Does any of this sound familiar? “I’m too tall.” “I’m too short.” “I’m too skinny.” “If only I were shorter/taller/had curly hair/straight hair/a smaller nose/longer legs, I’d be happy.”
Are you putting yourself down? If so, you’re not alone. As a teen, you’re going through lots of changes in your body. And, as your body changes, so does your image of yourself. It’s not always easy to like every part of your looks, but when you get stuck on the negatives it can really bring down your self-esteem.
Why Are Self-Esteem and Body Image Important?
Self-esteem is all about how much you feel you are worth — and how much you feel other people value you. Self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect your mental health and how you behave.
People with high self-esteem know themselves well. They’re realistic and find friends that like and appreciate them for who they are. People with high self-esteem usually feel more in control of their lives and know their own strengths and weaknesses.
Body image is how you view your physical self — including whether you feel you are attractive and whether others like your looks. For many people, especially people in their early teens, body image can be closely linked to self-esteem.
What Influences a Person’s Self-Esteem?
Puberty and Development
Some people struggle with their self-esteem and body image when they begin puberty because it’s a time when the body goes through many changes. These changes, combined with wanting to feel accepted by our friends, means it can be tempting to compare ourselves with others. The trouble with that is, not everyone grows or develops at the same time or in the same way.
Media Images and Other Outside Influences
Our tweens and early teens are a time when we become more aware of celebrities and media images — as well as how other kids look and how we fit in. We might start to compare ourselves with other people or media images (“ideals” that are frequently airbrushed). All of this can affect how we feel about ourselves and our bodies even as we grow into our teens.
Families and School
Family life can sometimes influence our body image. Some parents or coaches might be too focused on looking a certain way or “making weight” for a sports team. Family members might struggle with their own body image or criticize their kids’ looks (“why do you wear your hair so long?” or “how come you can’t wear pants that fit you?”). This can all influence a person’s self-esteem, especially if they’re sensitive to others peoples’ comments.
People also may experience negative comments and hurtful teasing about the way they look from classmates and peers. Although these often come from ignorance, sometimes they can affect body image and self-esteem