Body image and "Operation Self-Worth"

. March 21, 2013.

For her Girl Scout Gold Project last year, Notre Dame Academy senior Alyssa Tomcho created “Operation Self-Worth,” a two-week curriculum for young girls at the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo. Her program made a lasting impression on the young girls served by the organization — so much so that it will be added to the organization’s regular programming. We sat down with Alyssa to talk about the meaning of self-worth and the meaning of confidence for teenage girls.

What does “self-worth” mean to you?
To me, it just means that you’re comfortable in your own skin. You realize that there are imperfections in your body, but you can overlook those and see that you have value and that you are worth something to so many people in this world.

So does your self-worth program have to do primarily with body image?
A lot of it is on body image. I talked a lot about how the media and culture distorts our body image. I tried to relate it to our lives and how we can be comfortable with our body image and help others to be comfortable with it, too.

When you were implementing these things with elementary and early middle school age girls, did you see that it had an impact on them even though they were so young?
I was a little worried that maybe they wouldn’t understand some of the stuff, but one of the things that I did was little surveys asking them how they felt about themselves and if the program was making a difference. A lot of them at the beginning were saying they didn’t feel comfortable with their bodies. By the end they were circling answers like “I feel good about myself.”

You seem like the model of a self-assured teen girl! Have there been times in your life where you’ve struggled with confidence?
Definitely, and that was how I became  so passionate about it. During my junior high years, it was just really rough for me. I just didn’t really have good experiences with my friends. After I transferred to Notre Dame Academy, I think  that I grew a lot more and started to feel more comfortable with myself just because of the people that I was surrounded by.

For young girls who haven’t had the opportunity to go through your program, do you have any advice about self-worth?
I think mostly you have to surround yourself with people that will help you to feel good about yourself, and you need to take that additional step to work on your confidence and reflect on your life.  Do stuff that makes you feel good about yourself and don’t let anyone bring you down, even if they say mean things to you.