Society and its Effect on Self Esteem

Kayla Zarate, Staff Writer

Society surrounds us. It’s the people in our classroom, family at home, strangers on the street. It’s our lives as they pass us by. It’s everything in the world. Most importantly, it’s a monster. People struggle to become what society depicts as “beautiful” when true beauty actually lies within. Society’s image of what is beautiful and what isn’t is the cause of many low self-esteems and negative self-images when they could be positive and confident.

Girls want to be like Barbie and have the perfect figure with the perfect life. According to Emily Hack, a viewpoint writer for, if Barbie were a real woman, she would be 5’9”, weighing barely 110 pounds with an 18” waist, 39” bust, have 33” hips, and wear a size three in shoes. Her body would be destroyed. She wouldn’t be able to menstruate, have children, hold her own organs inside her body, or walk, she’d be forced to walk on all fours, and would be deemed anorexic.

I’d describe society as cruel, unforgiving, and messed up. But it can also be very kind. It depends on the person. So many people care about what others think or have to say.”

— Bryienne Cheers

The perfect image that society portrays is the cause of this. Women want to be like the models on TV and have the perfect body that will drive men crazy, but that isn’t necessary. A real man wouldn’t love someone because she looked like her favorite childhood doll—he would love her for the beauty she has hidden away on the inside.

Boys think they have to be built and muscular, not short and overweight, tall and scrawny or vice versa. They see football players, buff and strong, and wish to be be like that. Overworking and beating themselves up because no matter how hard they try, the ideal body they want is impossible. Society has pushed us too hard to be perfect.

That’s not to say being pushed towards something is always a bad thing. People make it in the world because they have been motivated by loved ones around them. If all someone needs is a push to start working harder, it can make a real impact.

Neel Burton, M.D. is the author of Hide and Seek: the Psychology of Self Deception. He suggested a few things to boost your self-esteem such as dressing in clothes that make you feel good, getting enough sleep, and getting involved in the community. Joining band, playing a sport, or becoming a member of an extracurricular are just a few of the many things to try. Getting involved can do wonders that one would never imagine.

“I’d describe society as cruel, unforgiving, and messed up. But it can also be very kind. It depends on the person. So many people care about what others think or have to say,” said Bryienne Cheers, a junior on the Debate Team. “I grew out of it at one point and learned to accept myself. Every now and then, I care what people think. It just depends on the person.”

According to Psychology Today, self-esteem in children, on average, is found to be relatively high, though there are some individual differences. Low self-esteem in children is typically related to physical punishment and withholding of love and affection by parents. Carl Rogers, an influential American psychologist and one of the creators of the humanistic approach to psychology, called this ‘conditional positive regard.’ Socially, children with low self-esteem can be withdrawn or shy, finding it difficult to have fun. Within friends they tend to yield to group pressure and are vulnerable to bullying.

Teenagers, however, are quite the opposite. Teenagers worry about what people think, how they look, and being accepted. Acceptance seems to become more important as you get older. Everyone wants to have friends, look good, and feel good. When self-esteem is low, they tend to give into peer pressure, begin to make poor choices, and are at higher risk of being bullied.

According to a study by Dove in 2008, 7 out of 10 girls from the ages of 15-17 believe they do not measure up in some way whether it be looks, performance in school, or relationships. Everyone has a need to be loved by someone, to be wanted.

Teenage girls are more than twice as likely to have a low self-esteem than teenage boys. A report by the American Association of University Women indicated that self-worth was indicated most importantly by looks. However, boys judged their self worth based on abilities. Girls tend to care more about what they look like: if their hair is straight enough and their makeup isn’t smudged. If it isn’t good enough for others, it isn’t good enough for them. Many guys care about their looks too, but their usual focus is on if they can do what their friends can.

The pressure of society even has an effect on an adult’s self-esteem. Media still has an influence on someone regardless of his or her age.  According to Dove, 80% of adult women said that images of other women on television and in movies made them feel insecure about their appearance. The pattern continued from their adolescence. Men are still more likely to have a higher self-esteem than women, but as adults, they’re pressured to take the lead. Men with a family and job are more likely to have a higher self-esteem than those who don’t.

The images that society portrays on what is or isn’t right have affected everyone in some way, shape, or form. It can either take you down or build you up. Society can be either a bully or a friend. Using it for motivation can be a great thing, but letting it control your self worth, self confidence, or self esteem is not okay.