The Big-Fish-Little-Pond Effect (BFLP)

The concept of BIG-FISH-LITTLE-POND was first observed by Australian educational psychologist Herbert W. Marsh and colleague. The effect was published in an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1984. The findings were substantiated in a survey of 4,000 15-year-olds, carried out in 26 countries by Marsh and associate. The findings were published in the Journal of American Psychologist in 2003.

The big-fish-little-pond effect refers to the propensity of equally able schoolchildren to show lower academic self-esteem when attending a school in which the average ability level of other children is high than when it is low. The phenomenon is believed to be the outcome of social comparison processes, and it means that children who attend academically selective schools have a low level of academic self-esteem as compared to when they attend academically non-selective schools.

According to the theory, children who study in higher-achieving schools compare themselves with their peers and consider themselves less capable, while equally performing students in lower-achieving settings have more confidence. The effect is evident across all subjects, be it math or science or history, and at all levels of education. Students from both low-income and high-income background exhibit it. And countries all around the world see it.

Researchers have observed that when you are a “big fish” (high-achieving student) in a “little pond” (lower-achieving school), you have a more positive academic self-concept. Conversely, when equally talented students (little fish) are in high-achieving environments (big pond), they compare themselves with their peers and conclude that they don’t measure up.

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Choose Wisely: People Around You Affect Your Body Image

Hanging out with people who are not consumed by their appearance is beneficial to your body image and can improve your eating habits, a new study by the researchers from the University of Waterloo revealed. The study appeared in Body Image, An International Journal of Research.

The researchers examined how body image is influenced by social interactions. In consonance with the previous findings that being around people preoccupied with their bodies was detrimental, the researchers also found that spending time with people who are non-body focused had a positive effect on the body image.

“Our research suggests that social context has a meaningful impact on how we feel about our bodies in general and on a given day,” said Kathryn Miller, PhD candidate in clinical psychology at Waterloo. “Specifically, when others around us are not focused on their body it can be helpful to our own body image,” she added.

Allison Kelly, a psychology professor in clinical psychology at Waterloo and former Waterloo undergraduate Elizabeth Stephen had also joined Miller in this study.

In the study, researchers asked 92 female undergraduate students aged 17 to 25 to complete a daily diary over seven consecutive days and reflected on their interactions with body focused and non-body focused people.

The researchers assessed the frequency of participant’s daily interactions with body focused and non-body focused individuals, their degree of body appreciation, i.e., how much one values their body irrespective of its size or shape, and body satisfaction, and whether they ate intuitively in accordance with their hunger and cravings rather than fixating on their dietary and weight goals.

According to Kelly, “Body dissatisfaction is ubiquitous and can take a huge toll on our mood, self-esteem, relationships, and even the activities we pursue.” She further added, “It’s important to realize that the people we spend time with actually influence our body image. If we are able to spend more time with people who are not preoccupied with their bodies, we can actually feel much better about our own bodies.”

The findings also revealed that spending more time with non-body focused people may help in preventing disordered eating and promoting more intuitive eating.

Miller contends, “If more women try to focus less on their weight or shape, there may be a ripple effect shifting societal norms for women’s body image in a positive direction. It is also important for women to know that they have an opportunity to positively impact those around them through how they relate to their own bodies.”

Also read 8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image

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8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image

Body image is a term that has gained significant importance in recent years, thanks to the recognition of its importance and role in an individual’s well-being. Body image refers to how a person views his/her physical appearance; it is a mental representation of how a person looks on the outside and how a person thinks or feels about this physical appearance. This perception is based partly on a person’s observation of self and partly on the reactions of others. In other words, our body image is formed not only by how we see ourselves on the outside, but it is also formed by how others react to our physical appearance. A lot of social factors such as media, culture, community, internet, etc. play a critical role in shaping our body image.  This body image can be positive or negative. A negative body has, however, been linked with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and poor overall well-being. A person with negative body image has often been found to resort to unhealthy measures or extreme steps to attain a more positive body image like, crash dieting, plastic surgery, etc.

At the same time, a person who has positive or high self-esteem has been empirically found to have a positive body image as well. As far as gender is considered, more women have been found to suffer from poor body image as compared to men. However, this trend is changing fast, as more men are becoming concerned about how they look.

Overall, following factors have been found to influence a person’s body image:

a. How he/she views his/her physical appearance. This perception can, however, be incorrect.

b. How he/she feels about this perception, referred to as the affective aspect of body image. Whether he/she is satisfied or not with his/her physical appearance.

c. The behavioral aspect of body image which involves the behavior that one engages in as result of his/her body image.

d. And lastly, the cognitive aspect of body image which includes how one thinks about his/her body image. This may involve preoccupation with one’s physical appearance or one aspect of it.

