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Girls, interrupted: Revealed - the true cost of low self-esteem
Even the brightest and best young women can beheld back by low confidence about their looks or their worth, says a new study
Sunday 01 April 2012
A generation of Britain's best and brightest young women is being held back from fulfilling its potential to produce future leaders, entrepreneurs and trendsetters because of insecurity and relentless societal pressure for girls to strive for physical perfection.
According to research published today, Britain could lose some 319,000 future businesswomen, lawyers and doctors, as well as more than 60 women MPs by 2050 unless young women can be helped to retain confidence in their own abilities.
The study, by the Future Foundation think tank, illustrates how one in four girls (24 per cent) has low self-esteem, buckling under pressure to conform to an idealised notion of how she should look.
The knock-on effect – a loss of future potential – could reduce the chances of another female prime minister being elected by 2050 from 73 per cent to 62 per cent. It would mean two fewer female chief executives of FTSE 100 companies. When it comes to sporting achievement, Britain could see 16 female medallists at the 2024 Olympics rather than the 19 that could be achieved – the legacy of 14 per cent of girls not having the confidence to pursue elite sport.
The predictions are based on face-to-face interviews with 500 girls between 11 and 17 from across Britain, the results of which were mapped on to forecasts of future employment.
Negative comments about their appearance from other girls are one of the biggest factors making girls feel less confident (45 per cent). And low self-esteem damages their prospects, with only one in three confident that she will have a successful career.
Unhappiness with their appearance is a key factor, according to researchers. More than half of the girls studied (52 per cent) said they would be happier if they were more beautiful, according to the study, commissioned by a cosmetics firm as part of its programme to boost self-esteem.
Some 800,000 children have already had self-esteem classes, and the company is working with the eating-disorder charity Beat to provide more than 1,400 classes this year.
William Nelson, director of research at The Future Foundation, said: "Even among high-achieving girls, those with lower self-esteem were significantly less likely to be aimed for 'high profile' careers in future." He added: "In every profession we looked at, we predict decent growth in the presence of women in coming decades – but numbers of women will not grow as strongly as they could if lowered self-esteem among girls and young women were to be addressed."
Penny Newman, chief executive of Platform 51 (formerly YWCA), said: "Every day we work with girls and women who suffer from low self-esteem. Whether it presents as a lack of confidence about their ability, their body or their worth, these deep-seated anxieties really hold girls back from achieving their potential." Childhood trauma or issues around body image are often to blame, she added.
Look to the future: Five role models and the young women who hope to follow in their footsteps
1. Maxine Benson, 50, Everywoman co-founder: "Self confidence and self-esteem are critical for every young girl. Without them she will ... never realise everything she wants to do is possible."
2. Anya Parti,11, aspiring businesswoman
3. Karen Gill, 52, Everywoman co-founder
4. Sophie Morgan-Dyson, 12, aspiring businesswoman
5. Jane Fallon, 51, author
6. Jesse Schubert, 12, multi-talented across the arts: "I think you have to be yourself to achieve what you want to be."
7. Chemmy Alcott, 29, Olympic skier.
8. Jessica Anderson, 13, aspiring skier: "Girls feel they have to look a certain way due to the way we see images in magazines and on the internet. For some girls, if they do not fit this image they start feeling upset and insecure."
9. Michelle McDowell, 48, civil engineer: "So often, I meet young women with fantastic ability but they lack confidence, [so] they may get over-looked .... Building self esteem will help challenge this."
10. Arabella Warne, 11, who would like to be a civil engineer
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It is truly unfortunate that big government and big business fail to realize that while profiteering on the backs of children,and failing to see the crisis that they are creating is going to cost them in spades.Children are the precious pons in the obesity war and soon they are to be consumers. They are the victims of the obesity war . Children are dying to be thin and Dieting at a very young age.
* Growing up afraid to eat
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Growing up afraid to eat
Posted By JOANNE RICHARD
Posted 5 hours ago
Teen girls are regularly skipping meals as they hunger to be thin.
