I’m a sixteen-year-old girl and I know this is going to sound strange, but I really don’t like myself. I hate the way I look and even though my friends tell me I look fine, every time I glance in the mirror I am disgusted by what I see. I’m not fat and people say I’m not ugly, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference about how I feel. I think my nose is too big and my mouth far too thin, and I’m so desperate I’m considering having cosmetic surgery when I’m old enough. What should I do?

I’m glad you got in touch, because I think this is an issue many young people will identify with. You are certainly not alone in the way you feel and I’d like to say from the start that it is possible to learn to love and value yourself without resorting to such drastic measures as surgery.

As a teenager, you will have gone through and will probably still be going through some pretty amazing physical and emotional changes, and these can feel overwhelming. It’s not uncommon for someone your age to look in the mirror and feel insecure about what they see. However, from your question I feel you are battling low self-esteem and this is making you feel negative about yourself.

We now live in an age where images of ourselves abound, with the advent of the ‘selfie’, and this is enough to make anybody feel insecure about how they look, but perhaps more so if you’re young. At your age it’s easy for your thoughts to become distorted and you can end up focusing on things that other people just don’t see – they’re far more focused on you as a person. Giving too much importance to the way you look perhaps shows you don’t feel confident in the way you interact with others and this is what is actually undermining you.

Maybe you are self-conscious in social situations and misinterpret this as feeling anxious about your looks, when in fact you are more likely to be experiencing social anxiety. This may make you feel like everyone is staring at you and judging you. It’s not the case, but the feelings you experience are still real to you.

Counteract this by writing down a long list of all of the inner strengths you have and keep this to hand. 
Try to minimise the time you spend looking in the mirror or taking photos of yourself. Every time negative feelings well up, read your list and reframe how you think by repeating those positive messages.

So instead of trying to change your outside, do some work on how you feel inside. Give yourself time to mature and develop and begin to value what you do have and you will begin to grow that all-important inner confidence that is really what makes you shine.