When looking into self-harm, what stuck with me most was that the number of girls self-harming is significantly higher than the number of boys. It really got me thinking and all I wanted to understand was why? Does it have something to do with a female’s inability to deal with stress, or their desire to be in control, or perhaps a lack of self-esteem?
A comment on my previous self-harm post, regarding the need to be in control, reads: “Teenage girls are constantly being told what they need to be – standards that few can live up to. I believe that more girls turn to harming themselves and controlling what they eat because they can control nothing else. In male-dominated society, girls have control over almost nothing.”
This is an interesting way of looking at it, especially when we are living in a time that is media-obsessed. Girls feel like they have to conform to the stereotyped versions of beauty, and desire to look like the women who are able to commit to hours in the gym and spend thousands on plastic surgery. So many of us want to have the appearance of the women we see in magazines, who don’t even look like that themselves, because they have been air-brushed beyond belief.
In their aim to live up to these high standards, many females not only begin to feel out of control, but their self-esteem also begins to dwindle. Females often have a tendency to hate their bodies, which may lead to some of them using self-harm as a way to not only control their body, but also punish their bodies for not looking the way they want.
In fact, self-harm in young women is linked to low self-esteem, which also happens to be one of the most common mental health problems in young women. It seems that we do not give enough consideration to self-esteem among teenagers and how much of an effect that it has on them, especially in schools.
Self-harm usually follows feelings of either emotional pain, self-hatred or anger within females, as it allows them to achieve a sense of power and control over these feelings. The conversion of emotional pain into physical pain acts as a type of coping mechanism, which helps to keep them going, but also raises the question: why choose self-harm rather than healthier ways of coping with the pain?
It turns out that women find it easier to cope with physical pain than emotional pain, which is possibly why they turn to self-harm. However, it goes so much deeper, as self-harm is a physical manifestation of extreme emotional distress and usually a small part of a bigger picture.
Getting anyone to admit that they self-harm is difficult, but more individuals would be likely to step forward if they could be assured of the support, love and understanding that they need to help them stop. Females need others to not only accept that they self-harm, but also look beyond the act and see the person who is suffering behind the scars.
However, what we really need to focus on is raising the self-esteem of our young women. Let’s compliment each other, make each other feel comfortable in our own skin and appreciate others for who they are. The link between low self-esteem and self-harm within young women is worrying and it definitely needs to be addressed.