Teens Feeling Pressure to Look ’Perfect’
Whether sourced from academic standards, group environments, peers, or social media outlets, teens are feeling the pressure now more than ever and striving to be and look quote unquote "perfect."
A recent 2017 study titled "Perfectionism Is Increasing Over Time" revealed levels of self-oriented perfectionism, socially-prescribed perfectionism, and other-oriented perfectionism have increased. Furthermore, recent generations of young people perceive that others are more demanding of them, are more demanding of others, and are more demanding of themselves.
Broadly speaking, perfectionism is a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations. And whereas perfectionism can a healthy pursuit of excellence and personal fulfillment without compromising confidence, todays day and age has provoked greater distress and negative impacts on self-esteem.
Teenage Low Self-Esteem Statistics
The truths about teenage girls' self-esteem statistics startling, as DoSomething.org indicates over 70 percent of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks.
But what's more, 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating compared to 25 percent of girls with high self-esteem.
Also among high school students, 44 percent of girls and 15 percent of guys are attempting to lose weight. However, weight loss is not the primary goal of boys, as 40 of boys in middle school and high school regularly exercise with the goal of increasing muscle mass. Thirty-eight percent of boys in middle school and high school moreover reported using protein supplements and nearly six percent admitted to experimenting with steroids.
Nonetheless, many teens have unrealistic expectations about appearance and have taken extreme measures to strengthen or improve body image, including turning to drugs or falling into disordered eating patterns. And while eating disorders are multifactorial, a consistent personality trait seen in eating disorders is perfectionism and it has been reported as a risk factor for both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Combatting Against the Pressures of Perfection
What Teens Can Do
While combatting against the pressures of perfectionism may be difficult in a sea full of high schoolers, when managing a busy schedule, and scrolling through Instagram feeds, there are steps teens can take to combat against such pressures:
• Confide in friends who share similar values and always have your back and make it a point to always have theirs.
• Stay off social media outlets that promote unrealistic standards and gravitate towards ones ran by health professionals, including Registered Dietitians.
• If feeling pressured, do not feel discouraged to reach out someone to a parent, teacher, school counselor, and other supporters.
• Take care of the mind and body by eating a balanced diet, exercising, sleeping enough, and other self-care methods.
• Rather than focusing on appearance, put time and energy into things you enjoy doing, including sports and creative art.
• Do not bully or feel pressured to bully. Bullying is never the answer.
What Caregivers Can Do
With social media so readily accessible, academics and sports becoming more and more competitive, and bullying still prominent, combatting against the pressures a child endures might seem impossible. While there are instances in which gaining control is difficult, caregivers can help protect teens with the following tips:
• Lead by example for teens, as they model and take notice of adult behaviors.
• Ban negative self-talk in the household. If you hear a teen comment "I feel fat" or "I don't look good in this shirt," help them rephrase with something more positive such as "I feel strong and ready to take on the day!"
• Rather than packing and filling their schedule with academics and sports, allow teens autonomy and let them have a choice of activities they want to do.
• Monitor social media, television, and phone use. While teens may feel as if their privacy is invaded, let them know how damaging some of accounts and shows can be.
• Watch out for signals of peer pressure and stress, including abrupt behavior changes, higher levels of irritability, extreme eating patterns, and sudden disinterests in activities and isolation.
• Allow open communication and dialogue. Teens who feel supported and protected without judgment are more likely to feel more secure about who they are. Furthermore, empathize with them if they might be feeling stressed.
• As a family, seek professional support and guidance. Going together offers support to teens and discourages them from feeling singled out and alone.