With heads hung and shoulders drooped, kids shuffle nervously through the high school halls, avoiding eye contact. People stare a little too long at themselves in the bathroom mirrors with disappointed faces. Through all of the issues that kids go through during these trying four years in high school, self confidence problems seem most prominent. Add awkward physical changes from puberty to fads from the media, and there’s a recipe for disaster for a young, blossoming soul. A healthy self image can crumble under the pressure of social norms, bullying, and other people’s opinions. It seems silly, but some people question their abilities to function in the world on account of their appearance. Now is the time to come to terms with the source of this negativity towards teen’s earthly vessels, and nip it in the bud. It is time for people to appreciate their bodies for carrying them through everything they go through in this life, regardless of what they look like.
For fear of teasing and insults from other classmates, many teens will not leave the house without their hair styled or without makeup on. A study by the National Institute on Media and the Family found that at the age of 13, 53 percent of American girls are unhappy with their bodies. By the time they reach the age of 17, this has grown to 78 percent.
“The one thing that I’m most self conscious about is my naked face, so getting made fun of for it really sucked,” said senior Savannah Cothron.
Cothron, like many other teens, admits to having spent big bucks on facial products in the past
“I guess I wanted to fit in with the social norm of how people appeared as beautiful to others,” Cothron. ”Why else would I try to fix my face if I was ok with it?”
Morning styling routines have become such a normality to some people, and the idea of letting go of cosmetic masks completely can be frightening.
“I would feel exposed. I would be almost embarrassed,” Cothron said. “I’ve become more in contact with what I want and I have started to see myself as beautiful. It used to be to [the point] where I hated even looking at myself in the mirror without makeup on. But now, I [do] it for me, because I like who I am with [makeup] and without.”
Other students, however, can go out in public completely natural without fear of the opinions of others.
“I was born in the skin that I’m in, and that’s who I am. I am the way I look and if I want to change it, I can,” senior Brittany Aston said.
Aston goes to school every day confidently with a clean face.
“I like putting on makeup sometimes, but a lot of times I don’t recognize myself if I have makeup on,” Aston said. “I truly in my heart prefer to just go without it.”
Aside from females dealing with peer pressure to cover up their facial imperfections, males also deal with pressures of conforming to physical standards.
“I don’t really like my torso,” senior Roger Sandoval said. “In today’s society, [people want] rock hard abs and stuff like that. It’s really hard to get rock hard abs or get the body shape you want.”
Females especially deal with the emotional struggles of physical appearance when it comes to their weight. From an early age, little girls see airbrushed images of what females should look like on television, and those images take root in young minds and fester into an elusive, unattainable image of desirable beauty. Studies show that the more young girls watch reality television, the more they are likely to find appearance important.
“Humans can never truly be satisfied,” Cothron said. “We’re always reaching for change and improve[ment]. If we don’t look just like this person who gets all the attention, we’re going to modify ourselves to be just like them. We’re goal reachers. Sometimes we just reach for the wrong goals.
Unfortunately, only five percent of females naturally posses the ideal body type desired in the media, but that does not stop young girls from trying to achieve the same appearance through whatever drastic means they find necessary. A study from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill found that 90 percent of people with eating disorders are females between the ages of 12 and 25. Another study from Rader Programs found that adolescent girls were more afraid of gaining weight than they were of getting cancer, losing their parents, or being involved in nuclear war.
“I used to have a huge problem with my weight,” Aston said. “All my life I’ve been chubby. I’ve never been skinny; I’ve never had a flat stomach; I’ve never had tiny arms; I’ve never had tiny legs; I’ve always had curves. My weight does sometimes bother me [still], but it doesn’t the way it used to. I have a little bit of chub on my stomach and on my arms and inner thighs, [but] I feel like it just fits. I’m fit for my body, and I’m voluptuous but I like my curves.”
Sadly, not everyone has the same positive view of their body. Struggling against weight and beauty standards can be the breaking point for some people, and can lead to detrimental consequences including self harm, depression, and even starvation. A study from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders found that Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
“The fact that there are standards set in the world for us to look up to and compare ourselves to honestly makes me sick,” Aston said. “We shouldn’t have to compare ourselves to others. You shouldn’t have to feel sad and bad about yourself just because another person looks different than you. Not one flower is exactly alike. You [just] blossom as the flower you are.”
And blossom they must. Life is too short to dwell on imperfections and insecurities. Every human is different, so stop the comparisons; quit the nitpicking; and fix the self depreciation. Search internally for self satisfaction. Looks are not everything. Peace of mind, happiness, and a confident sense of self are. How one looks to others now will not matter in ten years, and will not influence their future success. What will matter is how they treat and feel towards their body here and now, regardless of color, size, or flaws. Humans only get one body to live in. Just as one would consume wholesome foods to nourish their body and prevent health problems, strive to nurture the mind with healthy, positive thoughts as well. Teens should take pride in who they are, no matter how they look or what people say. No one can love a person as much as they can love themselves. So, it’s time to start.