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Why do high school students struggle with their confidence?

November 22, 2016

Many believe high school cultivates self-discovery and self acceptance. Yet through the eyes of students, these four years do the opposite. For many teens high school acts as an environment where students are compared by their academic level, physical appearance and social relationships.

From the start of freshman year counselors and teachers urge students to strive to encompass all the qualities that distinguish a star pupil: a high GPA, rigorous course schedule, extracurriculars, community service and leadership positions. While these traits maintain an urge for excellence within students, they may seem difficult to achieve. As many students try to embody all these qualities, it becomes harder to stand out as an individual.

The competitive nature of this formula requires a pupil to go above and beyond in order to appear better than their fellow students. This mentality of striving to become the best can harm a student’s confidence by establishing overly critical self evaluation and concerns regarding others’ judgement. In further analyzing the situation, an individual may realize that they may never have what it takes to achieve the star student status, whether it is because of a learning disability or a lack of opportunity due to finances. This image of a perfect candidate for colleges can negatively impact a high school students academic self-esteem.

“I have friends that their parents are super excessive about colleges, and a lot my friends are academically superior. My family has always been like ‘Take the SAT, get what you get and try again’  and we  have this realistic mentality that we’re  never going to get into Harvard,” junior Angelina Rodriguez said. “For me, I have anxiety about the SAT and I’m constantly comparing my scores to other people’s worried that they make me academically  inferior.”

Body image plays a major role in diminishing confidence. High school is often a teen’s first exposure to the hypersexualization of physical appearance. There are specific desirable body types for each gender, which leads to poor body image for those who do not fit the constricting mold. Body shapes are not, and never have been, a one size fits all.

“A lot of my friends are really skinny and short and I’ve noticed that I’m tall and different from them so I’ll feel really weird,” freshman Hannah Saavedra said.

Poisoning teens’ minds with the belief their body is not good enough follows them beyond graduation. Deteriorating self confidence does not end with high school. According to a study done by the Mentor Resource Center, 44 percent of high school girls and 15 percent of high school boys attempt to lose weight because of low self-esteem. The pressure to modify one’s self to please others can greatly damage an individual’s confidence. AP and Honors Biology teacher Ms. Nelson sees issues of body image in her not only her students but in today’s society in itself.

“We live in a society that is very shallow about what people look like, particularly women, although I think it’s hard on boys now too,” said AP and honors biology teacher Ms. Nelson. “Generally there is way too much value put on what we look like and it’s not just in high school.”

A prominent social norm  that exists in high school deals with the idea that students should have a surplus of relationships, whether they are romantic or friendly. At a time where the emotions are highly vulnerable this idea can cause lowered confidence within a teen. Having a wide network of friends is something that not everyone possesses in high school, yet teens may often feel insecure knowing they have fewer relationships.

High school often resembles a place where individuals find insecurity through their own constant comparisons with others. High school experiences can teach students to grow in their own confidence by discontinuing comparisons and accepting individuality. Senior Bryan Zarate sees the silver lining within the insecurity that high school introduces.

“I believe everyone has to go through high school, they have to go through bad grades, they have to go through bad experiences with teachers, with friends, that’s just how life is, but once you’re over with that experience, with that time, you’ll be fine,” senior Bryan Zarate said. “That’s why I like high school, you know, it prepares me for college and my future.”

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