Below are some ideas for leading a session with young people around the theme of self-esteem.

Media Collage 

On two sheets of flipchart paper draw the outlines of a man and a woman. Using magazines and/or the internet, have participants glue down images, slogans, etc. that identify how men and women should look, think, dress, act or feel.

Ask some questions once the collage is complete:

  •  What are these adverts saying to you?
  • How do they make you feel?
  • Do you match their stereotypical imagery?
  • Why do advertisers use them?

Quote – “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence” – Frederick Douglass.

Explore what this quote means to the young people in your group (remember to explain any tricky vocabulary).

Multiple Intelligence Test

This is a fantastic way to help young people identify things that they’re good at and it allows for a discussion about what makes us all different and special.

By taking the test and finding out that there is more ‘to be good at’ other than sports for example, the young people will begin to find value in their interests and abilities, not just those their peers or society consider important.

Self-Esteem Debate

Split your group into two teams and have them debate the following question:

Does advertising and the media affect how young men and women feel about themselves – why or why not? Have one group arguing for and one group arguing against.

Allow them time to do the research and present their findings and opinions. Maybe have some guest judges who decide which side presented the best case.

Fan mail 

This is a tried and tested activity that I’ve used with a variety of groups. Encourage young people and their leaders to write their name at the top of a piece of paper. Put each piece of paper and a pen around the room randomly. Explain that everyone in the room needs to go around the room and at the bottom of the paper write something positive about the person whose name is at the top of the paper. It needs to be something thoughtful, if possible, rather than just ‘nice’ or ‘cool hair’. Try to refrain from comments about physical appearance.

Once they write their comments, they fold up the bottom of the paper to cover their comments. Put on some music and let the group begin. Each person does this and the paper gets folded up over each comment so that it’s private between the writer and the receiver.  Once everyone is done hand the papers back to each youth for them to read and keep.

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