There are so many things that have surprised me about counseling this year. How often I’m needed, how much the boys love coming to me, how many times the boys can tell me they’ve had lunch bunch, how many times I see boys doing exactly what my textbooks told me they’d be doing, how often I’d actually have parents thanking me . . . I could probably write an entire post about all the things that have surprised me.
But NOTHING surprised me more than the amount of boys I’ve seen who struggle with self-esteem issues. I thought this was primarily a “girl” issue. Yes, I know . . . way to be sexist, way to hold misconceptions, way to totally miss that by 3rd grade (even though I spent most of my teaching years in this grade) boys are becoming hard on themselves, embarrassed by most things, insecure about their decisions, the list goes on! I’m ashamed to even admit it.
I took the opportunity a few weeks ago to talk to the 3rd and 4th graders about this very topic. It manifested itself in 1st and 2nd grade as, what makes us different makes us special and if you care/love yourself then you can care/love others. What I began to notice was the 3rd and 4th graders had missed the part about caring and loving yourself, about realizing that because they might be different that only makes them special.
Topics Covered: Self-confidence development, Motivation to Achieve, Respect, and Trustworthiness
The self-esteem quilt was divided into three parts:
I explained what self-esteem was, why it’s important, and the meaning and differences between high and low self-esteem.
*What is it?*
I described self-esteem as something that plays a big part in how you feel about yourself. We broke the word into 2 parts: Esteem meaning that someone or something is important, special, and valuable. Self meaning YOU! So when put together, we realized that self-esteem basically means thinking YOU are important, special, and valuable.
We talked about the difference between bragging and appreciating yourself, as well as understanding what you are good and recognizing what you aren’t so good at. This was all part of self-esteem.
I had the boys recognize that perfection is impossible (a fact I’m still struggling with at 29). It is important to know your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. When we see ourselves in a realistic light, we are viewing the positives, knowing what we can improve on – therefore setting goals for ourselves, and understanding our truths.
*Why is it important?*
In other words, WHY are you in here talking to us about this Miss L?
It’s important and necessary to have positive self-esteem. This helps you to feel proud of yourself and it helps you make healthy, good choices in your life.
Self-esteem gives you the courage to try new things, even if that means failing on your first try. It also gives you the ability to make good choices. If you value and appreciate yourself, then you will be less likely to follow the crowd when people are making poor choices.
These are the people who do not think highly of themselves or they criticize themselves too much. These people do not feel good about themselves, they expect themselves to be perfect, and sometimes they don’t even see themselves as important. People with low self-esteem often give up easily, feel bad about themselves, and sometimes will even hurt themselves because their self-esteem is so low.
*Boosting your self-esteem*
It’s also important to understand that in life you’ll have your ups and downs – which is okay, but having low self-esteem is NOT okay. Feeling like you aren’t important can make you sad all the time and can make you scared to try new things. Trying new things is how we learn! We have to like ourselves before we can expect to like and care for others.
Self-esteem starts to improve when you start trying new things that you originally thought were too hard and then succeed. When we focus on our great qualities and the things that we have achieved, we learn to love and accept ourselves.
Part of growing up is appreciating our strengths and recognizing that we will need to work on our weaknesses. It won’t always be easy, but eventually we will succeed.
I shared Loretta Ace Pinky Scout by Keith Graves and we highlighted examples of low and high self-esteem found in the story. We also gave examples of what actions in the story resulted in high vs. low self-esteem.
We made our self-esteem quilts. With a square sheet of paper folded in half, I had the boys draw what it would look like if someone had high self-esteem in the top rectangle and what it would look like if someone had low self-esteem in the bottom rectangle.
I really wanted the boys to see the impact low self-esteem can have on the school environment, their levels of success, and their overall happiness.