…through Project DARE! sessions which utilise different techniques that teach and hone tools that tap away at insecurities, bring out confidence and inspire the love of the body in a celebratory, innovative and fun way.
This is an important part of every day life because people’s insecurities over their body or the way they perceive themselves to look can hamper the way they live their lives to the fullest.
Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself. That’s why it’s called SELF-esteem. It’s how you describe a person’s self-worth and value. Both unfortunately and fortunately is essential for survival in the western world and for our normal healthy development. Self-esteem arises automatically from within; based upon people’s beliefs, thoughts, behaviours, feelings and actions towards themselves.
People with high self-esteem know themselves well. They’re realistic and find friends that like and appreciate them for who they are. People with high self-esteem usually feel more in control of their lives and know their own strengths and weaknesses.
Our internalised sense of what we look like. The belief that you are at your most beautiful when you are healthy – healthy in body and in mind. A feeling that results when you give up the mission to mould and shape yourself. You make a commitment to take care of yourself, inside and out. Body confidence breeds a positive body image. It enables us to see ourselves through a meaningful lens, not a superficial one.
“What would life be like, if you woke up every morning, looked in the mirror, and told yourself you were beautiful every day?”
How we evolve
We are supported by an Advisory Group that helps keep our DARE! sessions as current and innovative as possible. This is made up of up to 12 individuals, across different walks of life, united by their passion to help people love their bodies.
What do the Project DARE! psychologists say?
The journey into an eating disorder and the road to recovery
By their very nature eating disorders are secretive creatures. Most people with an eating disorder become very skilled at hiding their difficulties from the outside world. This means that the experience is a very isolating, lonely one, which can cause the individual affected to further withdraw from the people that care about them. All too quickly the eating disorder takes such a powerful hold that before long it has the individual affected convinced that they, the eating disorder, is their only true ‘friend’.
Our understanding of the causes of eating disorders has rapidly expanded in recent decades, and we now know that these causes come from a wide range of sources. Often societal pressures and expectations about the ‘body beautiful’ are involved, and it is this that has been blamed for the worrying increases in the numbers of people experiencing eating disorders, and the alarmingly young age at which children are developing these problems.
However, when you explore each individuals ‘journey’ into their eating disorder the same common threads are usually discovered. Feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth from childhood, a tendency towards perfection and self-criticism, and relationship difficulties within the family system are all common causes of eating disorders. Yet each individual’s journey is also in its own way unique, which is perhaps the reason why there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to treatment of them.
What may work for one individual may not work for others, and there a range of treatment approaches out there, it’s just about finding the combination of treatments that works best for each individual. Counselling, cognitive-behavioural therapy, group and peer support, medications and inpatient treatment have all benefited many individuals on their road to recovery, a road that can be a difficult and long one. Recent research has shown that it takes around 7 years for someone to fully recover from an eating disorder such as anorexia, and often what is most important on the journey to recovery is having the strength to keep going even when you feel you’ll never be free.
This is something I have my own first-hand experience of, as the majority of my 20’s were spent overcoming anorexia that first took hold at the age of 11. If as a teenager I had been given the information and support Ursula’s workshops contain I may have been able to develop a healthier relationship with my body, and with food, that might have prevented me from travelling down the road to anorexia, and subsequently the long, road to recovery.
Ursula’s workshops are unique as they specifically support each individual young person to nurture a positive relationship with themselves, and to care for and celebrate their body and mind. It is this kind of holistic, preventative support that young people need, and exactly the kind of approach that is required if we are going to impact on the shocking statistics around eating disorders.
I think of self-esteem as a concept developed by the western world
I think of self-esteem as a concept developed by the western world. Do people struggle with self-esteem as much in developing countries where the media has less of a voice? I think that there’s almost an expectation that we ‘should’ have self-esteem and if we don’t then there’s something wrong with us! Ursula’s workshop is getting at something really important – it is acknowledging the influence of powerful institutions such as the media and fashion industry on how we feel about ourselves individually and as a society. In my opinion, self-esteem is a concept constructed by our society – we need to have it to protect us because society does such a good job of ripping it to shreds! Not only does Ursula’s workshop acknowledge these societal influences, but she also empowers individuals to challenge and adapt unhelpful ways of thinking about themselves, in a fun, creative and collective manner. What an original and fantastic idea. Where do I sign up?!
A body-image perspective
It would be fair to say that self-esteem and body image are intrinsically linked… “I feel rubbish about myself – therefore I feel rubbish about my body”. And there are so many factors, both environmental and personal, which contribute to both poor self-esteem and an affected body-image.
The issue at hand here is how do we heal our negative thoughts about our bodies and ourselves? Well, it’s definitely not easy with the constant deluge of media messages that thin = beautiful; glamourising stick thin models in glossy adverts. Especially when they’re simultaneously giving us conflicting messages, bombarding us with adverts for snacks and unhealthy food, tempting us with food, and criticising celebrities for being too thin and accusing them of having eating disorders. Confusing, huh?
Then I got to thinking – have eating disorders increased because they are so widely publicised, therefore laying the idea in vulnerable people’s minds (broadcasting thinness as glamorous and successful), or are the media simply portraying the epidemic proportions of eating disorders as they are? Essentially, it’s a chicken or egg scenario – what came first- the media banging on about eating disorders and increasing the numbers who suffer from them, or the eating disorders themselves?
The media certainly have a lot to answer for. And then we’re just left with all these conflicting messages to deal with alone. And equally as vulnerable, if not more so, than we were before. I see so many patients who come to see me literally despising their bodies – wanting to rip their flesh off and hurl it at the wall. They often see this as a surface problem at first – stating “society expects me to be thin” or “I just hate my body and it’s that which is making me unhappy” – but every single patient, without fail, discovers something deeper linked to a pre-existing unhappiness within themselves which emerges upon therapeutic exploration.
What we need in times like this is support. Guidance. Empathy. Understanding from others. Identification with peers who are experiencing similar worries. Permission to see ourselves as beautiful whatever our size. This is what Ursula is seeking to facilitate through her inspiring workshops. They are truly outstanding in allowing us to connect with our bodies, understand our bodies and essentially love our bodies. The media will always be there. But we have to find a way to block their confusing messages out. To look at our bodies and “live” in and “be” in them. Our bodies will always be there wherever we are. We can’t escape them. Better to learn to love them and be happy, than spend the rest of our lives despising them and being unhappy.