Teens are constantly comparing themselves to unrealistic expectations of beauty. They have images of flawless people that are portrayed everywhere they look in social media, TV, movies, and magazines. Teens are not thinking about the fact that the majority of these people have gone through plastic surgery to look the way that they do and that these so-called “flawless people” have their photos airbrushed and photo-shopped in order for them to appear so perfect. Instead, they're asking themselves questions like “Why do I not look perfect like them?” and “What can I do to look just as beautiful?” They might even start assuming, “I’m so ugly and disgusting! Why can’t I be pretty too?”Theses comparisons and high expectations can lead teens to believe that making changes in their lives like dieting or skipping meals or buying every beauty product imaginable can lead them closer to looking like the beautiful, thin, seemingly perfect, rich and famous people being portrayed to them every day.
So, teens are looking in the mirror and constantly finding flaws and imperfections. Then, they are doing what they can (healthy or unhealthy) to try to achieve the perfect look. Nevermind that the flawless image is always changing based on current styles and trends, which can make teens even more confused and exhausted as they try to keep up. It’s so easy for teens to get caught up in Every. Single. Thing that they think is wrong with them, and in doing so, they forget about their inner beauty altogether.
As a parent, understanding why your teen is having a hard time with their self-esteem can be tough and confusing. You may ask yourself questions like, “Why doesn’t my teen see how handsome/gorgeous that he/she is both inside and outside?” and “Why would my teen go through such great lengths to change the way they look?” It can be so normal to worry about your teen’s self-esteem and ability to recognize their own worth!
While keeping in mind that each teen is different, here are some tips to assist you in helping your teen through their struggles with self-esteem:
Encourage your teen to use positive affirmations. Using positive affirmations every day as simple as “ I love myself,” “I do not compare myself to others,” and “My body is healthy and strong” can make a difference in your teen’s self-esteem. You can even write these positive affirmations on a post-it note for your teen and place it somewhere in your home where your teen will see it every day.
Make some time in your day to have your teen and other family members voice three things they are grateful for. This can help your teen move their focus away from negative aspects related to their day toward more positive aspects of life. Research even shows that practicing gratitude and focusing on what’s going well increases people’s overall happiness and satisfaction with life. This is a great practice for the whole family!
Model self-love and a healthy self-esteem to your teen. As parents, it can be hard to stop and pay attention to what you are modeling to your teen, especially when you doubt they’re paying attention to what you do anyway. However, being aware of how you express your own self-esteem and self-love is very important. As human beings, we learn a lot from what is modeled to us, and you may have a much bigger impact on your teen than you realize. Paying attention to things you say about yourself or to yourself in front of your teens is crucial in teaching a healthy self-esteem to your teens.
Our society and the way that beauty is advertised and portrayed to our teens makes it very difficult for teens to not compare themselves to others. So, we can help teens understand that they don’t need to buy into these standards of beauty, and we can support them in seeing and appreciating their own beauty. And, this kind of empowerment also helps teens strengthen their self-esteem.