I’m not a psychiatrist but it doesn’t take a PhD to know there is an epidemic of people with poor self-esteem in this country, especially among adolescents. I’m too fat, too skinny, legs too long, too short, I’m dumb, I’m ugly, hair is too straight or too curly. The list goes on and on. Even the most confident person has self-image or self-esteem issues, they just hide it in different ways.
The Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Texas Medical Branch recently did a study on The link between body dissatisfaction and self-esteem in adolescents.
From the article:
A school-based survey of eating, weight, and related attitudes was conducted with a diverse sample of adolescents aged 11-18 years. Participants were resurveyed through the mail 5 years later.
RESULTS: The relationship between body dissatisfaction and self-esteem was strong and significant in both boys and girls and did not differ significantly between genders or between the middle school and high school cohorts in either boys or girls. Among girls, the relationship between body dissatisfaction and self-esteem was strong, but did vary across weight status, race/ethnicity, and SES. The relationship was insignificant in underweight girls and weaker but still significant among black, Asian, and low SES group girls (all p values < .0001) in comparison to white and high SES group girls. Among boys, the association did not differ significantly across demographic groups. In longitudinal analyses, the strength of the association did not change significantly as adolescents GREW OLDER.
The main point in all this is that no matter the race, gender, or size of a person, everyone deals with self-esteem issues. Also, said “issues” rarely decrease over time. Which means many adults are dealing with the same self-esteem issues they dealt with as children. Fact: I still do.
Sadly, women seem to deal with poor self image more than men. Want proof? Just pick up a “Woman’s” magazine and it’s full of articles referring to improving a womans image.
How can they? Magazine models are airbrushed to perfection, and anorexic. “Beautiful” movie stars are whipped into perfect shape by personal trainers, and use surgery to create an unnatural cultural ideal. But youth cannot last. It is not meant to. If women buy into this image of beauty, then the best an older woman can strive for is looking “good for her age” or worse yet, “well preserved”. Mummies are well-preserved. Mummies are also dead.
Abusive experiences join with cultural messages to assault female self esteem. Abuse is pervasive and cuts across all socioeconomic lines. It invariably sends the message that the victim is worthless. Many, many women have told me that verbal abuse has hurt them far more than any physical act. As one woman put it, “his words scarred my soul”. Women whose abuse started as children have the most fragile sense of identity and self worth. 
Men’s magazines aren’t much better to be honest. How to please a woman. How to improve your muscle mass. How to get a better job. How to. How to. How to. There’s a “How to” guide to the “How to” guides. Ridiculous.
Then there’s the other side of the coin. The “Be happy with the body God gave you” club. While this is a much better “mental” state of mind than hating yourself, it can also lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. “Accepting” you are obese and that’s how you are supposed to be can lead to a plethora of heart diseases, diabetes and possible death and in my humble opinion is just an excuse. It’s one thing not to buy into the image that many fashion magazines say is “perfect” and another to accept being grossly overweight as a good thing. I want to be perfectly clear here. I am not speaking to those who “think” they are over-weight or are already taking steps to lose weight. I’m talking to people who have accepted that being 300+ lbs is ok. There is a big difference.
It’s not just about being over weight too. Thin people fall into this trap as well. I wrote months ago that just because the scale says your “healthy” doesn’t make it so. If every “thin” person had perfect self-esteem, anorexia wouldn’t be considered a mental disease.
I know personally, my self-image is 10x higher now at 240 than when I was 325 lbs. I can fit into the clothes I want to. I can walk around the mall without getting tired. I no longer walk into a room full of people and wonder if they think I’m fat. I feel more confident in job interviews. To be brutally honest, I no longer worry about someone “falling in love with me” if something ever happened to my wife. I seriously thought I’d be left to raise my child alone cause I was fat. How stupid.
The fact is your self-image is exactly that… YOUR self-image and only you can change it. Getting to a place where you are happy with how you look is probably the single hardest thing for most people. There will always be things about your body or even personality you don’t like. Some we can control and others we can’t. The important part is figuring out the areas we can change and taking healthy steps to do so. You don’t need plastic surgery or gastric bypass to change how you look. Just a healthy mindset and determination to better yourself. YOU CAN DO IT! I believe that with all my heart. You just have to take that first step(s).