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Self-Esteem and Body Image

Feel self-concious about your body?


You're not alone.



Everything from media messages to self mutilation.


Q:What are the dangers of eating disorders?

A:Depriving your body of food prevents it from working. Anorexics don't get enough nutrition, vitamins, and minerals. This means their kidneys can stop working. They can end up with severe infections, go blind, and even have heart attacks. Binging and vomiting also deprive the body of nutrients. This can cause problems with the lining of the stomach and increase the risks for certain types of cancer. People with eating disorders also often lose their hair and have brittle nails, low blood pressure, sleeping problems, and serious stomach problems, along with other physcial ailments. People with eating disorders often become depressed. They withdraw from family, friends, and school activities. The depression can make their eating disorder worse. Some get so depressed they try to kill themselves. IF YOU KOW SOMEONE HAS AN EATING DISORDER TALK WITH A TRUSTED ADULT: parent, teacher, school counselor, coach, neihbor, or another relative.


Q:When I see actors, musicians, or other celebrity's on TV or in magazines I always wonder, how do they look so good?

A:The images we see on television, in magazines, and movies send messages about what's beautiful and what makes someone successful. People often imitate those images, changing their clothes, their haircut, their style, to be more like what they see in the media. Problem is, what's shown in the media doesn't usually represent reality. The media likes to show women who are really tall, really thin, usually light-skinned, with big breasts. But this kind of body type is rare--it's not the norm. Guys also get media messages. They're supposed to be tall, thin, and muscular, with perfect skin and teeth. When we can't live up to these IMPOSSIBLE IMAGES, we feel inferior or less successful.Our best DEFENSE is knowing that the media uses tricks to make people look better than they really do. Most of the pictures we see are distortions-if not outright lies. People come in all different shapes and sizes. We are tall and short, thinner and heavier, lighter and darker. We have straight and curly hair.




*The media uses props, lighting and computer technology to make actors'(actress')and models' bodies look like the so-called "perfect image."

*People's shapes and sized are often changed in the pages of magazines.

*So-called "imperfections"--acne, freckles, lines, wrinkles, skin folds, and other unwanted features--are airbrushed out.

*Splicing together body parts from several different photograhs can create the media's "perfect image." So, what we often see in a magazine ad is a lie.


We are all Different! And that's great, because if we were'nt we'd all look like each other...what fun would that be?



Q:My friend showed me these scars on her arms and legs and says she cuts herself. Why does she do this, and how can I stop her?

A:Chances are, your friend is in a lot of emotional pain and is hurting herself physically to get some kind of temporary relief from that pain. Self-mutilators inflict physical pain as a desparate way to release the emotional pain they're feeling. Self-injurers usually say they feel empty inside, lonely, misunderstood by others, and they try to make these feelings go away by hurting themselves physcially. People who self-injure might also struggle with anxiety and depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and fears of being abandoned. And nearly HALF report being physically and/or sexually abused during childhood. You can help your friend by getting help. The best solution is for her to talk to her parents or another trusted adult, such as the counselor at school. If your friend refuses to get help, you should tell an adult you can truse. We know this sounds like going against your friend, but self-injury is serious. She can end up cutting herself so deeply that she inflicts serious or even fatal wounds. That means she can die from cutting herself. Too often, people cut a little to deeply and end up in the emergency room. Let your friend know that you'll be there for her. But be sure that you don't keep this a secret. Even if your friend gets mad because you told someone, in the end, she will understand that you helped her through a tough time.


IF YOU'RE IN A CRISIS AND ARE HURTING YOURSELF PHYSCIALLY, CALL 911 OR 1-800-SUICIDE(784-2433). To get more info on self-injury sent to you, call 1-800-DONT-CUT(366-8288).


Q:What are eating disorders?

A:When someone has a distorted view of their bodies, and how they look, people can develop an eating disorder. The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.(There are other things people do to their bodies-like take a lot of diet pills, exercise compusively, etc. that are also dangerous.) People with anorexia nervosa, or "anorexia," become obessed with how much food they eat. They may be stick thin, but when they look in the mirror, they think they're fat. So they diet until they are eating almost nothing. Anorexics are often really stressed about other things in their lives--like school or a relationshipp--and feel that if they can control what they eat, they can control the other problems too. People with anorexia might take tons of diet pills, use laxatives without really needing them, or stop eating altogether at certain times. They might also make themselves vomit because they're so afraid of gaining weight. People who are bulimic gorge, eatin all kinds of stuff, and then vomit or take laxatives to get the food out of their bodies quickly. It's called "binge and purge." Bulimics often use food to calm emotions and feel better about themselves. It doesn't work. Some anorexic people will also have periods when they are bulimic as well. Eating disorders are caused by complex emotions, usually having to do with how people feel about themselves. Some think eating disorders are something a person can "just snap out of." That is certainly not true. People with eating disorders need counseling and support from their families and friends. That support includes not judging the person, and being patient and understanding as they work through their disease.




