That’s awkward! 68% still often feel as insecure as they did as teens

NEW YORK — Your teenage years can be a rollercoaster of physical and emotional changes as adolescents navigate a period of rapid growth and self-discovery, often accompanied by insecurities and uncertainty. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always end there. More than two-thirds (68%) of adults sometimes feel as awkward as they did in their teens, new research suggests.

A survey of 2,000 U.S. respondents ages 25 to 45 found that as teens, people were most self-conscious about their body shape (65%), hairstyle (61%), and smile (61%). Many continue to feel this way, despite the average person feeling at their most awkward at age 17.

As adults, over half are still uncomfortable about their body shape (55%), hairstyle (53%), and smile (52%). More men than women are currently self-conscious about their glasses/contact lenses (51% vs. 39%), height (54% vs. 42%), hairstyle (57% vs. 48%), and smile (55% vs. 49%).

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Smile Express, a doctor-monitored at-home aligner treatment for adults, results also found that only 30 percent usually stand in the front row when posing for a group photo, with fewer women than men doing so (24% vs. 34%).

That may have to do with their smile, as less than a quarter of respondents show their teeth when grinning (24%). It’s not surprising, then, that selfies make some people anxious (41%) or stressed (36%) despite also feeling excited (36%).

What aspects of their appearance make them feel this way? Their smile (48%), body shape (47%), clothes (46%), and hairstyle (45%).

“Smiling is one of the top ways people show confidence, and studies have shown we perceive those who smile as being more confident and happier,” says founder and developer of Smile Express, Dr. Zachary Casagrande, in a statement. 

Half of the respondents have worn braces in the past, doing so for an average of 23 months. However, 72 percent have had a “glow-up” since their teen years, resulting in clearer skin (53%), a better haircut (51%), fitter body (50%), and straighter teeth (49%). Another eight in 10 (83%) reported feeling more confident as a result.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t things people would still want to improve about themselves, though. Respondents shared they aim to have better eyesight (54%), an improved fashion style (54%), and physical fitness (53%), with 41 percent also wanting a better smile.

“People feel more confident when they can fully express themselves. That includes being able to smile without restraint or embarrassment,” adds Dr. Casagrande. 

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 U.S. adults ages 25–45 was commissioned by Smile Express between Aug. 7 and Aug. 10, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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