Stephanie is a high school freshman from New Jersey. She loves the summertime and enjoys going to the gym and free writing.
It is not unnatural to want to look good. In fact it is perfectly acceptable to desire clear skin, a thick head of glimmering hair, a bright smile, and a toned, healthy body. However, teenagers often go overboard and develop poor self esteem or poor body image because they feel that their bodies aren’t “perfect”. How many times have we heard someone say that his or her nose is too big, or skin much too pale? Consider this. Did you know that ancient Egyptians thought women with big noses were beautiful and intelligent? Or that in times of monarchy many considered pale skin to be a sign of wealth and royalty? As you might have already guessed, people are exposed to the trends of their time, and certainly have a tendency to sway their opinions based on what is popular.
Now if the current trend of the time is to be truly healthy – getting fresh air, exercising, getting enough sleep, not stressing yourself out, being yourself, etc. then by all means, go follow that trend. Be as common as you desire. Follow every bit of advice that TV screen dictates to you and then some.
But it isn’t.
In reality, most of the time your TV screen shows you interviews with Barbie-doll actresses with airbrushed tans and flawless makeup. The magazines flash us images of built men with muscles that blow you away. The internet gives us unlimited resources of pictures and articles alike, often throwing photoshopped images at us of the “ideal” human being: pretty, young, thin, glowing bodies and beautiful faces. Upon seeing this, some teenagers go ballistic trying to be exactly like the people they see in the media in hopes of getting attention, feeling better about themselves, and many other reasons.
Upon waking up this morning I decided to do a little research. Using Google I typed in a list of terms I felt may negatively impact the body image and self esteem of teenagers and recorded how many results showed up. The results were astonishing:
How to be perfect – 203,000,000
How to be popular – 180,000,000
How to lose weight – 22,200,000
I hate my body – 18,000,000
I hate myself – 17,600,000
Have perfect skin – 15,200,000
How to be anorexic – 1,160,000
How to be bulimic – 437,000
Are you surprised? “How to be perfect” showed up with the most results of all these terms, coming in at a whopping 203,000,000 results. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of being sucked in by this type of media. Here are 6 tips to help improve your body image/self esteem as well as keep you healthy.
- Do what’s comfortable for your body.
If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, take a breather. If you feel like you can run an extra mile or swim an extra lap, go for it. Follow the signals your body gives you – it’s sending you these signals for a reason. Don’t try to push yourself to extremes, as this will only generate stress and sometimes even physical injury.
- Move around.
- It’s important to get a little exercise each day. This can be anything: taking a walk to the supermarket, playing basketball with friends, going to a gym, dancing – whatever! Exercise actually keeps you alert and is a great way to keep your body in shape.
- Get proper nutrition.
- Food keeps you alive, so this one is a biggie. Eat a variety of foods of all different colors – it’ll keep food “fun” and ensure that you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. Obvious food groups that you should always try to incorporate into your meals are fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, and other proteins. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, try to find new and exciting foods to keep yourself from getting bored.
- Stray from the crowd.
- You don’t have to be perfect “like everybody else”. I’ll let you in on a little secret; no one can or has achieved total perfection as portrayed by the media. Who does the media think it is to be telling YOU what perfection is, anyway? Be original – set up your own standards of perfection that include all of the qualities you possess. You’ll feel 100 times better about yourself.
- Getting enough sleep is essential to starting every day off right. Okay…it’s understandable that you might not have the option of waking up any later, and I’m sure you wouldn’t be thrilled about going to sleep 3 hours earlier. Try this: for one week, go to sleep just 30-45 minutes earlier and see how you feel. I guarantee you’ll notice a positive difference.
- Never give up.
This is such an important step that I’m going to repeat it again. Never give up! Throughout your life you’ll be challenged and on occasion you might make a mistake. In fact, you might make several mistakes, or hundreds, before you finally get it just right. So if you gain ten pounds when you meant to lose 10, fail all of your history tests, or get into the same argument with your parents a million times, don’t think it’s the end of the world. You can get through any problem with a little persistence and confidence. And knowing that makes all the difference.