The Importance of Personal Image for Teenagers

Adolescence is characterized by the search for one's own identity. And the best way for teens to express it is through their personal image.
The Importance of Personal Image for Teenagers

Last update: 26 March, 2022

Our personal image is our calling card, the most important way we have to present ourselves to the world and to others, to say “this is who I am”. Therefore, it’s logical that this takes on great relevance during adolescence, a time characterized by the search for one’s own identity.

Many young people can become obsessed with the personal image they convey, to the point of engaging in harmful or dangerous behaviors. Therefore, as parents, we must understand and guide this search, respecting its importance and promoting solid self-esteem.

Personal image and identity

With adolescence comes the need to establish an identity of one’s own. However, discovering who you are isn’t an easy task, and the answer is often obtained after a process of trial and error.

Self-image is one of the greatest tools that children have to express this new and precious identity. But, if we take into account that this isn’t yet fully established, it’s logical that we find adolescents moving from one appearance to another, from one style to another.

A teenage boy with his hair covering his eyes, wearing headphones.

The problem arises when social pressure and insecurity take control of the process. When this happens, appearances become overly important and the child’s personal essence is forgotten. To help our children develop a proper self-image, we need to know the elements that compose it.

What is self-image made up of?

  • External appearance: The visual image we present to others. This includes clothing, makeup, accessories, or perfume. As well as personal hygiene or body image. It’s the outward appearance that others perceive when they look at us.
  • Expression: Gestures, postures, movements, communicative style. These are the elements that come into play when we’re in motion. Our tone of voice, where we direct our gaze, the expressions we use when we speak. All this provides important information about our personality.
  • Attitude: This is the essence that’s impregnated in each of our actions. It’s the thread that runs through our performance, the overall impression we leave on others. Therefore, we can show a helpful, indifferent, carefree, provocative, or benevolent attitude.

All these elements must serve to externalize, in a natural way, who we are. However, adolescents can make the mistake of putting their image before their person. They may try to use their appearance to form a persona that they believe will gain social acceptance and recognition.

They may embark on dangerous dietary restrictions to achieve a slimmer body image. Or they may act indifferent despite being flooded with feelings inwardly. Clearly, this is harmful and damaging and hinders their discovery of their true selves. Therefore, as parents, we can put in place certain strategies to help prevent this havoc.

What can we do as parents?

  • Understand the stage of life your child is going through. Downplaying their concerns about their personal image will only make them feel misunderstood and disregard your advice. Try to put yourself in their shoes.
  • Respect their need for individual expression. Don’t try to impose an outfit, a hairstyle, or a way of behaving. After all, they’re projecting themselves and it’s up to them to choose what they want to project.
  • Help them to understand that their image must be self-serving, and not the other way around. Their image should naturally reflect their essence and personality and they don’t need to appear to be something they’re not.
  • Be a guide and not a judge. As a parent, you have to set certain limits to ensure the welfare of your child. But always try to express them with consistency and respect. You may think that your child is too young to dye their hair, as it can damage it. But try to look for alternatives and reach agreements such as for example, a temporary dye. It’s important that your teenager perceives that you’re trying to ensure their well-being, but not to coerce their wishes.

In short, the search for one’s identity in adolescence is natural and inevitable. So is the need to express oneself through self-image. Instead of underestimating the importance of this for young people, let’s try to understand, respect, and guide them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • García, L. (2007). La Imagen Personal, un activo muy importante a cuidar.
  • Montt, M. E., & Chávez, F. U. (1996). Autoestima y salud mental en los adolescentes. Salud mental19(3), 30-35.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.