An Analysis of Self-Esteem During the Teenage Years

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Rose Marabello

Aissata Barry ’22 has created support groups for teenagers over Instagram, FaceBook and Reddit.

Self-esteem is essential to leading a fulfilling life. It can be broadly defined as regard for one’s abilities. However, it is experienced differently by every person. “I would define self-esteem as how I feel about myself, and my confidence in my abilities,” said Cynthia Zacapa ’23. Alexis Chen ’20 similarly defined it as “having a positive outlook on yourself and your accomplishments.” Clearly, self-esteem means something different for different people.

We build self-esteem throughout our lives as we encounter new people, experience new things, develop more skills, and challenge our comfort zones. Our teenage years are crucial for finding that confidence in ourselves. “Self-esteem is such an important skill for teenagers to develop because being comfortable in your own body makes life so much easier,” said Aissata Barry ’22. Since these are the years of transition from childhood to adulthood, we can take advantage of the time to experiment, learn new things and discover ourselves, and become more confident in the process. This is a period of self-discovery, and we can try our best to become experts about ourselves. 

Many Bronx Science students are taking the initiative and establishing programs to help others develop their self-esteem. For instance, Barry has started several groups on various media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, that help other teens boost their self-confidence. One is a public Facebook group named “Self-esteem,” in which members post pictures with positive messages about self-esteem and provide support to each other. Another one is an Instagram account named @washed.raspberries which posts original artwork (paintings and digital animations) and starts conversations on self-esteem with its followers. With each post, followers are encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences on subjects relating to self-esteem.

Self-esteem has a huge impact on our lives, and everything in our lives affects our sense of self-esteem. So, it only seems logical that the place that students spend the most time, school, would have an immense impact on our self-esteem.

School can be a challenging environment for some students and can have an effect on the student’s self-esteem and mental well-being. For example, if a student studies very hard for a test and receives a score lower than they were hoping for, this can directly affect their outlook on their abilities. 

It is really easy to be very competitive in this environment, and it could lower your self-esteem if you struggle to keep up with your peers in one area,” said Sarah Shaw ’22. Isabella Vidal ’22 agrees. “I think the way many schools end up stopping us from succeeding by making it hard to do well, instead of focusing purely on education, has a negative impact on students’ self-esteem,” said Vidal. 

 However, not everyone agrees with the sentiment that Vidal and Shaw have presented. Diana Perez ’21 disagrees with the notion that schools can have a negative impact on self-esteem. “I believe that being presented with challenges, and then being able to overcome them helps you feel more confident in your efforts than not having to work to achieve your goals,” said Perez.

 School may actually be beneficial to the way that students view themselves. Prama Singha ’21 said, “Most people at Bronx Science have always had a lot of respect for their intelligence, and through school, you will put in a lot of thought and work, and you will be proud of what you do.” As long as students find a balance between enjoying and challenging themselves, self-esteem will improve. 

“Bronx Science helped to raise my self-esteem because I was surrounded by a community of supportive people who are going through similar processes as I am,” said Shaw.  

What we do outside of school also has the potential to heavily impact our self-esteem. Zacapa participates in a group called Vivo Latino and feels the experience has positively impacted her self-esteem. “It has helped me gain a connection with my heritage and understand myself more, and has helped me to feel more included since coming to Bronx Science,” said Zacapa. 

Likewise, Vidal, a member of the Bronx Science Policy Debate Team believes that debate was very helpful in developing her self-esteem. “I really like the team environment and the friends that we make through the activity,” she said. “Naturally, losing rounds can hurt your self-esteem temporarily, but overall, if you put the work in, debate can be really rewarding for your self-esteem.”

Engaging in sports may also help boost self-esteem. “Being a member of a team means that you’ll always have their support, and it’s nice to feel like someone’s got your back,” said Perez. “Sports help you destress because you feel the air evaporates the sweat from your body, and the adrenaline coursing in your veins, which makes everything else leave your mind,” said Chen. 

But exactly how important is self-esteem to students? It depends. “If you are trying to be a leader, it’s pretty important,” said Chen, “but if you want to be a successful artist, you don’t necessarily have to have the most self-esteem; just don’t think that you will fail in everything that you produce.”  Self-esteem will help you develop as a person because if you know, or at least believe, that you can do something, you are more likely to be able to achieve it. 

It is very important to be able to trust yourself in order to do anything well and to have a good time doing it. A school that provides education, opportunities for personal growth, and skills-building can help, but what is most important is an encouraging group of students and teachers, and putting in the effort to grow your self-esteem.  

“Bronx Science helped to raise my self-esteem because I was surrounded by a community of supportive people who are going through similar processes as I am,” said Shaw.  

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