Image and Self Esteem

Source: youthvoices.netSelf-esteem and body image are often at their lowest during teenage years. Youth can feel awkward, self-conscious and isolated. Preteens and teens are under tremendous pressure to conform images from the media, and messages from their peers about what is "cool" and will make them popular.

Self esteem issues usually begin in early childhood and persist throughout life, so addressing them as early as possible is important. Here's some facts about teen self-esteem:

  • Low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which an individual views him/herself as inadequate, unworthy, unlovable, and/or incompetent. Once formed, this negative view of self permeates every thought, producing faulty assumptions and ongoing self-defeating behavior.

  • Among high school students, 44 percent of girls and 15 percent of guys are attempting to lose weight.

  • Over 70 percent of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks.

  • 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating. This compares to 25 percent of girls with high self-esteem

  • Teen girls that have a negative view of themselves are four times more likely to take part in activities with boys that they’ve ended up regretting later.

  • The top wish among all teen girls is for their parents to communicate better with them. This includes frequent and more open conversations.

  • 7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.

Mentors can help their mentee feel valued and unique as individuals, and learn what it means to have a positive self image. One of the primary ways a mentor can help build their menthe's self esteem is by being a positive role model — nurture your own self-esteem and don't be critical of yourself!

You can also help your mentee identify irrational beliefs about themselves — whether it be about attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping them be realistic in evaluating themselves will allow them to build a healthy self-concept. By giving positive, accurate feedback, rather than generalized compliments, you help them begin to recognize their own skills, and perceive your support to be genuine. For example, you might say, "Wow, I can see you were angry with your friend, but it's great that you were able to talk it out with him rather than get in a fight."

When promoting healthy self-esteem, it's important to not have too much or too little but "just enough." Make sure your menthe doesn't end up feeling that if they're average or normal at something, it's the same as not being good or special.1

The articles in this section of the website will also explore many of the issues that relate to self-image — clothing, makeup, piercing — and how you can help your mentee navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence.


1. "Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem"


Entries in clothing (2)


What Do You Think?: Boys Projecting an Image

This article explores a scenario of a 12-year-old boy who tries to look older and cooler by emulating gang styles of dressing, and the consequences that has in his life. It includes interactive questions you can use to discuss this issue of "image" with your mentee, and tips on how to help your mentee develop their own personal, authentic, image.

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What Do You Think?: Girls Wanting to Look Older

This article looks at a scenario of a 7th grade girl who wants to look older by wearing makeup and dressing more suggestively. It explores the impact of the media on the image girls have of themselves, and offers interactive questions you can use to discuss this issue with your mentee. It also offers tips and resources for helping girls be more self confident about their natural, age-appropriate appearance.

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