Increasing Student Self-Esteem in a Media Saturated Society

As the #slowchathealth blog site celebrates its 3rd birthday I’m excited that Danielle Petrucci returns with another guest blog post. In addition to being MAHPERD’s 2018 Health Teacher of the Year, Danielle is also a Dove Self-Esteem Project Cadre Trainer and here she shares her views on student self-esteem and the great work done by the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

Increasing Student Self-Esteem in a Media Saturated Society

As a middle school Health Educator, watching a child grow physically, socially, mentally and emotionally is the most rewarding aspect of the course.  My role is to help the students develop skills to become more successful in both school and in life. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is how many students, primarily female, lose their self-confidence by the eighth grade. In fact, Dove stats show that 8 in 10 girls with low body confidence will opt out of important activities, such as raising their hands to voice their opinion. In my experience, in the sixth grade classroom these students would often participate in class, join every club, present in front of peers with confidence, and have opinions about being a leader to change the world.  By the time they were in the 8th grade, these same students would often be silent, pass up opportunities to lead, and become more concerned about “fitting in” rather than challenging the norm. I couldn’t understand what had happened. What changed? Was this a normal part of maturing adolescents or another underlying issue? How does a promising student regress into such a passive learner?

Professional and Social Media effects on body confidence

It’s no secret that middle school is the most difficult time in a child’s growth and development. According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, it is estimated between 40%-70% of adolescent boys and girls experience low body confidence. Low body confidence results in poorer classroom participation and performance, poorer psychological and physical health, and often opting out of basic life activities such as going to the doctor, joining a sport team or club, or even giving an opinion. According to scientific literature on adolescent girl’s body confidence commissioned by Dove, the following was found:

On Film and Media

  • 7 in 10 girls cannot relate to depictions seen across film, TV, and media today.
  • 72% of girls around the world feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful citing entertainment and media as a source of the pressure.
  • 6 in 10 girls believe the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty most women can’t ever achieve
  • 67% of girls wish the media did a better job of portraying women of diverse physical appearance – age, race, shape and size

On Social Media

  • 72% of girls encounter negative beauty posts, comments, snaps, videos or photos that are damaging to their self-esteem on a weekly basis.
  • 70% of girls believe social media has a strong influence on the way girls look.
  • Two-thirds (69%) of girls feel negative beauty posts are destructive to their confidence.
  • 62% of girls want to be taught how to use social media to empower girls about positive body image.

Too often these feelings and self-portrayal carry on into adulthood. See the infographic below:


As adults, educators, and parents we need to do a better job of understanding how our students are growing up in the 21st Century.  Our role is to assist these students in developing values and beliefs about their body and their place in this world through a multifaceted lens.  Young people need the support of caring teachers and adults to help them build skills to make healthy decisions. This is why I have signed on to be a member of the Dove Self-Esteem Project Cadre with Cairn Guidance, a Dove Partner.  

What is the Confident Me! curriculum?

Dove created the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) to make a positive impact on the global community.  The Confident Me! curricula is designed to promote body confidence in a classroom setting. The lessons are aimed primarily at 11-14 year old students, but can also be used with older girls and boys if you think it’s appropriate for your students. The free downloadable materials include a range of curriculum-relevant teaching resources, developed in collaboration with educators and students. Research has shown that students who participate in Dove Confident Me! workshops have improved body image and self-esteem, and they feel more confident to participate in social and academic activities helping students realize their full potential.

The core themes covered in Confident Me! include: Appearance Ideals, Competing and Comparing Looks, Media and Celebrities, and Body Talk. There are presentations, teaching guides (see image) and student worksheets available to facilitate discussions around body confidence issues. The curriculum is taught all over the world by Health Educators, Physical Education Teachers, School Counselors, and School Nurses and has been updated following the National Health Education Standards for use in the United States. Educators have a choice to teach the single lesson or the five lesson unit. It is recommended to teach the five lesson unit for the most optimal student learning outcome and use the single lesson as a refresher later in the year if time allows.  


Confident Me! in the Classroom

As I write about the lessons, I will be referring to the five lesson unit that I teach to my seventh grade students.  Each lesson is designed to build off of one another to engage students in the learning process. These lessons challenge students to implement change in the way they view media, celebrities, their peers, and themselves. There are multiple opportunities for students to use movement in the classroom along with effective teaching strategies to reach all students.  

