Self-Esteem: You’re Beautiful; You’re Handsome Someone posted today on TMSWiki.org/forum that he’s having a problem with low self-esteem and it’s giving him back and leg pain. He isn’t alone. Low self-esteem, says Dr. Sarno in his book Healing Back Pain, is one of the common causes of back or other pain. Many people tend to bully themselves and think they’re not the smartest or nicest person, or they’re not as nice-looking as they’d like to be. Hey, not everyone can be Albert Einstein, Jay Leno, or look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt. We don’t have to, and we should look at ourselves and see we’re pretty darn smart, good, and good-looking. Some men and women, as well as boys and girls, think they’re too big and round in places, but they shouldn’t have low self-esteem because of their pounds or girth. Friends of mine who are both shall we say on the large side met because of their size and are among the happiest married couples I know. Some like ‘em big and round, some like ‘em small and thin, and some like ‘em hot. To each his own. Some teenagers, especially girls, are bullying themselves with low self-esteem because they don’t look like movie or television stars, or even as good-looking as some of their high school classmates. Some bully themselves to the extreme. I won’t mention the word. Some things are starting to be done about improving self-esteem. For one example, as a new public health campaign, New York City has begun a program to improve girls’ self-esteem in that city, and it could be adopted by anyone anywhere and of any age. Mayor Bloomberg is taking on the notions of beauty that are promoted by manufacturers of beauty products and professional image-makers with a campaign that tells girls that they are beautiful just the way they are. Mainly through bus and subway ads, the campaign aims to reach girls from about 7 to 12 years old who are at risk of negative body images that can lead to eating disorders, drinking, acting out sexually, suicide and bullying. But unlike Mr. Bloomberg’s ads to combat teenage pregnancy, smoking and soda-drinking, which are often ugly, revolting or sad, these ads are uniformly upbeat and positive. “I’m a girl. I’m funny, playful, daring, strong, curious, smart, brave, healthy, friendly and caring,” says one ad about a robust, laughing 12-year-old from University Heights in the Bronx. The ads show girls of different races and sizes, some playing sports and one in a wheelchair. Each one ends with the campaign’s overall slogan: “I’m beautiful the way I am.” City officials and experts in adolescent health said it is the first campaign aimed at female body image that they knew of to be carried out by a major city. Ads began going up on buses and in subways last week. The $330,000 campaign, called NYC Girls Project, will also offer physical fitness classes for girls through the parks department, a pilot program addressing self-esteem issues for girls at 75 after-school programs, and a Twitter campaign, #ImAGirl. A 30-second video will be shown in taxis, on YouTube, and on the campaign’s Web site, which will offer resources for parents and girls. The Paley Center for Media, in partnership with the city and Spark Movement, which works against the sexualization of women in media, has developed related programs that look at the representation of girls on television. Christopher Ochner, a researcher of obesity, eating disorders and nutrition at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in Manhattan, said the ads could be effective because they offered a more realistic picture than “the media’s portrayal of ideal beauty, which is still this stick-thin, crazy-thin” standard. Average girls, he added, look at fashion models and say, ‘If I’m not like that, then nobody’s going to need me or love me.’ ” City officials cited evidence in The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing and elsewhere that more than 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat, that girls’ self-esteem drops at age 12 and does not improve until 20, and that that is tied to negative body image. The campaign was conceived by an aide to Mr. Bloomberg, Samantha Levine, 38, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, who is serving as project director. Ms. Levine said she had been moved by stories of little girls wearing body-shaping undergarments and getting plastic surgery to improve their appearance. She said she had also been galvanized by reading the advice columnist Cheryl Strayed who said a failure of feminism was that women still worried about what their buttocks looked like in jeans. “I think being a woman in this society, it’s sort of impossible to not be aware of the pressures there are around appearance, around weight, around trying to always look a certain way,” Ms. Levine said. The idea so resonated among her colleagues that all 21 girls pictured in the campaign are the daughters of city workers, friends and friends of friends, who believed it was important to participate. None are professional models. One of the girls in an ad who aspires to be either police commissioner or the first black female President, said in an interview that some of her friends asked her if they were pretty. “I say you’re beautiful even if somebody tells you you’re not,” she said. “You have to keep your head up, don’t let anybody bring you down.” Her mother, a city services project coordinator for an agency that promotes volunteering, said she had eagerly stepped forward for the campaign. “I think every mom has those worries,” she said. “We can’t all be models, we can’t all be superthin.” This coming Tuesday’s TMSWiki forum call-in about Chapter 8 of Steve Ozanich’s book The Great Pain Deception is about what a doctor or others say about our health can register in us so we believe it. If a doctor says we have back pain because of a herniated disc in our spine or we have leg pain because we run too much or run on hard surfaces, we not only believe the medic but our pain may even feel worse because we believe them. But, as Dr. Sarno writes, the pain may not be structural but psychological, from our TMS repressed emotions. If you bully yourself or have low-self esteem you may be giving yourself pain, so consider building your image up the way New York is advising girls. One way to do that is, I hope you will go to the post about Tuesday’s call-in and then listen and join in. And think more positively about who you are and what you look like. You’re beautiful or handsome just the way you are. I know I am, and my dog agrees.