Teenage girls battle with self-esteem


It is easy to get caught up in the world of social media.

From school to the internet, today’s teenagers face a plethora of self-esteem damaging comments and policies.

Social media is a place full of so many types of people, with some doing good and others tearing people down. For women, social media can be a minefield of insecurity.

Blatant hate being left in comment sections is one way social media contributes to the building of ideal beauty standards and a female’s lack of self-confidence.

Comments are a direct route, but there is also a more subtle route to tearing women down. On the popular app TikTok, jokes are made that may seem harmless, but in fact, contribute to a detrimental environment. Girls making videos saying “using my ugly privilege to walk home alone at night” are insinuating that only women who fall into the category of ideal beauty are receiving unwanted sexual attention. Small comments that are often taken as funny jokes and harmless only build the idea that only “pretty” women face these issues. These types of insensitive and frivolous comments are all over social media and only normalize a poor self-image as a positive thing.

“Everything on social media has to seem perfect all the time and that can be really degrading for women or men that don’t see their body type on social media,” Chloe Diamond, junior, said. Diamond explains that not all body types are represented on social media and how the lack of representation can be harmful. “It makes people feel alone and like they have to change.”

Social media has become the main platform for talking about body image and expectations in recent years. However, this is not exclusive to the internet; it is everywhere girls go. Expectations follow them everywhere, even into the classroom.

“In eighth grade, I was told that my off-the-shoulder shirt would distract my male teacher by another staff member. I responded by saying if he is distracted by a 13-year-old’s shoulder, he shouldn’t be a teacher,” Bella Magee, junior, said. Magee was given detention for her response.  “It was hurtful more than anything. I was hurt,” Magee said when reflecting on the situation.

The classroom is supposed to be a safe environment for girls to learn and figure out who they want to be. School staff members telling middle school-aged girls that their clothes are sexual does not create a safe environment. Magee explains that the “made [her] feel incredibly uncomfortable.” No girl should feel uncomfortable or unsafe by staff in a school setting.

There is an appropriate way to reprimand a student for breaking a school dress code and there is an inappropriate way. Magee’s situation was handled completely inappropriately. “Being sexualized in 8th grade is traumatizing,” Magee said.

And, unfortunately, this experience is all too common. According to Dr. Maureen McHugh, professor of psychology at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 70% of middle and high school students experience slut-shaming.

“Each person must find a way to accept things they cannot change,” Michaela Fraley, English teacher, said. Fraley offers advice to students, specifically girls, who are feeling pressure to look a certain way. “Self-esteem comes from having a solid identity. That comes from your definition of what shapes identity,” Fraley said.