I’ve noticed the teacher/student rapport has strengthened while teaching this unit. The students see that I am here to listen and understand their concerns.  It’s as if they have been waiting to talk about this issue for years but didn’t have the tools to help them express it effectively. Throughout the lessons students practice multiple National Health Education Skills such as Standard 2: Analyzing Influences (see image),

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 8.57.51 AM

Standard 4: Communication Skills, and Standard 6: Goal Setting (see image) to improve student health outcomes.


In lesson five, titled Be The Change, students have changed their perspective on body confidence where they are eager to create educational campaigns using infographics, videos, writing letters to companies, creating a Powtoon, and many other create ways to reach their peers.

One group project that had a surprisingly major impact on our school culture was when students placed positive messages on every mirror in the school restrooms.  These messages were all non-appearance related, reminding peers that they are more valuable than their looks, saying things like “You put a smile on my face today”, “I’m glad you’re here”, “Accomplish your goals today!”, “Be the best you can be!”, “Who cares what they may think, it matters what you think.”  Over the next couple of weeks these signs fell to the floor and I had a new group of students for the term, thinking that the idea was lost and forgotten. It wasn’t until a year later when the new seventh graders were in this unit many students said, “Ms. Petrucci was this why we saw those positive signs on the mirrors last year?”. I gasped! They remembered?  Yasssss!! Students told me that those simple messages made them feel like they were at a school where people didn’t judge you by your looks, but who you are as a person. They felt supported and seen as a human being instead of a filtered picture on Instagram. It’s not often that we see how our lessons impact our student’s life. Seeing that this unit made a difference in our school community made me realize that these lessons are more powerful than a week of classroom conversations, it made students think differently and created positive social and emotional change.

Every teacher’s style and every school culture is different. You can use the lesson guide and activities as a model, but feel free to change what works best for you.  Be creative and have fun with your students. Base the lessons off the needs of your school community and the resources you have available.

Incentives – Fill out the form, it’s free!

When we began the promoting Confident MeI we asked Dove if they could give teachers and students free samples of their brand products as an incentive to teach the curriculum. Dove said no and was adamant about keeping their product separate from their social mission that is DSEP. This is not about promoting the Dove brand, it is about making a difference in the lives of young people by building their body confidence.  Education and health are symbiotic and it is in our schools where we can make an impact on young people. Instead, Dove in partnership with Cairn will help fund an all-expenses paid trip for eighteen lucky educators to attend a state or national education conference of their choice in the efforts to provide valuable professional development. Educators (teachers, counselors, and nurses) can implement the single lesson or five lesson Confident Me! Middle School Program by December 1,

2018 for a chance to win. Fill out this form to enter for your chance!

For any question regarding the single or five lessons, please contact Danielle at

1 McNeely C, Blanchard J. 2009. The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development. Center for
Adolescent Health at John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
2 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. High School Survey, 2015. Retrieved from
3 Di Giunta L et al. 2013. The determinants of scholastic achievement: The contribution of personality traits, self-esteem, and academic self-efficacy. Learning and Individual Differences, 27, 102-108.

I work along side Dr Kate Kalnes and she too has a strong interest in this topic. She recently shared a tweet showing the bookshelf above her desk. If you are looking for further reading you might like to consider one of these titles for your #summerreads list.

If you liked this blog post from Danielle then you should also check out the following blog post:

The Future of Food: A Green Revolution – Another blog post from Danielle sharing details of the great hydroponics work that she does in her #healthed classroom.

Here are the #slowchathealth questions related to this weeks post:

Q1. How does poor body confidence impact students health, participation/achievement?

Q2. What examples of analyzing influences do you use around body image?

Q3. What impacts student beliefs on appearance ideals?

Q4. What self esteem, body image resources/people do you use/follow?

Q5. Go to for details of the competition mentioned in Danielle’s blog post



2 thoughts on “Increasing Student Self-Esteem in a Media Saturated Society

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook – June 2018 Edition – drowningintheshallow

  2. Pingback: She is Risen – #slowchathealth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s