This blog series was written collectively by youth co-researchers in the Voices against Violence Western Group, which met during the winter of 2014. Working together over a period of 12 weeks, these youth identified salient themes in their shared experiences, as well as how these themes intersected each other in instances of structural violence or resistance against it. Self-esteem and Identity is first in this series.
Social and cultural identity is something that is of huge importance for an individual, especially youth, to develop. Being open and honest about who you are is very difficult at time when youth are in hostile or judgmental environments. Our society is a difficult place for a youth to develop a strong sense of self and confidence because of the constant images in social media. These social media images skew youths’ perception of what their identity should be and hinders them from exploring and experiences different things to identify if they enjoy something outside of the norm. Media representations --- or rather, lack of media representations --- can also impact youth of colour, who may feel invisible and unable to access scripts for their own identity development. For youth, there is always a fear of judgment and the desire to belong to a group is so strong that others are willing to conform and not explore their personality. The society that we live in has the ability to hinder people, especially marginalized individuals (such as women, people of color, queer individuals, people with disabilities, etc.), from being powerful and confident individuals. Social gender roles that are ingrained in our culture prevents women from thriving for leader positions within society due to fear of judgment of stepping outside of social norms. Self-esteem can also be impacted by educational systems, such as grading schemes. Especially for students, college majors and area of study may become incorporated into their sense of self and identity. In addition, rejection from potential employers can affect youth self-esteem. Lastly, familial pressure and/or expectations can negatively affect youth self-esteem.