Desire for peer approval leads to excess teen spending. ( CNS photo/Paul Haring

Self-esteem sends girls to poor house

By  Melissa Oro, Youth Speak News
  • February 28, 2014

Owning the latest gadget or wearing the most chic fashion can give teens some much-needed confidence, but it can also cloud their financial judgment.

Results from a 2014 studentrun survey conducted on 40 students from the all-girls St. Joseph’s College School show that teenage girls spend more money on products that enhance their appearance than they receive in average monthly income.

Ten girls from each grade at the Toronto high school were surveyed on their spending habits. Of the 40, there were 22 with part-time jobs and 18 who receive an allowance from their parents. The girls’ average monthly income is $211.15.

The survey also showed that 80 per cent of the girls felt they were pressured to look a certain way. The importance of owning a certain item and the importance of enhancing one’s overall appearance has caused young teenage girls to pile up on the beauty products they can’t afford.

Mary Esayas, a Grade 12 student from St. Joseph’s College, is one of several girls who says she spends more than what she earns. Her source of income is the allowance she receives from her parents. She said she saves to purchase whatever she desires.

“Expensive things tend to give that illusion where you automatically look well put together,” Esayas said. “It also has this power where it boosts self-esteem too. A certain celebrity wears this certain shade of lipstick and many girls will feel that that shade will somehow give them confidence so they’ll run to a makeup counter and buy that lipstick.”

At this stage in their lives, many high school students are trying to discover themselves through creating friendships. The importance of being accepted and gaining the interest of peers is part of a teenager’s life. Sometimes, they do this by trying to impress their peers with the things they own or plan on owning.

Heightened consumerism, a tool for gaining confidence, is affected by self-esteem. Low selfesteem exists among adolescents in part because of what they are exposed to on the Internet. Teens are also influenced by pictures of highly privileged teens or young celebrities posing with their designer shoes and handbags. With all the high expectations that society has for beauty and rank, teens gravitate to shopping malls, buying beauty products that don’t fit their budget.

When students have money, “They don’t think, ‘Oh, I need to save up for a textbook or a next trip.’ It’s more like, ‘I have money, I have 20 bucks, there’s this top that I want, I’m going to buy it.’ They find money and spend it so they can fill in that void in their life,” said Larry Da Silva, a child and youth worker at St. Joseph’s College.

He speaks to students daily and notices issues surrounding student life such as low self-esteem. Da Silva says that seeking help and communicating will help deal with insecurities and uncertainties. He believes that in order to combat this problem, there should be a shift in focus.

“The focus should just be school and how they’re going to get to where they need to get without the need of materialistic things in life. I find that a lot of materialistic things really hold students back,” he said. “A way to conquer selfesteem is to accept who you are.”

(Oro, 17, is a Grade 12 student at St. Joseph’s College School in Toronto.)

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