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Japanese Teenagers Have Low Self-Esteem

Erika Iijima

February 27, 2019


Do you like yourself? Do you take care for yourself? A lot of Japanese teenagers have low self-esteem. Low self-esteem could lead some problems such as a suicide and bullying. In Japan, lots of teenager commits suicide every year. Is this the sad tendency unique to Japanese? 


Current Situation in Japan


According to a survey on self-esteem by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2016, most of Japanese teenagers showed slightly positive self-esteem but it is getting lower as they get older (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. Degree of Self-Esteem by Age


Source: 2016 Survey for Youth Activities, National Institute for Youth Education Reference Data of the 38thEducation Rebuilding Council From Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2016.


    In comparison with other countries, Japanese teenagers have lower self-esteem than their counterparts in the US, China, and Korea (see Figure 2).


Figure 2. International Comparison of Teenage Self-Esteem

Source: 2016 Survey for Youth Activities, National Institute for Youth Education Reference Data of the 38th Education Rebuilding Council From Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2016.


Reasons Why Japanese Have Very Little Confidence


To compare the statistics with the first-hand examples at the Showa Women’s University and high school students, two students of the Business Design Department at Showa Women’s University and their sibling who are high school students were asked below questions regarding their self-esteem in July 2018. They are all between 18 to 21 year-old.

Do you like yourself?

Why do you like/dislike yourself?

How do you motivate yourself?

Half of interviewees liked themselves. The others didn’t like themselves. But both of them have a reason why they like or dislike themselves. Moreover, they know they have their strong point and weak point.

          Half of the interviewees liked themselves, saying “I like myself because I have studied abroad.” Others said “I don’t have confidence of myself and I do not like myself.”

Reasons of Low Self-Esteem 

There are various of reasons why Japanese have low self-esteem, such as national characteristic, academic background hierarchy, and digital native society. First, low self-esteem is often attributed to cultural characteristics of east Asia. Asian people are often regarded as humble and introverted. When asked about “self,” they often show their esteem lower.

            Second, many Japanese seek to enter high-brand schools and companies and parents give a strong pressure to do so on their children. Children always compare themselves with the others in terms of academic or sports achievements. They judge themselves according to such hierarchy. If they are not ranked in the top group of this hierarchy, they tend to lose their self-esteem. Third, this generation is called “digital native.” A lot of people live with such technologies as digital devices and social media. They communicate and share their pictures or lifestyles with unknown people through the SNS. The way of gratifying their esteem needs became different from the past. In Japan, a lot of young people like to use photo edit apps called “snow” or “B612.” When you take pictures, these apps recognize your face and make your eyes or face line good-looking. Young people are very good at taking good selfie using these apps, which means, they now can easily conceal their unlikable self image to keep their esteem.

           Among lower teenagers, young girls have especially low self-esteem. One of the causes is said to be the Japanese historical practices. Japanese social norms are deeply rooted in the mindset of men’s predominance over women. A popular traditional saying of “Woman should walk one step behind a man and let him make a man” depicts Japan’s old virtue. But because of this persistent gender role image, younger women are likely seen themselves lower than the one they really are.


What Will Make Teenagers Motivated?


The best way that you motivate yourself is experience. As the research by the National Institute for Youth Education, students who have less life experiences or study achievements tend to have lower confidence compared with the students with variety of experience. There is no easy way to raise confidence over right. People have to keep their effort and try over and over again to foster self-consciousness.


References:National Institute for Youth Education

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