Society, Self-Image, and Peers.

May 7, 2001

The Bottom Line read the opinion, as always I won't give anything away here, if I can help it.

Today, it is fair to say that a child's self-esteem, is affected by 3 different mediums. That being society, their own self image, and peers. These are the 3 main groups, that decide any kids self-esteem. Let's tackle them in-depth.

When you turn on any award program, like the grammies, what do you see? A bunch of beautifully adorned, skinny, attractive females. Diamonds and gold just dripping off their skin, often times more than their dress does. With pretty hair, arriving in cars that costed about 3 times the average middle class worker's income(3x50,000).

Then you get to the guys, who have fancy Versaci suits, and rolex's. Those big diamond necklaces, and even more expensive cars than the ladies. Often times cars that are on average, about 5-6 times the average middle class worker's income(6x50,000). The guys are attractive to women, and have that pretty boy look(blonde hair, blue eyes, etc).

Society's Affect On Kids
This kind of image can make kids feel down about themselves. And how you may ask? Well for example, girls might start feeling that the only way they can make it in life, is if they're beautiful. I.E. if they're over-weight, or they don't have a pretty face, or a "shapely body", then they won't get to where they want in life. Often times, this makes a girl feel really down about herself, and will make her do anything to fit into society's idea of beauty, which becomes her own.

This includes anorexia, which is a bad disease that is caused by low-self esteem. I know this for a fact, because a few years ago my cousin was hospitalized for becoming anorexic. She got sick, so had to be taken into the hospital. And why did she do this? Because someone kept telling her she was getting "fat", and that she needs to be skinny like everyone else(like the models,etc).

Now, what about guys? How does society affect us "men"? Well, for one, it makes us feel like we have to be a player. Like having a lot of women, and money is the only way to be cool. My proof of this, well I dare every guy who hasn't thought of a lot of women, at least once, to leave a comment after they read this comment. And if you don't want a lot of money, then also leave a comment.

Also, society can make us feel down about ourselves, unless we look a specific way. For instance, once the backstreet boy look(blonde hair, blue eyes) became a fad, a number of kids at my school dyed their hair, and went out and bought colored contact lenses. All so they could change the way they look, so they could look the way the girls, and society thought they should look like.

Self image is what a person thinks of themself. The way they see themselves as, and they way they see themselves as they're supposed to look. Which are 2 different things, so let me explain. The way they see themselves, every day when they look in the mirror. It's the image that they percieve, false or not. If they don't like what they see, then they'll become depressed, and try what they can to make themselves feel better.

For instance, I used to know someone that changed the way they dressed every year. One year he came to school as a cowboy, the next he came as a hip-hopper(baggy pants, shirts, sagging, listening to rap). Then the very next, came to school as a prep. Why did he change so much? It's easy, no matter how he dressed, he just wasn't happy. So he formed a low self-image, and went to any means possible, including changing himself, to try and make himself happy.

The biggest influence, if not the worst influence. Other kids the same age, are our biggest influences in life. Why? Because these are the kids that set the "trends" of school. It usually starts off as one person doing something, then it spreads like wild fire.

For example, one kid does something, like dye their hair. It catches on with their friend, who then dyes their hair. That cycle repeats itself, and spreads as kids who are friends with everyone else who dyed their hair, who feel left out for not having done the same.

Pretty soon, there's only a select few, who haven't dyed their hair. These kids are made to feel left out, and sometimes are made fun of, for either being afraid, or for some other reason. Say a kid can't dye his hair because his parents won't let him. Then the kids go make fun of the kid who can't, because he's a kid that obeys the law, and his parents. Remember, a lot of teens think you're only cool, if you're rebellious to your parents, and the authority.

What You Can Do To Help A Kid's Self Esteem
First, be supportive. Let them know that they look just fine, the way they are. That no matter what anyone says, they can make it big in life, not being the prettiest woman or man. Horrifying fact, that I'd hate to say, but this is a good example. Missy Elliot has become one of hip-hop's biggest names. Missy's a woman, and she is neither pretty, or skinny, yet she's made it.

Being supportive, won't work, if the other 2 influences, are still in place. So second, you should encourage your kid to get into a group or club, where they can be themselves, and are encouraged to be themselves. Where they don't have to be anyone, but who they are.

My best example, is of myself. I used to "try" to be a gang member. Flash signals, and act like one, because it was expected of me, and the way I dressed. Then I got into a smaller group of friends, who let me be who I was, and only encouraged me to be just that. This group of friends, is actually only 1 person. And that's the beautiful young lady, pictured in my arms(stormgirl). And just where am I now? Writing poems, winning awards, and doing respectable things like helping people make decisions, and building webpages, or writing songs.

Third, and finally. When your kids watch television, let them know that the pretty women on t.v. are only pretty because they get the ability to access 100's of dollars worth of make up, to make themselves look beautiful. Half of the stars that look "pretty" are actually plain, and not really attractive without the make up, thousand dollar dresses, and million dollar hairstyles. Make sure that they don't have to have those same good looks, to be noticed in life.

I'll Boil It Down To One Thing
The best way to build your child's self-esteem, is to be an active parent, who pays attention to WHO THEY ARE, and what they are. Be a parent who not only knows who and what they are, but also a parent that listens, and also gives advice. Be willing to talk to your children about anything, even if it's SEX. Building your child's knowledge of something, can help their self-esteem, as it shows you trust them with that knowledge. It will show that you look at them as responsible, and don't think of them as just babies. Trust me, my parents used to talk to me about sex, when I was young. What do I mean about young? I mean at least 3rd grade. And it made me feel as if I was older, as if I was good enough to be respected.

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