Person You’d Like To Be

Because you’re calling us for advice on becoming the person you’d like to be, you’re probably not too happy with the kind of person you are now or think you are now.


You see, many people — but especially teens — don’t see themselves as they really are. They think much less of themselves than others think of them. We say “especially teens” because that’s a time in your life when you become super-critical of the way you look, think, feel, and behave. You can get down on yourself for anything from the length of your nose to sexual fantasies you’re having.

We don’t have any magic formulas for how to change the things about yourself that you don’t like. But we think that if you understood why you’re so often down on yourself, you could change that. We’re going to explain why teens are sometimes too critical of themselves – and what you, in particular, can do to see yourself more realistically and start liking yourself.

When you enter your teens, you start turning to your friends and peers for the kind of support your parents gave you w en you were a kid. You need to have your friends and peers let you know that you’re an o.k. person — that you’re fun to be with, good looking, or whatever else you need reassurance about. You try to figure out how they feel about you by paying close attention to what they say to you and about you, and how they treat you. But when you’re always on the alert like this, you pick up things on the negative side as well as the positive. You become real sensitive to anything negative because all of this is so important to you. If you don’t get invited someplace where everyone else is going, or someone puts you down for something you’ve said or done, you may start thinking there’s something wrong with you. You can become super-critical of yourself.

There’s another thing that you’re going through now that can make you feel down about yourself. That’s pressure to do. Pressure from your parents to do better in school, to grow up, to be more like them, to do anything you’re doing now, better. Pressure from your parents, teachers and yourself to make that all import t decision about college or a career. Sometimes these demands can get too much for you to handle , and you can’t cope as well as you’d like. You might be disappointed in yourself because you’re not doing as well as everyone seems to expect you to do.

The way you think you look can be a real hassle for you now, too. You may think you’re too skinny or too fat, too tall or t 0 short. Because of the way in which your body is growing, you may be feeling clumsy or awkward. You may also have problems with your skin. If you’re unhappy with the way you look, you might dislike yourself for that, too.

But what does all of this have to do with becoming the person you would like to be? What we’re trying to say is that maybe, like many teens, you are too critical of yourself, and think that you’re worse than you really are. Maybe you need to get a more realistic picture of yourself before you can start liking yourself. For example: if friends or peers sometimes make you feel bad about yourself because of the way they treat you, look at the situation again. Are you sure you’re not picking up mostly on the negative stuff? As for pressures you may be feeling to do better in school, to be a better person, to make a super career choice, or whatever — the only advice we can give you is to try to do your best. If you’re happy and content with that, other people will learn to respect you for what you’re doing, too.

If you’re unhappy with the way you look, try to realize that whatever you seem to be stuck with now is probably not a permanent condition. If it’s something that a visit to a dermatologist or a hair stylist could fix, do it. See your family doctor or the school nurse for a diet that will work for you if you need to lose or gain weight. We know that the way you look is very important to you, and that there’s really very little we can do or say to change the way you feel about your looks. But again be realistic. Because you are so sensitive about this, you’re probably being very hard on yourself and seeing a lot more faults than there are.

Another way to figure out if you’re seeing yourself realistically is to ask your friends, parents and relatives how they see you. This takes guts. If their comments and suggestions seem to make sense, then take some positive steps to do something about your problem or concern.

We’ve said throughout this tape that you might be seeing yourself as worse than you are because you’re being too hard on yourself. But what if you are seeing yourself pretty realistically? What if the negative vibes you’re getting from others are real? Don’t automatically assume that they’re right and you’re wrong. Maybe the problem lies with them. It could just be that they’re putting you down because of hang ups they have. Maybe they’re jealous. Maybe it bothers them that you’re feeling, thinking. and acting like the unique person you are, rather than how they would like to see you feel, think, and act. To find Out for sure why they’re reacting negatively to you, ask them. You just might find out that their problem with you is exactly that — their problem, not yours.

We’ve suggested that if you’re unhappy with yourself and want to do something about it, take a close look at yourself. Try to figure out if you’re seeing your faults and shortcomings realistic ally. If you can’t do it by yourself, ask your friends, parents and relatives how they see you. Make sure that you’re not feeling bad about negative reactions you’re getting from others that may be the result of their hang ups. And remember — look for improvement, not perfection.


For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.