Having negative body image can be a cause of major distress to a person and can greatly affect his or her overall well-being. In present times of social media, we are frequently and sometimes indirectly, bombarded with images of beauty standards which constantly and continuously shape our notion of ideal beauty, and unfortunately, give rise to insecurities. However, the suggestions given in this post can help you keep all the insecurities at bay and build a positive and healthy body image.

1. Positive self-esteem: As mentioned earlier, people with negative body image suffer from low self-esteem. At the same time, it has been found that, people who have positive or high self-esteem tend to have positive body image. So if you feel dissatisfied with your body image, you probably need to boost your self-esteem. This works in two ways. Low self-esteem can lead to negative body image and negative body image can lower your self-esteem. So in either situation, building a positive self-esteem can help you build a positive body image. When you value yourself highly, you are less likely to view your physical appearance in a negative light.

2. Find healthy role models: We are greatly influenced by the public appearance of stars or celebrities. We follow them on their instagram or facebook. We often find them perfect and flawless and start comparing ourselves with them. In doing so, we forget that what we are looking at is perhaps the result of long hours of makeup session, photoshop, and lighting, etc.

Alas we have been taught throughout history that “fair is beautiful.” And we often tend to feel inadequate or less worthy if we are not fair or have dark complexion. This has a detrimental effect on the body image. If you too feel that way, it is time to find such role models who can give a boost to your self-esteem. Celebrity tennis player Serena Williams is a good example of an achiever whose body color could not stop her from attaining great success.

3. Stop comparing: You are you and that is your power. In order to build positive body image, you need to stop comparing yourself with others. Accept yourself. Unreasonable comparison leads to disappointment. You need to understand that each of us is different, and this difference is what makes us unique. Start appreciating yourself.

4. Appreciate yourself: Remember, your body is your first home. Appreciate how your body helps you achieve your goals and dreams. Your body is doing a lot to help you move forward. If you feel you are overweight and you need to lose weight, then go ahead. But don’t do it just to impress others or you hate your body fat. Instead do it for yourself and for your body because it is healthy.

5. Accept yourself: When it comes to our body we need to understand that there are some things we cannot change while there are other things that we can surely work on to improve. For example, you cannot change your height, complexion, whereas if you are underweight or overweight, you can definitely do something about it. Attempting to change things that cannot be changed will only lead to disappointment and frustration, and will further deteriorate your body image. Accept yourself just the way you are.

6. Realistic expectations: It is important to set realistic expectation from ourselves, especially, for young children, who are blinded by popular figures in the entertainment industry. As mentioned earlier, there are certain things about our body over which we have no control and which we cannot change. So for a young teenager who wants to become a supermodel like his or her role model but is unfortunately not tall enough, having such an expectation can be unrealistic. And this can lead to poor body image.

7. Focus on your strengths: We all may not possess attributes of supermodels or movie stars like great figure, height, or flawless complexion, but we should never forget that we all have strengths of our own. And if we start focusing on our strengths instead of focusing on our weaknesses and the things we don’t possess, we all can become the best version of ourselves.

8. Take care of yourself: Eat healthy, get quality sleep, and love yourself. If you need to lose weight do it in a healthy way. Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Isn’t it ironic that you tell every important person in your life how much you love him/her, and how much you care, but you seldom tell this to yourself? Next time when you see yourself in the mirror, don’t forget to say “I love you.” Once you start taking care of yourself and loving yourself, you can never feel or think bad about your own self.

Also read 8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

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10 Techniques to Help Your Child Resist Peer Pressure

As our kids grow, they experience an urge to fit in with their friends or peer. This desire to gel with the kids of their own age group, called peers is quite common among growing children. As they grow, they become more concerned about what others think of them, especially kids of their own age group. And in an attempt to seek approval from others, they engage in life-threatening activities like overspeeding or rash-driving or fall victims to risky behaviors like smoking, drug abuse, cheating, theft, etc. This feeling that one must do the same things as other kids of one’s age do, in order to be liked or be a part of their group is called peer pressure.

However, peer pressure is not always negative, it can be positive as well. A positive peer pressure is when the child is influenced to perform better at studies, or take part in activities like sports, or join drama club at school because all his or her friends are  doing so. When peer pressure is positive parents don’t have to worry. However if you suspect that your child is falling prey to negative peer pressure, you must not take it lightly and rather address it properly. As a parent your job is to help your child learn techniques to deal with peer pressure. Here are some of the techniques that you can use to help your child resist peer pressure:

1. Make your child understand what negative peer pressure is: Often children are unaware of the concept of peer pressure and how detrimental it can be to their overall wellbeing. Knowing how peer pressure works can help your child identify and defy it. Sometimes your child’s friends might be using the method of emotional blackmail to make him or her conform. Knowledge about peer pressure will help your child identify such situations and act rightly. For instance, when your child’s friends force him or her to go to a night party if he/she wants to remain part of the group, he/she will be better equipped to make the decision.

