Body image issues are common among teens, and they can arise as early as the preteen years. Both girls and boys are vulnerable to developing such issues, especially as they become aware of media depictions of “ideal” – and often highly sexualized – bodies.
Girls are exposed to glossy magazines and fashion shoots showing waifish models who always seem to have flawless skin and hair. At this tender time of life, it’s difficult for youths to really understand that these images are often enhanced by computer, creating unreachable standards.
Boys, too, have challenges with the so-called “perfect” masculine body. They are likely to see action heroes, athletes, and bodybuilders in movies and TV shows they watch without even seeking them out. These men are adults who have often worked many years to cultivate a certain image.
“Me, Myself, and I” – Building an Identity Leaves Teens Wondering How They Stack Up
While it may seem obvious to parents and responsible adults, it’s not so obvious to young people that teens simply shouldn’t compare themselves to others ... whether that means their peers or the media figures popular culture encourages them to look up to.
As teens start to mature, they cast a wider net to find role models they can look to for guidance on their own behavior. It is no longer enough to focus on parents, close relatives, and adults like teachers. They look out to the wider world for images to aspire to.
This can be a positive part of growing up, since it teaches young people they have the power to choose their own behavior and guide life in a direction they consider aspirational.
Unfortunately, this natural process of exploration can also increase the pressure teens are sure to be feeling in other areas of their lives – particularly as it relates to body image.