Self-esteem and young black girls

Louisiana Weekly – WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Naomi Campbells and Tyra Banks – super models of the world – have no problems with gracing the catwalks of Milan and Paris with utmost confidence. Yet, many African-American girls are not able to even walk the halls of their schools with the same aura.

“I think it’s been an issue way before the 21st century, certainly for our ancestors,” says Angela Clay, author of the new book, “Loving the Me I See.”

The publication targets young girls everywhere, seeking to motivate and inspire females to maintain a healthy level of self-esteem.

Victoria Reese, a junior legal communications major at Howard University, and the youngest of three sisters, describes self-esteem as “an inner air about oneself that exudes confidence.”

KidsHealth, a website devoted to health issues for parents, children, and teens, claims that “self-esteem is the collection of beliefs or feelings that we have about ourselves, or our ‘self-perceptions.””

On the other hand, low self-esteem is the exact opposite, and the numbers underscore the truth.

According to studies in 2005 and 2006 by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, “92 percent of teen girls would like to change something about the way they look, with body weight ranking the highest.”

Clay says, “When I think of low self esteem, I think of a lack of self respect, a lack of self worth, not being able to see yourself as God created you to be.”

A motivational speaker and Bible class teacher, Clay laments that so many young women are “looking in the mirror and not loving what you see.”

In addition, other signs of low self-esteem are an unwillingness to try new things, a tendency to speak down about oneself, a low tolerance for frustration, an overly critical attitude, and easy disappointment, according to KidsHealth.

When it comes to African-American girls, there are several factors that could be contributing to the issue. In many instances, girls “believe what someone has told them over the years,” says Clay.

She notes that African-American women have dealt with their self-esteem for decades.

“We believed that my hair is better than your hair,” she points to stigmas that have been planted within the Black community since slavery, such as lighter or darker skin.

Even today, Clay struggles with those same features that are accepted within mainstream society. “Being an African-American woman, I wear my hair in its natural state, and African-American people look at me as if they were born without natural hair,” she says.

Other societal factors also play a role.

“Certainly the media plays a role in it. What we have to understand as a people is whatever we allow to saturate in our minds is what’s going to come out of our mouths,” says Clay.

Reese agrees.

“Media plays a monumental role on the self-esteem of young African-American girls today…Things such as music videos, commercials, unrealistic model shows, etc.,” she says.

The Dove study also found that “75 percent of teenage girls felt ‘depressed, guilty and shameful’ after spending just three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine.”

Many issues that plague teens as a whole have been linked to low self-esteem. The National Association for Self-Esteem, an organization that aims to “integrate self-esteem into the fabric of American society” states, “a close relationship has been documented between low self-esteem and such problems as violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, school dropouts, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement.”

However, Clay notes, “the apple ‘don’t’ fall too far from the tree.”

She stresses that nurturing from parents must begin when a child is born. Whether it is reading bedtime stories or listening to classical music, “once the baby comes out of the womb, they only know what they see,” she said.

This support is necessary until about the third grade because when the child hits fifth grade he or she is vulnerable and begins seeking the right direction, says Clay. From that point on, Clay says, parents must be extra-cognizant of their own self-esteem as well.

Clay recommends that parents “take time to sit down and understand” their own self-image so that they can then work to set an example for their child.

Having too older sisters, Reese says positive role models are also a must. “The solution that I would propose would be for young African-American girls to learn more about motivational Black women who they can look up to,” she says.

Overall, Clay believes that the African-American community as a whole still has a lot of work to do. She says, “Until we come to grips with our natural beauty, we’ll be plagued for quite some time.”


4 Responses to “Self-esteem and young black girls”

  1. February 16, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Slightly off-topic, but I think very little of Dove campaigns. It’s absurd to tell women in the U.S. that they are perfect the way they are to sell products yet their parent company repeatedly tells Central+South American and Indian women that they are too dark and that all will be well if they buy the product and become “Fair and Lovely.” I just saw a bunch of them at the Indian grocery store.

  2. June 10, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Many African women and girls are secretly suffering from improper removal of hair extensions, braids, braiding hair extensions and add-on hair, fusion, bonding hair glue, weaves and dreadlocks.. It is affecting our selfesteem and self worth. These add-on hair styles should be adorned by choice, not because self inflicted baldness and hair damage.

    Many women are even hiding their baldness from their husbands.

    Our mission is to maintain and preserve your God given beauty

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  3. October 7, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Black women have been stereotyped for many many years. We have pursued through blood, sweat, and tears for acceptance for who we are and what we stand for. We have marched alongside our BLACK men and fought for equality and natural born rights.

    My, how our ancestors and predecessors would be proud to see how we have evolved from that time. How proud they must be to see that their work has paid off to the point where we as BLACK WOMEN can scantily parade ourselves in front of the cameras as proud as we want to be calling each other bitches and whores, shaking our booties in from the camera with such divine talent, playing the roles as the ghetto baby mammas and crack-head stripper prostitutes… should I continue?

    Where are we headed ladies? Do we blame the parents for the fact that a lot of our girls strive to be strippers and “video vixens” as soon as they hit 18? Do we blame the fathers for not being strong positive role models for our girls and examples of what characteristics a young girl should look for when coming into the age of knowing what qualities to expect from a husband? Do we blame the media for glorifying naked black assess and breasts all over the airwaves? The rappers for glorifying stacks of money, bling, and a bad “bitch” on his side without any respect for self or otherwise… only for the almighty dollar?

    Where and how do we start to remedy a situation that goes deeper than television, mommy and daddy’s examples, etc? This is a cycle. The longer we continue to glorify and glamorize stupidity, ignorance, nakedness, and the fact that the black woman cannot be taken seriously with her clothing ON… with her breast securely tucked away in her shirt so that when approached it is her mind that awes the contender and not the oh’s and ah’s of her cleavage.

    When will we wake up Black America? When will we learn that it is not the white man we are competing with anymore… it is not the white man that is holding us down and stereotyping Black America… it is Black America that is at fault. Us, we are our own worse enemy and destroyer and when we realize that, maybe we will begin to unite for a common cause. Maybe then and only then we will lessen the demise of Black America and the destruction of the mothers and nurturers of our society.

    Kiianah M. Johnson
    Sistrs For Power

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