Importance of Self-Esteem

Friday, July 21, 2006 12 Comments A+ a-

One of my strongest desires for Devyn is that she’ll grow up with a healthy self-esteem; sure of herself and who she is; to have the ability to overcome obstacles without falling to pressures from the outside world. This is so important to me that it’s quickly becoming a passion of mine.

I’ve mentioned before that my sister, Allison, struggled with anorexia between the ages of 14 and 16 years old. At her worst, she weighed 58 pounds and was hooked up to heart monitors for the doctors feared her heart would stop at any moment. It was one of the hardest and most trying times in my life; seeing her laying there and knowing that there was absolutely nothing I could do to help her, talk about feeling incredibly helpless. I can’t even begin to explain the hurt, the fear, and the pain that my family went through watching Allison slowly killing herself but not having the strength to heal. My heart hurts at the mere memory of it.

Do you want to know how it started? Her 14- and 15-year-old friends decided that they all needed to go on diets to lose weight, only Allison’s “diet” escalated out-of-control. I don’t know a single 14- or 15- or even 18-year old that “needs” to go on a diet. For the most part, these are young girls in the prime of their life, they should have been talking about make-up, boys, giggling about the latest heartthrob from Hollywood, playing sports, going on bike rides, or heading to the beach; anything but exchanging diet tips!

I’m afraid, however, that this nightmare has hit my family again. A few months ago, my youngest sister, Courtney, finally admitted to the family that she’s bulimic. With encouragement from her therapist to become more public with her eating disorder, Courtney has finally given me permission to write about it.

I’ll admit, this one was even harder to grasp than Allison’s, because even though Courtney was only 12 years old at that time, she saw what the anorexia did to our family. She remembers the pain, the hurt, and the fear and yet, this is the only way she can deal with problems in her life. We’ve known for some time that Courtney has had some weird food issues; constantly double-checking calories, refusing to eat anything over a certain calorie-intake, and exercising like a woman possessed. While I’m glad that she’s finally admitted to it and is trying to seek help, I’m absolutely terrified at the sister I now see in front of me; skeletal, jumpy, unsure of herself, and hurting. The hurt is so obvious to me and as the big sister, I want nothing more than to reach inside her, pull out the hurt, and take it all away. And again, it’s completely out of my control.

This time, it started with innocent comments from friends mentioning the “freshman fifteen” (where college freshman gain, on average, 15 pounds during their first year), or as I mentioned before, comparing herself to other friends. What started out as trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, has turned into something that is quickly spiraling out of her control. The hardest part is that I can tell she hasn’t even reached her breaking point yet, its going to get worse before it gets better. But at the very least, she can admit that there’s a problem, is seeking help, and is even moving back in with my parents for added support.

So, back to the first paragraph, maybe you can understand a little more why my desire is so great to raise Devyn with a healthy attitude about her body, herself, and who she is in God. I really don’t think I can survive going through this a third time…

I’m a coffee drinking, book reading, laundry procrastinating, husband and children loving, mess of a woman who believes that chips and salsa can fix anything. We have chickens running around the backyard, a mountain of dishes in the sink, and on any given morning, I have at least 10 school forms that need my signature or initials. It’s a crazy life {I prefer to call it controlled chaos}, but its ours.

12 comments

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Wendy
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5:21 PM delete

Thanks for sharing this. I can definitely see why this is so important to you. I am the oldest as well and it has been hard for me to see my little sisters struggle with different things in their life.

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7:27 PM delete

Wow. Prayers for your family as you walk alongside your sister. I have the same thoughts for my daughter (although I didn't struggle with anorexia, but eating to much to cover problems I was dealing with).

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Anonymous
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7:45 PM delete

The pressures of this world can be crushing at times. I am so sorry to hear this. I will be praying that the Lord will reveal to Courtney who she is in His eyes. I will be praying for the whole family as well.
Love, Dareth

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Tammy
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11:03 AM delete

Self esteem is so crucial and I am so sorry for the pattern of eating disorders in your family. I can see how hurtful and frightening it must be.

