Saturday, February 5, 2011

Everybody Hates Me: Adults need to help teens feel better about themselves

Michael (16) doesn’t want to be in school. Today the first day back after the long summer vacation, he acted up and played the fool with the result he gained nothing from the lesson and unfortunately neither did the other 31 members of the class.

Like many teenagers Michael suffers from low self esteem.  I came to this conclusion after I spent a few minutes chatting to him at the end of the lesson. Failure at school is undoubtedly one of the contributing factors for the way Michael feels about himself but a five minute conversation revealed that he wasn’t getting on with his family and didn’t have any real friends. Michael is no orphan; approximately 20% of all teenagers have low-self esteem issues.

It is easy to say so what?  I mean haven’t we all at some time in our lives thought  we were ugly, too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall and just not smart enough? But low self-esteem is not a trivial problem that will, inevitably given time, resolve itself. Low self- esteem is one of the most harmful issues facing teens today. Not only does it affect learning it can lead to delinquency, eating disorders, self-harm, drugs and suicide.

When I was a child parents didn’t expect so much of their children. In fact, in my family ambition was frowned on. I can remember telling my mother that I’d like to be a lawyer when I grew up and being told that jobs like that weren’t for ‘the likes of us’. How times have changed!

We live in a success orientated culture and today teens are bombarded with high expectations in almost every aspect of their lives. But when suicide is the leading cause of death in youths 10 -19,  as parents, teachers and friends, we have to ask ourselves, have we set the bar at unrealistic and, for many teenagers, unattainable levels? In my latest book, The Biocide Conspiracy both my teenage characters have low self-esteem but for very different reasons. 

Ann Massey
Author of:
The White Amah, a mystery set against the backdrop of the timber logging industry in Malaysia. Sample or purchase:
The Biocide Conspiracy, a Young Adult thriller that sweeps readers into the world of biowarfare. Sample or purchase;

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