Q:Are girls the only ones who worry about their body image?

A:There does seem to be more pressure on girls to look a certain way, but guys are starting to feel that pressure too. Girls get the message that they should be model thin. Guys are made to feel they should look like athletes or weight lifters, with big, bulging muscles. That often leads guys to start lifting weights at a young age. When you start lifting weights before age 14 or 15 the heavy exercise can damage muscles, tendons, and bones that are still trying to finish growing. That can lead to permanent damage. Guys sometimes even take steroids, drugs that can make them larger and stronger. But these drugs are harmful and illegal. Even steroid-type suppplements sold in health food stores can cause health problems. Guys also worry about their hair, skin, and the way they look in general. But, unlike girls, guys are discouraged from talking about their feelings. Instead, they're supposed to "be strong" and keep it all inside. BUT guys who feel insecure about their bodies should GET HELP. TALK to a parent or other trusted adult. They can connect you with counselors or support groups that can HELP.


Q:I feel bad about my body and the way I look. WHAT CAN I DO?

A:A negative body image, or feeling really bad about the way you look, can make it harder for you to form friendships and dating relationships. You might get so focused on your looks, that you lose interest in other things, like friends and school. If you have a negative body image, know that YOU'RE NOT ALONE. Many people feel this way at different times in their lives, but there is no reason to live with these bad feelings. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about your feelings. They can hook you up with a counselor or therapist, or maybe help find a support group of other teens who feel the same way. The key is learning how to change your attitude about your body, not changing your body or looks. If you're unhappy with your eyes, gettin different colored contact lenses probably won't solve your problem. Once you change one part of your body, you miht just find another part that bothersyou. That leads to an endless-painful and expensive-quest to change your body, piece by piece, instead of accepting the way you look.


Q:How do I know if I have a good or bad body image?

A:Answer these questions and then read on to find out what you answers say about your body image.

*Which parts of your body do you feel really good about?

*What would you change about your body or the way you look?Why?

*Do you have a relative you look like? Or have you been told you look like a certain celebrity? If so, how does it feel to know that you look like that person?

*How much time do you spend getting ready before you go to school/work in the morning? Before you go out on a date?

*In general, how do you feel about food and eating? Is it something you enjor, or something you feel worried, guilty, or concerned about?

*Is there something about your looks that would keep you home from school? A zit? A bad hair day?

*What steps would you take to change your body? Exercise? Cosmetic surgery? What's too far?

When answering these questions, look for extremes. If for example, there is not one thing you like about your looks and you'd freak if a zit popped up on your nose, you probably have a pretty low body image and need some help.

If, on the other hand, you found lots of things you like about your body and don't spend too much time worrying about how you look, then you probably whave a good body image.


Q:I feel depressed all the time, and it's getting worse. Sometimes, I cut myself, and I've even thought about suicide. Can you help me?

A:It is SOOOO important that you have reached out to us. Because we happen to care very much about what happens to you, even though we've never met! It's really normal feel sad sometimes or really overwhelmed by what you're dealing with as a teen. But hurting yourself, or even considering killing yourself, is never, EVER the answer.

If you seriously feel like you might try to kill yourself, PLEASE do one of the following:

*CALL 911. 911 is for emergencies. And if you are thinking about killing yourself, it's an emergency. The folks at the other end of the line will be able to get you help IMMEDIATELY, so don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call.

*CALL 1-800-SUICIDE(784-2433) or 1-800-HIT-HOME(448-4663).These are 24-hour, toll-free hotlines that are staffed by trained counselors. Sometimes we feel really bad and think that it would be better if we just didn't feel anymore. Some people think that translates into suicide, but suicide is NEVER THE ANSWER. So call one of the hotliens, and talk to a caring counselor to figure out what your options are.

*GET A COUNSELOR or therapist. Before you even get to the point of thinking about hurting yourself, try to get a trained professional who can help you deal more effectively with everything you have going on. You can ask your parents to connect you with a counselor or a therapist, and you don't necessarily need to tell them why you want to see someone. You can just tell them that there's a lot on your mind and you think that talking with someone could help. You can also find a counselor by talking to your school counselor or asking him/her for a refereal to another counselor. Now, hurting yourself without trying to commit suicide is also something you need to take action and stop. Some people try cutting as a way to feel better and have ended up cutting too deep. They end up trying to or successfully committing suicide without even meaning to. You need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in cutting or hurting yourself. And we are not alone in saying that it NEEDS TO STOP. REMEMBER, you took a brave step forward by just visiting this website reading this question. this means that you can take the next step--reaching out to someone close to you, so you can START TO FEEL BETTER.

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