Body Image and Self-Esteem Connection in Adolescents


The most crucial distinguishing feature of adolescence is the fundamental change in the sphere of his self-awareness, which is of cardinal importance for forming a teenager as a person. In adolescence, young people actively develop self-awareness and their independent self-assessment standards, and a personal attitude. At this age, a teenager begins to realize his peculiarity and uniqueness. In his mind, there is a gradual reorientation from external assessments to internal ones. Thus, in adolescence, when the ongoing hormonal restructuring of the body leads to a change in the adolescent’s appearance, the problem of attitude towards his body becomes especially acute. Moreover, at present, the media are actively promoting standards for the formation of a modern person. From childhood, a person is faced with the influence on the value attitudes of the “ideal” appearance standards. By comparing themselves with ideal body images on the Internet and finding many differences, teenagers do not feel ‘in tune’ with themselves. Due to body dissatisfaction, the self-esteem of the teenager decreases. In adolescence, the perception of body image is primarily shaped by social standards, which leads to high levels of unhappiness with one’s body and low self-esteem, especially among girls.

Body Perception Development

Body perceptions and self-esteem are interconnected and influence one another. Body image encompasses an individual’s body-related self-perceptions and self-attitudes (Gupta et al., 2016). If a person, looking in the mirror, notices even the smallest flaws and, as a result, does not feel love for themselves, it leads to a loss of self-confidence and problems in all areas of life. According to Gupta et al. (2016), self-esteem represents a measure of a person’s self-worth is related to their perceived accomplishments as well as the overall view of how society values them. High or positive self-esteem allows a person to assess themselves and those around them realistically. On the contrary, low self-esteem can cause destructive emotions and feelings, as well as a negative attitude to himself and life. More specifically, adolescents with low self-esteem are at higher risk for depression (Fiorilli et al., 2019). Palmer and Wilding (2017) note that low levels of self-esteem may result in suicidal inclinations, psychological and physical illnesses, and further destructive behaviors. Therefore, body image and self-esteem are interrelated and influence one another throughout the lifespan.

In the teenage years, the formation of both body image and self-esteem occurs. Adolescence is a critical period in an individual’s growth (Minev & Petrova, 2018). All personality components are reorganized at this crucial moment of physical, mental, moral, and social development. In adolescence, an individual’s self-esteem may experience some instability and is subject to external influences. The main factors that determine a teenager’s self-esteem are gender, ethnicity, and social class. Studies have shown that physical appearance was one of the most significant predictors of adolescents’ self-esteem (Gupta et al., 2016). Body image dissatisfaction is a common issue among adolescents, with 79% of young women claiming to have to change something about their appearance (Pop, 2016). It is also a particularly concerning issue for girls: 63.3% of girls reported negative body images as compared to only 21.5% of boys (Gupta et al., 2016). According to research by Murray et al. (2018), females are more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies, and, as a result, struggle with stress, the increased desire to lose weight quickly, symptoms of depression, and low self-worth. Thus, both self-esteem and one’s body perception are formed in adolescence, and many teenagers, especially girls, have self-esteem problems due to dissatisfaction with their appearance.

The Role of BMI

When studying a teenager’s dissatisfaction with their body, one should consider such an indicator as body mass index (BMI), which reflects the ratio of a person’s height and weight. Body dissatisfaction is only partially related to BMI. According to Pop (2016), self-esteem is better correlated with body image, which is a subjective parameter, compared to objective parameters, such as BMI. Even though 87.7% of the subjects fell into the standard and underweight categories, 66% reported that they want to lose weight (Pop, 2016). Following Pop (2016), only 32% of body dissatisfaction is determined by the body mass index, making it an important but not the only factor in body perception problems. Thanks to Czech experts’ research, it was found that adolescents’ attempts to change their weight increase not only with the growth in the body mass index (BMI) but also with hard-hitting criticism. (Šmídová et al., 2018) For adolescents, the indicator is not as important as other factors, including someone else’s opinion. Thus, although the BMI often comprehensively evaluates the picture of a person’s proportions, the dissatisfaction with one’s body is only partially related to this indicator.

Impact of Social Attitudes

The influence of social attitudes on adolescents’ perception of their bodies cannot be underestimated. Western society encourages young people to evaluate themselves regarding image, thus shaping a self-critical perception regarding the way they appear physically. According to Dogan et al. (2018), there is a positive correlation between adolescent body image and factors such as media and the behavior of parents and peers. According to Gupta et al. (2016), for girls in their adolescence, the persistent pressures exerted by the continuous use of social media and the exposure to the images of ideal bodies contribute to their dissatisfaction with their bodies. Several studies on the relations between social media usage, body image, and self-esteem conclude that the more adolescents use social networks, the more they become concerned with their bodies (Salomon & Spears Brown, 2019). Adolescents who are supported and approved by their parents are more satisfied with their bodies than adolescents encouraged by their parents to lose weight or work on their bodies (Ivanovich et al., 2017). Based on the above facts, it can be concluded that adolescents’ perception of their bodies is socially shaped.


Adolescent self-esteem is the primary form of personality and shows the social adaptation of the character, acting as a regulator of its activities and behavior. Changes in a person’s body during puberty make them particularly conscious about their physical appearance. In this way, appearance becomes an emotionally significant factor in the life of adolescents. Dissatisfaction with their appearance bothers them constantly and the thoughts of their unattractiveness may become obsessive. In addition to internal factors, the opinion of friends, parents, and the media influence adolescents’ perception of their bodies. The expectations of an ideal body in teenagers are primarily shaped by society through objectification, body shaming, and prejudice. It results in a high level of body dissatisfaction among young people, especially girls, who experience low self-esteem and the feeling that their bodies do not conform to society’s standards. Thus, body image and self-image are interconnected and affect each other throughout a person’s life.


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