2. Lead by example: Like kids, adults too sometimes fall prey to peer pressure. When adults feel obliged to go on a vacation or buy some fancy dress just to maintain their status, that’s peer pressure. Kids observe their parents and follow what they see them doing. You are your child’s first teacher, and also his or her role model. Your child learns a lot from watching how you act. If the child sees you dealing with the peer pressure in a healthy and rational way, he/she would learn doing so. Set a good example for your children and let them learn from you how to resist peer pressure.

3. Know your child’s friends: It is important to know about your child’s friends to find out whether they are a bad influence or a good influence. Invite them over, interact with them, and try to understand their value system. Help your child understand about the qualities of good friends. Help your child understand that a friend who puts conditions cannot be a good friend.

4. Spend quality time with your child: As children grow, especially during adolescence, they start spending more time with their friends and less with their family. We as a parent, also sometimes become so busy with our daily responsibilities that we don’t find time to interact with our children; also sometimes we think that they don’t need that much care and attention, which is a misconception. As children enter adolescence, life challenges become more serious and the children often feel confused about how to deal with such challenges. Most children start smoking or try drugs or alcohol during adolescence in an attempt to become popular or look cool in front of their peers. Therefore, it becomes even more critical that you, as a parent, are there for your child. Make a schedule to spend some time with your child on a daily basis—may be a dinner together or going for a walk with your child, etc.

5. Communication: Keep communication channels open with your child. Let them know that they can come to you whenever they feel like and talk about anything with you. Have regular conversations with your child as you both spend some quality time together. Find teachable moments in your day-to-day conversations. Be a good listener, and hold yourself from overreacting if they share something alarming. Your reaction will determine the probability of whether they will share their secrets or problems with you in future.

6. Teach decision-making skills: Decision making is a skill that can be easily learned. Help your child learn this skill by giving situations where he or she needs to choose one option out of two or more. Teach your child the concept of pros and cons and how to weigh each option on pros and cons. You can give imaginary situations which involve decision-making and encourage your child to think through each option with possible future consequences. You can even use role-play to help your child better understand the situation and decision making involved.

7. Prepare response: It is often better to prepare some responses for a possible situation where the child might face peer pressure in advance so that these responses come handy. This is important in cases where the child is young and has not yet mastered the skill of resisting peer pressure. Sentences like, “Maybe some other time,” “Sorry, I have some work at home,” “Sorry, but I am not feeling well today, next time” can help your child instantly resist peer pressure. Make your child practice these sentences in role-play, like when someone asks him to drive, go for a night out, or to try smoking. Also teach assertiveness techniques to your child and how to say NO in such situations. Assertiveness requires practice; therefore, create role-plays to help your child master assertiveness.

8. Boost your child’s self-esteem: Children who are confident and have high and positive self-esteem are less likely to succumb to peer pressure because they don’t rely on others for acceptance. Build your child’s self-esteem by pointing out their strengths and by praising your child’s positive behaviors. Give them opportunity to voice their opinions and also value their opinions even if they sound incorrect or unrealistic. By respecting their views and opinion you will help them become more confident.

9. Hobbies: Encourage your child to take part in hobbies or activities other than studies. This will not only help your child gain positive self-esteem, but will also bring your child in contact with like-minded friends or better role models among peers.

Set healthy rules: Rules are very important provided they are healthy and not unreasonable. Rules not only help your child feel safe, they also give you, as a parent, a ready model of resisting pressure. When your child sees you refusing to give in to his or her unreasonable demands they also learn how to assert oneself under peer pressure and say no. Rules also provide order to the situations that are challenging. Setting limits for screen time, staying out at night, or going out for a party with friends are good examples of healthy rules.

8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem refers to how one views oneself in terms of one’s own self-worth. One can have a very high opinion of oneself or low, or in-between. Everyone can have doubts about one’s abilities at some point in their life. Feeling low about one’s self-worth can lead to lots of negative effects like, feelings of insecurities, self-doubt, or demotivation. Reasons could be anything, from being bullied to experience of failure in some exam/job interview, or it could be a heartbreak or rejection in love, or experiencing inability to maintain relationships. These experiences can lead to low self-esteem, which in turn can hamper the ability of an individual to bounce back from such experiences. There are also personality factors which predispose a person to have a low self-esteem. In either of the case, it becomes more imperative to help oneself or our loved ones to build healthy and positive self-esteem. High and positive self-esteem has been shown to enhance a person’s success at workplace, relationships, and also his or her mental and emotional wellbeing. It, however, does not mean that you have to be perfect in everything or in every role of your life, to have a healthy self-esteem.