Although never to a dangerous point physically, I did go through a little of this during my teens for about a year. I was truly heading down a dangerous path toward anerexia...but thankfully, I was also trying to live for the Lord and He began to break through the bondage before it spiraled completely out of control. But He really did catch me in the nick of time!

Blessings to you and your family.

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Mary
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1:00 PM delete

Praying for your sisters and your family. I know it must be a struggle since you feel so helpless to help them.

I understand what you mean about self-esteem. I constantly try to guard Haley from the "I'm fat" or "You need to lose weight" or the image that girls must be stick thin. It's tough on anyone.

Hugs to you. :o)

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2:20 PM delete

Courtney is such a beautiful girl, it's so sad to learn about this. I remember how hard dealing with Allison's anorexia was for your entire family. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. I am here for you, if you ever need to talk. Love you, Missy

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Anonymous
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3:25 PM delete

As the mother of a later teen (19) who has struggled with low self-esteem for quite some time, my heart goes out to all of you and especially to your mom, Becky. Watching a child struggle so dramatically in life is perhaps one of the most difficult journeys of motherhood. Know you are all in our prayers honey...give Courtney a big hug from me and let her know how much she is truly loved! Debbie

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5:10 PM delete

Jenn,
As someone who has overcome anorexia in my early college days, I too want to help my daughter not to walk down this path. The very best thing you can do is to constantly show her how much she is valued by her Maker. Focusing on the inside, and what's there, is a big thing too. Also, having plenty of things that she can do/and or is good at, besides just looking cute! In the end, it is our prayers that will make a difference. Start praying now that Devyn's mind will be protected from Satan's lies.
Blessings, and I will pray fervently for you sister.

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Mrs Blythe
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3:36 AM delete

How painful for you and I totally understand why you are so keen that your children have high self esteem.

I remember where I used to work, food and calories and the guilt that many women feel about just eating a chocolate bun was the main topic of conversation (and even at church). If we take these conversations and attitudes home with us and discuss them with and in front of our kiddies the danger is that this may contribute to possible eating disorders in making food obsessions a part of daily life and 'normal'. In addition we should always be careful in how we speak to our children about their appearance. This is more important in influencing our children than all the hollywood images and magazines, beacause it is the foundation years of their self esteem.

I remember Dawn French, a larger lady who is a comedian in the UK, said that her father told her over and over as a child how beautiful she was. It built up her self esteem and enabled her to enjoy life and be happy with herself. She is a beautiful lady. I try to tell my children how pretty they are and how much I love them at every opportunity. And I mean it too.

We touched on these issues a little during my degree course in Psychology.

Blessings, I pray that God will heal your sister of her illness and her fears and bring her the peace and joy He wants to give her.

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dr_bristow
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9:45 AM delete

As I read this post my heart went out to your sisters...I struggled severely with anorexia during college, and I know firsthand the feelings of inadequacy and never being good enough that can go along with it. I will be praying for your sister, that she will be able to see herself as Christ sees her - completely beautiful and perfect just the way she is.
Recently, I've found the book "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldridge to be very encouraging and helpful in showing me who I am in Christ and how He sees me...this might be helpful for your sister also if she's old enough.

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Sarah
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7:36 AM delete

I once heard it said that the best way for us to keep our daughter's self esteems high is to have a positive self esteem and body image ourselves. It means not complaining about that little pudge or roll here and there, but rather celebrating our bodies for what they are and simply focusing on fitness and feeling good. I guess it does no good to pump our daughters full of positive messages and compliments if we bash ourselves and are discontent all the time. Something for us all to think about. I'm still trying to figure out how we justify boob jobs and tummy tucks and then turn around and tell our daughters that they are beautiful just the way God made them. I think that's something I'm really going to have to think and pray about if I'm ever tempted to get my stretched out stomach "fixed".
Sarah

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10:10 PM delete

I'll be praying for your sister - and for you to have the wisdom to know how to raise kids that are confident in the absolute, unconditional love of their parents. I don't think you can ever tell them too many times or show them in too many ways.

I do think you are off to a pretty good start letting Devyn know you are crazy about her!

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