According to a poll, 10% of 14 and 15 year olds are routinely skipping two meals a day -- breakfast and lunch; 26% regularly skip breakfast and 22% go without lunch.
The survey, by the Schools Health Education Unit, also reveals 40% of 10 and 11 year
olds think they're overweight -- 7% of them are passing on breakfast, and 20% of 12 and 13-year-olds are going
without the first meal of the day.
Weight specialist Dr. Dan Kirschenbaum has seen girls as young as Grade 1 worried about their weight.
Obesity levels are high and the media's focus is constantly on weight, bombarding females with unrealistic body images, says Kirschenbaum. Weight fixations flourish, feeding unhealthy behaviours, including skipping meals.
"Without effective guidance for how to maintain healthy weight or to lose weight, teenagers thrash about in their attempts to match those almost impossible images," he says.
"Some of this thrashing results in extreme dieting behaviours, very few of which could be sustained, and many of which are quite harmful, including smoking cigarettes as a weight losing strategy."
Celebrity skinny is elusive for most women, he says,
and in many cases, those standards are far too thin from a health perspective; for example, the 5-foot-11-inch model who is required to weigh about 100 pounds.
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According to naturopathic doctor Janine Bowring, today's hectic lifestyle has more people skipping meals and eating on the run--if they eat at all.
"Teenage girls are no exception to this trend. Young girls also fall prey to the idealistic body images they see on TV and in magazines. Teenage girls struggle with self-esteem even without these outside pressures to be thin."
Skipping meals or eating very little will not help drop pounds, says Bowring. "The reverse is true because our metabolic rate slows down when we do not eat regularly, thus making us gain weight when we do eat."
Sadly, we only pay lip service to body acceptance: "Our culture does not celebrate all body sizes. The culture remains fixated on: Thin is in. Obesity is soaring because of many things, including a powerful food industry that advocates for high fat food, an increasingly sedentary existence, and misinformation about what to do about excess weight," says Kirschenbaum, clinical director of Wellspring Academies, weight loss organizations for teens.
According to Kirschenbaum, on a short term or occasional basis, skipping one or two meals will not produce harmful effects.
"Our bodies come from our hunter-gatherer ancestors who did not have refrigerators or convenience stores -- and who sometimes had difficulties finding enough food to eat.
"On the other hand, if we don't get enough food to eat for major periods of time, we run the risk of using protein within the body -- muscles, organs --for energy," he adds.
Bowring says that when you do not eat regularly, your insulin and glucagon levels get out of balance.
"When you finally eat, you may overeat too much of the wrong foods to fill you up, typically carbohydrates. Carbohydrates will spike the insulin levels, putting you in fat storage mode, instead of fat burning. This is one major reason we are seeing obesity levels rise, even though many are skipping meals."
She says the more we worry about our weight, the more we eat. We tend to make better meal choices when we worry less, she says.
"Due to great marketing campaigns and more food-focused media, food has become so much more than fuel and our obesity rates are showing it."
Parents need to educate their children about healthy eating, stresses Bowring, and that means they need to educate themselves first about what constitutes a healthy meal plan.
"Waiting until they are teenagers is much too late. Emotional health develops from early childhood and needs to be reinforced by parents acting as positive role models," says Bowring.
Raise strong women
Raise strong females who value themselves beyond the numbers on the scale. Psychologist Dan Kirschenbaum offers these tips:
* Encourage athletics and reinforce power and strength.
* Do not poke fun at anyone based on excess weight, and condemn such talk in your household.
* Point out examples of strong healthy and not excessively thin women -and describe them as beautiful.
accomplishments in school and talent/skills having nothing to do with weight; for example singing; creating beautiful essays or art.
* Get materials on accomplished women, including going to movies or renting movies about such people.
* Talk about the advantages of health and strength versus thinness.
* Parents should exercise regularly and encourage the same with their children, again focusing on health and strength.
* Point to the unrealistic thinness that they see in magazines and movies -and label it just that.
* Help daughters see the sexism in this excessive focus on thinness -noting that men are not held to that crazy standard.
* Find articles and books that make related points and encourage their daughters to read same.
Article ID# 2261019