A positive and healthy self-esteem is knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, acknowledging one’s flaws and not being overwhelmed by them and knowing that one does not have be perfect to be happy; it’s rather being happy with one’s imperfections. Here are some powerful ways to boost your self-esteem. But before we start, you need to keep only one thing in mind when it comes to self-esteem, that it is based on your opinion about yourself, what others think or feel doesn’t matter, so you need to work on yourself and on your own thoughts alone. Once you are able to view yourself in positive and healthy manner, what others think of you or how others make you feel won’t matter. You will be the in charge of your life and your thoughts.

1. Be kind: The biggest irony is that we are able to show kindness to others but when it comes to ourselves, we become the meanest or stingiest person. We are willing to discount or ignore other’s imperfections or failures sometimes, but when it comes to our own failures or flaws, we leave no stone unturned to blame ourselves. It is high time that your start showing some kindness to yourself as well. Failing at one aspect doesn’t make you a failure. Like, you can be bad at mathematics but you can be expert in some other subject. Same goes with every aspect of one’s life. Therefore, stop lowering your self-worth over one incident or aspect of your life, and start focusing on your strengths instead. Use positive self-talk to bolster up your self-esteem and challenge any negative thought that comes to your mind and makes you feel less worthy. Besides, never compare yourself with anyone. Your self-worth is based on how you think of yourself not how you think about others or how they think about you. Be your own biggest supporter and encourager.

2. Self-care: Take good care of yourself. Set your health as your first priority. Eat regular healthy balanced diet, incorporate lot of fresh fruits, and plenty of water in your daily diet. Having a sound and quality sleep is very important for how you feel. Lack of good sleep makes you feel irritable and lowers your productivity. Avoid alcohol and other recreational drugs when you feel low about yourself; these only make things worse and, in fact, hampers your natural abilities to deal with challenges. Include daily exercise like aerobics or morning walk in your daily routine. Exercise makes you feel good. Go out; spend some time in parks or green surroundings.

3. Focus on the positives: To maintain a healthy self-esteem, it is important to focus on the positive things. No success is small; celebrate your accomplishments and achievements, even if not too remarkable. This will especially help you in situations of self-doubt and will let you focus on your abilities. Don’t forget to praise and appreciate yourself for every achievement. Remember failures are part of life and not the end. Take your failures as learning experiences and appreciate your efforts.

4. Make an inventory: Sometimes in situations of self-doubt or circumstances where our perseverance is challenged, it is helpful to make a list of things that you like about yourself as a person. Prepare a list of your strengths or qualities about yourself that you appreciate. No matter how small that quality may seem, write it down. You can even ask others about what they like about you or what qualities they appreciate. These could be skills, traits, beliefs, talents, achievements, etc. Go through these on daily basis to maintain a healthy and positive self-esteem.

5. Explore your talents and hobbies: Make effort to indulge in activities that help you relieve stress and bring out something new about you. These should be activities other than your routine tasks, e.g., gardening, painting, music, cooking, etc. These activities help you explore your competencies and give you immediate gratification of accomplishment, which will, in turn, enhance your self-esteem.

6. Avoid perfection: Seeking perfection is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it encourages the person to strive for excellence and on the other hand, it can lead to feeling of failure, disappointment, dissatisfaction, or frustration. Research has shown that perfection has a link with depression as well. Instead of seeking perfection you should focus on completion. Try to give your best and don’t pressurize yourself with unrealistic expectations. Think of goals and expectations that are realistic and achievable.

This applies to personal life as well. Whenever you shout or get angry at your child or at your partner, this doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or a bad spouse. Or when you get rejected in love, this shouldn’t make you feel less worthy of love or affection. Or if you fail at a task at your workplace, it doesn’t, in any way, make you less capable as a worker. We all have weak moments in life where we don’t know the right way to respond or where things are beyond our control. These are times which should be taken as learning experiences. Without doubting yourself, you should learn from these experiences and move forward.

7. Accept compliments: People with low self-esteem often find it difficult to accept compliments from others, or they do not trust these compliments and sometimes don’t know how to respond to positive compliments from others. It is high time you start accepting compliments and enjoy the feeling of being appreciated without any apprehension or doubt. Practice in front of mirror on how to respond when someone appreciates you. Saying a simple ‘thank you’ can be quite challenging for a person with low self-esteem.

8. Do something for others: When you experience low self-esteem, doing small favor for others or the environment and surrounding can help you achieve a feeling of accomplishment. Making someone feel good by giving them a nice compliment can help you achieve this. Helping others can help you achieve positive feelings about yourself.