Adolescent Girl Life Skill: Developing a Healthy Self-Image
General Adolescent Life Skills: Increasing Internal Self-Control
A girl’s perception of her own physical body is at the very heart of her identity. If she dislikes her body, or is not able to own and attach to her physical self because of trauma, impairment or negative conditioning relative to her size or shape, she will be inhibited from developing strength in any other aspect of her life. A girl who values her body is more likely to walk proudly, exercise bodily self-determination and feel truly empowered in daily life.
Girls around the world are discouraged from loving the natural state of their bodies. The media is constantly presenting unattainable images of beauty, which lowers a girl’s self-esteem because she does not look like the ideal. Girls are often sexualized and objectified, leading them to believe that their bodies exist for the pleasure and judgment of others, especially men. If a girl has been sexually abused, she might detach completely from her physical body, the site of a major emotional trauma. The concept of body awareness – of a girl looking at and owning the rhythms and strength of her body – is unknown.
Playing sport requires that girls be attached to their physical selves. They can feel their heartbeats, work on motor skills and coordination, and experience injuries and soreness. The physical becomes conscious when a girl runs, jumps, shoots and stretches. As a girl grows physically stronger and sees her body accomplishing athletically, she often becomes more confident and aware about of her body. The goal of body image development through sport should be to teach girls how to value the body they have, take care of and control it, and use it to their benefit.
For a girl with disabilities, addressing body image in sport programmes is especially important. A girl with disabilities carries the double burden of being a woman and physically different from their peers.
“Now, after playing [soccer] seriously for months, Robina is aware of her body in a new way. Before, it was her hands that were necessary to her: to carry water up the mountain to their house, to scrub the floors or to write out her lessons. But in soccer, they are useless. Now she’s discovered her legs, her balance, the speed with which she can run. And her forehead, which she uses to butt the ball. Before soccer, her legs and feet simply got her places or kicked at rubbish or stones in her way. Now she knows each part of her foot intimately, the way it curves on one side, perfectly contoured to the side of the ball. She knows the strength of the broad, smooth sweep leading up to her ankles, and the dense, solid circle of her heel, perfect for pivoting.” - Awista Ayub (Afghanistan)