Low self-esteem in teenagers has numerous manifestations. Sadly, it often goes unrecognized until it ends up in the emergency room as some form of self-abuse. I see examples everyday: eating disorders and obesity, increase in gang violence, long-sleeved shirts covering evidence of self-inflicted cuts and burns, and degrading T-shirts, like those that read, “A-salt Me.”
|Casual Sex – A manifestation of Insecurity|
There is also an alarming increase of casual sex, with many unprepared for the emotional consequences. Unfortunately, the media also promotes such degenerative behaviors under the guise of freedom of expression. Music videos with women in demoralizing positions, dancing provocatively, and/or with little clothing, and song titles like My Dirty Ho (by Snoop Dogg) compromise human dignity.
Furthermore, disregard for others is also depicted as a prevalent theme in major movies like “Thirteen” and “Mean Girls,” and articles in national magazines like “How to Deal With a Bitch Anytime, Anywhere” (Cosmopolitan).
Part of the cause of this degenerative trend is that the pressures surrounding teenagers today can be suffocating. We are expected to be so much- athletic, thin, smart, popular, and beautiful with perfect teeth and skin, but our character is tested as well. Honesty is honored, but brutal honesty is not, and being politically correct has become essential.
Everything is a matter of degree. Performance, both athletic and academic, is increasingly competitive, almost obsessive, and the statistics for college admissions are more daunting than ever, to say the least. Technological advances, like the internet and text messaging, are designed to make teens’ lives more streamlined. However, by reducing direct human interaction, they make communication very impersonal.
From supervised child to independent adult, teenagers need to pursue multiple passions to balance themselves. Being on a team nurtures a sense of belonging and provides moral support. I do not attach my self-worth to being just a great tennis player. I would still find fulfillment in reading “The Joy Luck Club,” singing and making waffles. Volunteer work and other endeavors in which people can give generously of themselves help give youth confidence and a sense of purpose. Tutoring and babysitting help me learn to deal with frustration (mine and theirs!). Help starts with one person. As feelings of inadequacy generated by social pressures intensify, so must the efforts to build human ties. It can be as simple as being a good listener for someone who needs someone to talk to or donating a few hours on weekeds to volunteer service. In making yourself feel better, you will also be making a difference in the world.
Everyone needs a best friend- someone they can confide in, someone they can trust, someone who will be there when they are needed. Compassion is contagious. It is clear to me that one person can and does make a tremendous difference. Tip the first domino in knocking down this widespread problem by being a good friend, and help contribute to the renewal of the optimistic nature of teenagers.