I had the opportunity today to do some early prevention work with a group of ten darling and chatty 7year old girls during their Brownie meeting. For those of you who don’t know, the development of an eating disorder tends to start around the age of 7-10 years old. Almost every time I ask one my clients when they had their first thoughts about their body, starting to develop self-esteem issues and even start disordered eating, the majority say it is around those ages. What I didn’t tell these little girls yet (might wait till girl scouts) is that they are about to hit some hormonal changes which will cause some of them to be more “chubby” and NO that does not mean they need to diet. Their body is doing exactly what it should be doing. What I did talk to them about was my favorite topic – understanding your self-worth. I had my work cut out for me, they had yet to hear the words “self-esteem” or “self-worth” and had their hands raised to tell me something about their dogs or toy and thought that just maybe this would be over their heads. But I persisted.
I luckily I had a penny in my pocket that looked like it had a few rough days. They understood that a penny is worth 1 cent. Even if it was a brand new penny or a sad looking penny it didn’t change its worth. And like this penny, if they did bad on a test or lost a race or finished first, their worth doesn’t change either. We went to discuss what is worth money and what is not. Hmm, maybe a toy that they have had forever isn’t “worth” much to them, but their mommy they couldn’t come up with a value. We were able to discuss how all humans are born with the same worth. We all born precious, unique and imperfect. Yes, even Obama has the same worth as them and even the person sitting right next to them. When asked what is special about Obama they said the differences are that he is taller, has a bigger house, works harder and is older. But could also see that he was born making messes in his diapers, crying, and probably threw some temper tantrums too.
To show them that they are all unique, I had them put their thumb print on the middle of a page that symbolized their heart and then draw how they see themselves with the heart as their center. I am not an art therapist, but do want somebody to interpret why one girl drew herself as a cat, but the rest did an amazing job. They took magnifying glasses to study each others heart to see the differences and similarities.
I may not have made an impact on whether they have a future eating disorder. But I do believe they heard for the first time that they are perfect just the way they are even if they never reach first place.
By Heather Baker, LCSW