No Body Stands Without Beauty


Photo by Caitlin Shelby

Swayed by multiple factors in our lives, we high school students focus on our flaws instead of our complete selves. This negative body image and consequential low self-esteem damages our mindsets and bodies, but many solutions exist to aid us in our transformation to self-confident teenagers who can recognize our internal and external beauty.

Sitting before the television, coloring book spread before my crossed twig legs and juice box propped by my side, I admired, from a disappointing distance, the lives of teenagers as Disney Channel conveyed to me. Their lives seemed surreally beautiful: boyfriends, cars, adventures, and cute clothes. Though I was effortlessly happy in my childhood fairytale, the foreshadowing of my adolescent life on that screen gave me great impatience. Little did I know that at sixteen with a boyfriend, vehicle, adventures, and clothes, I would search my soul to regain the confidence in my body and self-esteem that I possessed at seven years old.

As a small child, I did not know what it meant to be self-conscious; I did not believe my body could ever hold me back. In fact, I was a breathing burst of invincibility, and I knew no limits on my life. Now I maneuver carefully around the parameters which I have placed on myself, and I struggle to be free of the worrisome self-consciousness and negative body image. However, by identifying the causes and finding specified solutions, I have been able to take several steps in the direction of overcoming these issues and regaining my healthy sense of self.

Negative body image affects 8 out of 10 women (Mackay). Adolescents and females are more prone to this devastating disorder, as they tend to take the ideal to heart and assert themselves into applying it to their lives. Low self-esteem is uglier than any imaginable body; it looks like a fleeting mind and a constant turmoil of tormenting thoughts. It plays in ears and speaks inside heads of worries of actions, appearances, choices, social situations, and disapproval. This parasite causes the sense of detestation in innocent social situations and conveys the false judgment of others at all times. This parasite is us.

I have learned over the course of my desperate attempts to overcome self-consciousness that one can be especially prone to catching it, whether they like it or not. Perfectionists, people who compare themselves to others, and people who tend to form their opinions of themselves from the perception of others are especially susceptible to negative self-esteem and negative body image. People who have these characteristics should learn to tune them out, no matter how internally fixed they seem. We are each in control of our emotions and happiness; how we learn to control these features makes the lasting impression. To come to terms with constant negative insidious talk, we can try writing down our poisonous thoughts of ourselves and committing to singling them out when they arise. We must realize that as we begin to isolate these thoughts and choose to not think them, our days will be positively altered. Imagine if we could turn these negative thoughts into compliment for ourselves.

Low self-esteem and negative body image are not something we make up our minds to consume and foster. Aside from the aforementioned susceptible personalities, the media itself plays an avid role in crushing our views of ourselves. Today’s ideal teenager is unfeasible, impractical, and frankly digitally enhanced. The modern ideal is in fact achieved by less than 4% of the female population (Mackay). In fact, the average American is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model stands at 5’11” and weighs in at 117 pounds (Mackay). These images are everywhere in today’s technology-driven world. Skinny bodies haunt us, and sometimes they are meant to do just that in order to sell products. We can learn to tune out the media’s negative influence by acknowledging its purpose to gain our money.

The social messages of friends, family, peers, and teachers also have a monumental role in how people perceive themselves. Parents especially play a lasting role in their children’s self-esteem and body image. Worse yet, people also tend to contract issues when they imitate behaviors of loved ones who have the same problems. To isolate ourselves from these social threats, we must be surrounded by positive people who only elate our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Also, we can reach out and assist ailing family members once we have acquired the tools to aid ourselves.

Another cause of negative body image is a body mass index or weight that is less than ideal. During middle school, I watched as my stick-shaped body seemed to inflate like a balloon. I allowed this inevitable weight gain to defy myself, and I developed nasty behaviors because of it. For some reason, I never made the connection of this weight gain to the metamorphic process of puberty. In fact, 50% of adult body weight is gained during adolescence (Rogol). Why then, do we allow ourselves to feel overweight and unsatisfied with ourselves if such gain is to be expected and signifies health? We must not insult ourselves for being healthy; puberty has a beautiful way of wrapping up its normal process. We must not allow the joke to be on us by the end of it by adopting negative body image before this process has the chance to run its course.

There are multiple solutions for negative body image and low self-esteem that do not stem from the aforementioned immediate causes. We must learn to relax and to simplify hectic areas of our lives. For instance, I have learned that free time is just as productive as time spent working. If we find ourselves dragging on homework after school or in projects over the weekend, we should find something to do that gives us pleasure. Also, by investing in social hobbies, we can gain valuable friendships which will improve our self-worth. Who does not love someone with whom to laugh at flaws? We will find that we have many more opportunities for fun when we stop wasting our time worrying about nonexistent “faults”.

Another method is to rewrite our habitual mind-talk. We should never think, “I would be happy if…” or, “I will like myself when…”, because we can feel happy with ourselves without attaching our self-worth to an accomplishment. We must learn to become optimistic and encourage ourselves mentally each day. Beauty is indeed a state of mind, and by rewiring our brains to radiate self-confidence, we will feel much prettier instantly.

There are several exercises to engage our minds into appreciating our inner selves and loving our physical selves. We can try stashing a list of our proudest non-physical qualities in a place where we can read it when necessary. We can also learn to focus on ourselves as a whole being when approached by mirrors instead of focusing on our self-proclaimed problem areas. Another exercise is to create a list of the people we appreciate most and ask ourselves if their physical appearance has any impact on our admiration of them. Finally, we must will ourselves to commit to the exercise of actual exercise! The trick is to not force ourselves to be active, but to learn to recognize the desire to move and to answer it. One of my favorite endorphin rushes from exercise comes from simply turning on my radio and moving in any way I can. Not only do I feel physically and mentally better for being active, but my mood is elated and rejuvenated.

People with high self-confidence have a feisty attitude towards their accomplishments in life, a clear recognition of their strengths and weaknesses, an ability to recover from relapses in life, and an appreciation for themselves and what they deserve. We are all worthy of these qualities, and the little kids within us all will blossom at the opportunity to reemerge. If we are not benefitting from low self-esteem and negative body image, then why are we focusing so much on it every day? We must learn to open our eyes to the beauty in the souls of the people around us. Then we may direct our attention to ourselves and recognize ourselves for our beautiful existences.


Works Cited:

Clark, Pamela A, Alan D Rogol, and James N Remmich. “Growth and Pubertal Development in Children and Adolescents: Effects of Diet and Physical Activity.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000. American Society for Clinical Nutrition. 12 Nov. 2013 <>

Levine, Michael, and Linda Smolak. “10 ‘Will Powers’ for Improving Body Image.” National Eating Disorders Association. N/A. National Eating Disorders Association. 12 Nov. 2013 <>

Mackay, Mary Ann. “Body Image Statistics: Don’t Tie Your Weight to Unrealistic Expectations.” Health Wellness Connection. 21 Feb. 2012. Weight Loss for Health. 12 Nov. 2013 <>

Maine, Margo. “20 Ways to Love Your Body.” National Eating Disorders Association. N/A. National Eating Disorders Association. 12 Nov. 2013 <>

“Ten Steps to Positive Body Image.” National Eating Disorders Association. N/A. National         Eating Disorders Association. 12 Nov. 2013 < positive-body-image>

Tiller, Adrian. “10 Steps to Build Self-esteem.” Adrian Tiller, MFT. 2007. Adrian Tiller. 12 Nov. 2013 <>

“What Causes Negative Body Image?” Australian Government. 2012. Commonwealth of Australia. 12 Nov. 2013 <>