry or sad. That everyone has the right to feel good about themselves. A resilient, confident child knows that if a child says something unkind to them it doesn’t matter. Not really. That it is just words. A confident, secure child sees friendship as global and something to be shared, that their friend can also be friends with others without it causing a major upset.
And finally, by teaching children these things it is even possible to stop the bully from becoming that in the first place.
I’m excited about the new book, Being Me (and loving it) that I’ve written with Naomi Richards. I’m excited for you to get it into your hands and see how, by sharing stories with children, about others just like them, with feelings just like them, and problems just like them, you can change a child’s life, and that change can influence the future adult in so many ways that you never knew possible, and maybe, just maybe stop a bully or two from emerging and stop a victim from becoming a victim in the first place.
How magical is that?