Girls’ Soccer Coach Guides Team in ‘Building Self-Esteem One Letter at a Time’

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Courtesy of Jeralyn Newton

Jeralyn Newton introduces her hand lettering book “Building Self-Esteem One Letter at a Time.” The book contains a series of positive affirmations to direct its audience to a self-positive and uplifting attitude.

Jaein Kim and Madeleine Young

Girls’ soccer coach and science teacher Jeralyn Newton did not expect the copious replies of negative self-image and body image issues from her end-of-summer team check-in Google form.

To address this issue, Newton designed her hand-lettering book “Building Self-Esteem One Letter at a Time.” Starting with basic calligraphy skills, the book introduces a series of positive affirmations such as “I am strong” and “I am beautiful.” 

Newton said she hopes that the repetitive nature of hand-lettering and the positive word choice will help combat negative self-image and promote body neutrality.

“Quite a few responses had to do with my girls not feeling like their best selves and struggling with body image and self-esteem [that the] shutdowns brought on. I didn’t even probe or press in the question for responses like that,” Newton said. “It’s such an important, sensitive topic, and I wanted to find a different route to take: a way for them to see I care for them and their importance.”

Newton’s book is structured similar to a handwriting workbook for toddlers, with grey outlines of letters that writers follow along. Newton curated the words in a way that induces positive self-image from the writers regardless of age or gender.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I only have body image issues, or I struggle with self-esteem.’ I really see them as connected,” Newton said. “It’s you and your entire view of yourself and your presence on this planet. So if you are struggling with your body image, then it’s also about your self-esteem or vice versa.”

It’s you and your entire view of yourself and your presence on this planet. So if you are struggling with your body image, then it’s also about your self-esteem or vice versa.”

— Jeralyn Newton

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, 53% of adolescents are “unhappy with their bodies” by age 13. The number rises to 73% by age 17. The National Institute on Media and the Family largely attributes this to the media holding up thinness as the ideal. 

“Everyone’s body handles things differently… so our bodies change whether we eat more or not, especially at high school and during college,” Newton said. “It’s just a part of what your body goes through as it’s developing.”

Newton distributed her books to athletes on the girls’ soccer team at the beginning of the school year. Soon after, Newton received dozens of orders from students and staff as well as extremely positive feedback on the book.

I think something as simple as writing these little sayings and notes to ourselves pushes us to really internalize the messages that we are physically lettering, and so we hopefully start to believe them, I turn boosting self-esteem.”

— Celine Aoki

“I view the project as extremely beneficial because a lot of times I think we tend to overlook simple tasks that will help us build ourselves up and think of self-esteem as an out of control feature,” junior and girls’ varsity soccer player, Celine Aoki said. “However, I think something as simple as writing these little sayings and notes to ourselves pushes us to really internalize the messages that we are physically lettering, and so we hopefully start to believe them, I turn boosting self-esteem.”