Self-Esteem and Body Image

Key Facts
  • The effects of body image on self-esteem can be especially powerful during the teenage years. Self-esteem is about appreciating all of your abilities and respecting yourself.
  • Positive self-esteem will help you make healthy choices.
  • One of the best ways to feel good about your body is to take care of it.
  • Esta guía en Español
  • Young men's version of this guide

girl holding booksThe effects of body image on self-esteem can be especially powerful during the teenage years. Although it’s perfectly normal to have negative thoughts and feelings towards yourself once in a while, finding ways to be positive is the key to building a healthy body image and positive self-esteem.

What is body image?

Body image is based on your thoughts and feelings about the way your body looks. Sometimes the way you think other people are judging your appearance can affect your body image. Poor body image comes from negative thoughts and feelings about your appearance, and a healthy body image is made up of thoughts and feelings that are positive. Body image is a major factor in self-esteem; which is the way you think and feel about yourself as a person.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem relates to how much you like yourself, and how you recognize or appreciate your individual character, qualities, skills, and accomplishments. Like body image, self-esteem can also be based on how you think other people look at you as a person. People who have low self-esteem may not always feel confident about themselves or how they look. It is often hard for them to see that they are an important and capable person. People with positive self-esteem often have a confident attitude about their body and mind, and can recognize their strengths as well as personal value and worth.

Why is self-esteem important?

Self-esteem is important for everyone because it helps you keep a positive outlook on life and makes you feel proud of the person you are, both inside and out. Most teens with self-esteem find life much more enjoyable. They tend to have better relationships with peers and adults, find it easier to deal with mistakes or disappointments, and are more likely to stick with a task until they succeed.

Self-esteem gives you the:

  • Courage to try new things
  • Power to believe in yourself
  • Confidence to make healthy choices for your mind and body now and throughout your life
Treating yourself with respect and realizing that every part of you is worth caring for and protecting will help you keep a healthy attitude towards yourself. Building self-esteem can take a long time and is not always easy, but knowing that you can improve your self-esteem is the first step.

Is there anything I can do if my self-esteem is low?

Yes! If you feel frustrated or too annoyed or upset to talk, try going for a walk or a run, listen to music, or do a favorite activity with someone you enjoy being with. Sometimes expressing how you feel can actually be more helpful than keeping feelings to yourself. Talk with a close friend or relative whom you trust and who can offer encouragement and support. It can also be comforting to talk with other teens that may be going through similar experiences. Remember, everyone has felt badly about themselves at some point in time!

If you’re feeling very sad and discouraged most of the time, and can’t seem to find ways to feel better about yourself, it’s important to tell your health care provider or counselor. They can help you to find ways to cope.

What can I do to improve my body image?

One of the best ways to feel good about your body is to work on having a healthy one! Exercising and eating nutritious food are key to developing a strong and fit body, and a positive attitude towards yourself.

What are some ways to keep a positive attitude?

A positive attitude can come by defining an identity for yourself that is not based on looks or negative things other people may say.

You can develop positive self-esteem by:

  • Focusing on your unique qualities. Everyone has their own special talents that make them unique.
  • Thinking about your education: Learning gives you the power to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.
  • Participating in a variety of sports or activities: This can be a great way to stay healthy and fit, which adds to a positive body image.
  • Taking up a new hobby or learning to play an instrument: Have you ever wanted to play the guitar? Maybe you want to learn how to play chess. Take time to find your hidden talents!
  • Setting and reaching new goals: Having something to look forward to can give you a sense of pride and help you work through different challenges throughout your life.
  • Being an inspiration to others: If you thought of your own ways to cope with social situations and find confidence, you may find it rewarding to share advice and offer encouragement to others.
Building a healthy body image and self-esteem can be hard work because it takes time to become confident. As you work to improve your body image, you will experience self-acceptance and learn to recognize the qualities, skills, and talents that make you special.