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High School and College Students: Self Esteem

What is self-confidence?

Self-confidence is the measure of our belief in our own ability to achieve goals and succeed at challenges. Self-confidence is widely understood to have a significant impact on our day-to-day lives. Whether you feel confident in school or not can have a significant impact on you and your self esteem. Creating confidence will help you feel better and more comfortable about yourself, will open up new doors and relationships for you, and will help you understand what you deserve out of other people in relationships and friendships.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is how you see yourself on the inside. Self-esteem has a great impact on the confidence you project into the world. It's something that a lot of people struggle with, especially while in high school and college. Having self-esteem correlates with academic performance, having friends, body image, and a variety of other factors. Some students struggle with self-esteem in various ways. Some base their self-esteem on their appearance, what grades they get, how many friends they have, whether they are popular or not, what they don't like about themselves, and even their social media status. Those with lower self esteem often struggle with anxiety, possibly depression, are less likely to approach people or make new friends, and may struggle with being in school or going out.


Both self-confidence and self-esteem are very essential to your success in the future, so it’s important to cultivate your strength now and believe in your ability to make a difference. One Life Project staff created this page to help you build your self-esteem and recognize your worth.

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What are the most common causes of low self esteem?

Body Image Issues

Body image and self esteem are consistently linked, especially in high school and college students. Most young people find fault with their bodies, but it has greater impact on young people who are always comparing themselves to others, especially through social media. Young people, and even some adults, often use their body image and how they look as to whether they have low or high self esteem. 

Social Expectations

This is another common factor for low self esteem in young people. We are all constantly exposed to the successes of friends and family on social media and we are around highly edited photos of people on social media daily. It’s hard to resist comparison and the feeling of not being good enough. Society’s unreasonable and unattainable expectations are damaging to self-worth, especially to young people.

Social/Peer Pressure

Adolescents spend an extraordinary amount of time seeking a place to belong. Being accepted by their peers is important to how they view themselves. Teens want to be liked and to be like others which often leads them to give in to peer pressure. When teens are in social situations that don’t go well, they may take things personally which results in lower self esteem. This low self esteem may cause them to avoid more social situations or to misread social cues. The cycle becomes difficult to break.


Self-Esteem and Social Media Use

As social media continues to grow in popularity, the consequences of heavy online use have become increasingly clear, especially for young people. While social media can have many positive effects, researchers are aware that it’s balanced by negative effects that can have long-term impacts on the mental health and overall well-being of teens and young adults. Some more recent studies have shown a correlation between social media and online networking sites and a young adults self-esteem. As we go on social media, we are consistently showed images of people looking their best, people in happy relationships, people with friend groups, and we see everyones accomplishments, and successes. We aren't typically shown the negative side of people or their real day to day life. We usually only see them at their best. This can cause low self-esteem for some.

In reality, social media is even more addictive than alcohol or cigarettes. It's free to access, available every day all day long, and seems harmless at the helm of it. Social media is more commonly used by younger people as well. Teens and young adults are already prone to lowered self esteem and they typically are less aware of who they are and are learning more about themselves each day. A priority for young people is to feel popular, included, and 'cool'. As they step into the social media world, these feelings amplify even more as social media comparison and jealousy is rampant. 

Comparing yourself to others typically will make you feel inferior and less than equal. It may also make you jealous and more prone to judge yourself for qualities you may have that others do not. For social media users who frequent social platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, these feelings are only amplified. That’s because, with social media, the opportunity for social comparison is virtually infinite. Between everyone using the best pictures of themselves, often filtered, some showcasing seemingly endless amounts of money, and super happy relationships, it's understandable to feel jealous or low in self-esteem. However, growing self-esteem is important.


"I've struggled with self-esteem for most of my high school and college life. I always thought I was less than others because my life was more boring than those I'd see on social media. I would see constant pictures on Instagram and Snapchat of people looking perfect, exploring the world, and gaining lots of followers and I thought I had to be that way. The truth is that it took a heavy toll on me and my self-esteem. I developed an eating disorder in high school and even self-harmed because I was so unhappy with who I was and every time I would go onto social media, I would become more jealous of others and I would wonder why I wasn't good enough and why I didn't look a certain way. It was self-deteriorating. As I got older and more along in college, I started realizing that I was a good person in my own ways. I was different from everyone else and that is what makes me, me and that's what makes you, you. Don't feel pressure to conform to what social media and society deems as normal and attractive. Be yourself. Love who you are. Be the real, authentic you. It took me a while to realize that and now I am lucky to have a large following of people that follow me because I am me. It's been the most important thing I have learned growing into my early twenties. Just be you. That's what makes you so unique.


As you use social media, I try to remember the following and maybe it'll help you too:

  • Social media does NOT paint an accurate picture of someone's life. It's often only a small fraction of what happens in their life. Some people may experience depression and crying for a majority of the day, but then post a happy picture of them out with friends. This picture is not truly showcasing how the person currently feels. Many young people only post things they want their followers to see, things that make them look good. So for the most part, you are only seeing the best parts of their life.

  • Social media should not determine self-worth. Just because someone else is doing something cool, doesn't mean that you are less than them.

  • Be yourself. Post content you want to post, not what you think others need to see. 

  • Take a break if need be. It's okay to turn off social media for a day or two.

Just remember, you are unique for a reason and being like everyone else will take away who you really are. It's hard to gain self-esteem and self-confidence, but you have to do it. It will make all the difference in growing up and experiencing life. Take it one step at a time."

-Alexander Kovarovic / Executive Director of One Life Project Inc

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