Teen Body Image

Throughout the teenage years teens are becoming very aware of their bodies and the changes their body is going through. Teen body image, self esteem, and outward appearance becomes more important than ever before. Keep reading for more on teen body image.

One of the most difficult issues to face as a teenager are those related to image. Teen body image can be especially fraught. Teens (and adults, for that matter) are surrounded by unrealistic and airbrushed pictures of perfection daily. The message is that we are supposed to look a certain way, and if our bodies do not conform, sometimes we feel as though we are not adequate. From weight, to how one’s hair looks, to the clothes worn every day, teenagers are confronted with how they look in relation to others. This becomes even more pronounced as the body changes. However, as a teen begins truly developing a self-identity, it is important to realize that body image is going to come up over and over again. And it is important to help teens develop a healthy teen body image, as well as develop a good self-esteem.

What is teen body image?

It helps to know what body image is. Simply, body image is the way someone feels about how he or she looks physically. When you look in the mirror, how you feel about what is looking back at you is your body image. Teen body image is often very closely linked to how a teen feels about himself or herself in general. Whether or not a teen feels like a worthwhile person is usually influenced, in large part, by how he or she feels about his or her physical appearance.

For teenagers, social pressures are different for guys and girls, but teen body image affects both genders. Many girls feel pressure to be “skinny”, without regard to what is considered a healthy weight. Many boys feel the need to “bulk up” and look manly by being muscular. And, of course, the pressures on how to look are also dependent upon whom teens hang out with - or whom they wish they could hang out with. It can be difficult to combat an unhealthy teen body image, but it does need to be attempted.

Developing a healthy teen body image

You can help a teenager by being supportive and loving. If changes do need to be made to physical appearance (such as losing weight), it is important to encourage your teen to make changes for health reasons. Do not criticize how your teen looks. Instead, focus on how much you care for your teen, and his or her health. 

You should also compliment your teenager on his or her talents, intelligence, compassion, warmth and other personality aspects that are not linked to appearance. You can help teenagers build up a sense of self-worth that is not based on how they look when you notice other positive things about them. A teen’s self-esteem should not be totally connected to appearance, even though it may seem that image is the most important thing to him or her right now. Do your best to help build up a sense that body image isn’t everything.

If your teen is concerned about how he or she looks, you can listen and be encouraging, but realistic. Help your teen identify what can be changed about physical appearance in a realistic manner. Also, point out that there are some things that cannot be changed - and need to be accepted. Be careful when agreeing to cosmetic or weight loss surgery, however. While some things can be changed in this manner, the results and lessons learned are not always positive.

Teenagers can get help for teen body image problems. If your teenager is developing depression due to concerns about appearance, it is a good idea to get professional help. You can also encourage teens to become involved in extracurricular activities that can help them focus on their other skills and talents. Growing up is difficult, and it can be made even more difficult due to an unhealthy or distorted body image. You can help your teen through these times by laying a foundation for a health body image, and for a self-esteem that does not rely solely on appearance.

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