Self-Esteem in Boys
We tend to get bombarded by the media highlighting how important self esteem in girls is, or how
difficult it is to be a girl in the age of social media, how girls are always taught to compare their bodies to others, and how if they don’t look a certain way, they aren’t as important. But what about the teen boys? Why is it that we rarely hear about expectations that are set for young men in our society? This article will highlight some of the main factors that can harm a young man’s confidence, and a few tips to help combat those factors.
Generally speaking, boys tend to have more difficulty with sustained attention than girls do. In a
classroom setting, this can lead to more corrections from teachers which can cause anger and
embarrassment for the student, often times lowering their self-esteem and desire to participate in
classroom activities. One great way to prevent this from happening is to introduce body breaks into the classroom setting, or at any time the child needs to focus for a long period of time. Teachers, parents and students are encouraged to communicate openly when either is noticing an increase in fidgeting or frustration, so that a break can be had to prevent any outbursts.
Studies have shown that boys are more likely to bully others than girls; this, along with the knowledge that boys are constantly comparing themselves to others their age can lead to lower self esteem. Whether it be comparing their height, grades, athletic ability or popularity level, boys are surrounded by others who are all striving to be the “best” at what they do. It’s important to instill in boys the ability to see different rather than better. Encourage young boys to find what they excel at, and not to be bothered by what anyone else is doing.
Social media has a huge influence on teens’ lives nowadays. It gives teens a way to truly compare the amount that their peers “like” them and their friends. Recently, platforms like Instagram have tried to battle against this by removing the ability to see just how many “likes” others have at a quick glance, which is a step in the right direction. Even still, social media has been shown to lead to intensify symptoms of depression and anxiety, cause envy and jealousy, has been tied to sleep deprivation and communication issues. Helping to take action against mental health issues related to social media use can be challenging, but trying to limit social media use is a good place to start. Decide on an amount of time that is fair, but not excessive, for the teen to check and post on social media, and when the time is up, the phone/ computer goes away. Spending more time outside or with friends and family is another great way to avoid the mental health issues that social media can cause. This way the adolescent is still getting social interaction, but it’s in a face to face format rather than screen to screen.
-Pressure to “Be a Man”-
From such a young age, many boys are taught to suppress their emotions or are told that “boys don’t cry”. Breaking down those gender stereotypes is so important to not only the boys’ self esteem, but their overall mindset. It’s important to emphasize that everyone feels a variety of emotions, and that it’s okay to experience any emotion that they happen to experience. On top of encouraging them to be open to feeling emotions, adults should lead by example. Show the young/teen boy in your life that you are open to showing emotions- sometimes you cry when you’re upset and that’s perfectly normal. It’s also important to introduce them to a variety of potential role models; men who are extroverted, introverted, funny, intellectual, masculine and feminine so they can see for themselves that men don’t all fit into one category. Encourage them to ask questions and to express their emotions however they feel is necessary.
-Leading by Example-
Many adults have self deprecating behaviours that they may not even notice. For some, constantly
joking about themselves, or putting themselves in a negative light is a coping mechanism for dealing with their own insecurities; but it can be contagious when it comes to children and teens. If you find yourself speaking poorly about yourself (whether you’re around your teen or not), take note of why you’re saying the things you are. Make a conscious effort not to make the comments or jokes and show your teen how to be confident in yourself. Teach your teen not only how to advocate for himself, but for others around him too.
As with most things, self-esteem is not something that can be changed or created over night. Patience, mixed with any combination of the above tips should slowly start building a more confident teen.
1. Gender Differences in Bullying | PREV Net
2. Social Media's Impact On Self-Esteem | HuffPost | Clarissa Silva | Feb 22, 2017
3. Teens are Divided on the Impact of Social Media | American Psychiatric Association | June 7, 2018
4. Social Media Effects on Teens | Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem | Child Mind Institute | Rachel Ehmke
5. How to Help Build Your Son's Self-Esteem | Understanding Boys | Chris Hudson | Feb 21, 2017
6. How to Build Boys' Self-Confidence | Child Mind Institute | Beth Arky
7. Boost Your Teen Boy's Self Confidence | SheKnows | Kori Wllis | Aug 4, 2011
8. 5 Ways Social Media Affects Teen Mental Health | Verywell Family | Sherri Gordon | Apr 6, 2019
9. Boys Need Help with Self-Esteem, Too | Psych Central | Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D | May 16, 2016
Social Media and Self Esteem
Most of us are guilty of using social media on a semi-regular basis. It can be a very useful tool to stay connected to family and friends, but at what point does it change from an innocent look in an attempt to remain current on the lives of friends and family to an unhealthy need and potentially self-esteem damaging obsession?
The results of studies related to social media have had mixed results, but there is a common theme - self-esteem is impacted by the use of social media. A survey of active social media users (both male and female) between the ages of 28-73 report that using social media has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way (1). Another study of teenagers aged 13-17 showed that 24% said social media had a negative effect on their lives with instances of bullying, unrealistic views of others’ lives in comparison to their own, conflict, unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction within their own relationships (2). A third study showed that social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness (3)
So how can we eliminate the risk of becoming subject to damaged self-esteem via social media? Here are a few tips:
1- Limit time spent on social platforms:
This may sound simple- but it’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re scrolling through countless pictures and status updates. Try setting a timer to track your social media time. Once the timer goes off, the apps have to be closed for the night. In addition to setting the timer, make it a point to stay off social media close to bedtime. Proper sleep hygiene includes not using screens close to falling asleep to help your brain prepare for sleep.
2- Turn off the notifications:
It’s hard to ignore a list of notifications on your phone. For some, the little red bubble next to the app is impossible to ignore. Turning off notifications will help to eliminate the impulse to check your social platforms.
3- Stick to friends and family:
Many of us are guilty of trying to keep track of what celebrities are doing on social media, but let’s face it - we all know that celebrities have an entourage of individuals who assist with their daily tasks such as professional makeup artists, hairdressers, stylists, photographers and photo editors all to make their photos look as “perfect” as possible. These unrealistic images do nothing but harm to our self-esteem. Try stick to following only your friends and family on social media for a more realistic, natural looking feed.
4- Limit Social Media Platforms:
A study published by Computers in Human Behavior showed that people who use more than 7 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression than those who used two or fewer platforms (4). If you are someone who uses many different social media platforms, monitor which ones bring you joy and which ones do not. Try to choose your top 2 apps and stick with only the ones which bring you a sense of happiness. Don’t be afraid to delete the platforms that do not bring you joy.
Like most things in life, social media is good in moderation. It’s a fantastic tool that allows us to easily stay connected with individuals that we otherwise would have trouble communicating with. Knowing ways to protect your self-esteem is very important for anyone who chooses to download an app of this sort. Feel free to share in the comments ways that you protect yourself from damaged self-esteem.
Dr. Diana Garcia
Dr. Diana Garcia has over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology. She has provided psychological and counseling services in Ontario, and the states of Pennsylvania, and Florida