Healthy Self-Esteem in Teens
Self-esteem issues can be very common for teens. Did you know that 7 out of 10 girls believe they do not look good enough, are not smart enough and have no, or few friends (Shapiro, 2014). With approximately 20% of teens experiencing depression (Borchard, 2010), can having healthy self-esteem help?
Self-esteem can be defined simply as how you feel about yourself. Having healthy self-esteem means that you understand your self-worth and that of others. You understand that you have strengths and weaknesses, you know what they are and can appreciate them. You can also understand strengths and weaknesses in other people and can appreciate them (Schab, 2022).
Research has shown that a girl’s self-esteem is associated with her perception of herself, her thoughts about her body shape and weight, NOT her actual body weight and shape (Linton, 2014). Studies conducted by the skincare company Dove in 2014 concluded that approximately 60% of girls aged between 15-17 years of age have avoided going to school because they didn’t like how they looked (Dove Survey 2014). Further research has highlighted the link between girls who have poor self-esteem and risk-taking activities with boys. It identified that girls with low self-esteem are 4 times more likely to do things they regret (Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, 2014).
Causes of Low Self-Esteem
How a teen feels about themselves is a result of the environment they live in and their past experiences. Typically, this can include a child’s parents who are influential in their child’s life; and friends who may be bad influences. There could be other stressful life events in the teens life such as their parent’s divorce or having to move house causing loneliness and isolation. There could be other things such as trauma or abuse, school bullying or poor health. High expectations around academic performance or setting unrealistic goals can also result in depressive and anxious states that can impact self-esteem.
Impact of Low Self-Esteem
If someone is suffering from low self-esteem, they may avoid situations that are new or where they risk being embarrassed or may make mistakes and fail. For a teen this typically involves school and friendships, making friends and trying new things such as sports. If this is left untreated it can lead to poor body image, relationship problems, depressive and anxious thoughts, anger, low motivation, and using alcohol or drugs use to avoid these feelings.
Tips for Building Healthy Self-Esteem in Teens
- As a parent your words can have a big impact and can really help your teen. Research has identified that high on a teen’s priority list is wishing for regular and open communication with parents (Shapiro, 2014).
- Be generous with your positive statements and praise. When you see something, they do well, when they use a particular talent, positive behaviour or trait let them know. Even when it is just nice to have them around, tell them.
- Help your teen to practice making positive self-statements every day. This can be hard for someone with low self-esteem but with practice, it gets easier.
- Teach your child to be independent and make decisions. Help them to recognise when they have made a good decision.
- And finally, we are all busy but try to find some time for your child. Listen to them, and help them explore new things. It is easier to start this practice when they are young and continue on when they are a teen and even when they are adults. It helps to build a connection and a strong, loving and lasting relationship.
Author: Maree Stevens, BAdVocEd; GCert Sp Ed; M SocWk; M HumServ; GDipCouns; GCert MentalHlthPrac.
Maree Stevens is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with several years of experience working with children, teens and adults with self-esteem issues. She uses a trauma-informed approach and is client-centred, empathetic and nonjudgmental.
Maree is currently not taking bookings. Our team can assist you with placing you with another clinician. Please call Vision Psychology on (07) 3088 5422.
Brands in Action: Dove.” Unilever USA. Accessed March 3, 2014. http://www.unileverusa.com/brands-in-action/detail/Dove-/298217.
Borchard, T. (2010). “Why are so Many Teens Depressed?” Psychcentral.
Council On Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. “Image and Self Esteem.” Mentor Resource Center
Schab, L. (2022) The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Build Confidence. Harbinger Publications.
Shapiro, Hannah. “Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty boosts girls’ self-esteem for Back to School.” Examiner.com. Accessed March 3, 2014.
Self-esteem and Teenagers. Retrieved from https://parents.au.reachout.com/common-concerns/everyday-issues/self-esteem-and-teenagers
Tips for Building Self Esteem retrieved from https://parents.au.reachout.com/common-concerns/everyday-issues/things-to-try-self-esteem/help-your-teenager-build-positive-self-esteem