Low self-esteem in teenagers

Guy lying on grass with hat

While it can be normal for a teenager to lack confidence at times, people with self-esteem issues normally view themselves differently to how others view them.

Low self-esteem can be particularly hard for young people especially when they’re doing things like starting high school or work, and forming new friendships and relationships. Keep reading to understand self-esteem issues that may come up for your teenager and ways to help your child feel better about themselves and their capabilities.

This can help if you:

  • suspect your child is suffering from low self-esteem

  • want to learn how to improve your teen’s low self-worth

  • would like to identify the causes of your child’s low self-esteem.

Why is self-esteem important for your teenager?

Positive self-esteem for teens is important as it allows them to try new things, take healthy risks and solve problems. In turn, their learning and development will be productive and will set them up for a healthy and positive future.

How positive self-esteem can help a young person

A young person with healthy self-esteem is more likely to display positive behavioural characteristics, such as:

  • acting independent and mature

  • taking pride in their accomplishments/achievements

  • accepting frustration and dealing with it responsibly

  • trying new things and challenges

  • helping others when possible

How can low self-esteem affect my child?

When someone has low self-esteem they tend to avoid situations where they think there’s risk of failure, embarrassment or making mistakes. These can involve school work, making friends, and trying new activities, which are all important parts of a healthy teenage life.

If the low self-esteem is not identified and treated, then it can lead to problems such as:

  • relationship troubles or difficulty making friends

  • negative moods such as feeling sad, anxious, ashamed or angry

  • low motivation

  • poor body image

  • earlier sexual activity

  • drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs to feel better

What causes low self-esteem?

How a person feels about themselves is a result of their experiences and how they deal with situations. The most common causes of low self-esteem in teenagers are:

  • unsupportive parents, carers or others that play an influential role in their life

  • friends who are bad influences

  • stressful life events such as divorce or moving houses

  • trauma or abuse

  • poor performance at school or unrealistic goals

  • mood disorders such as depression

  • anxiety

  • bullying or loneliness

  • ongoing medical issues

Signs of low self-esteem

A child with low self-esteem will more than likely be having negative thoughts about their worth and value as a person. Some general signs that your child has low self-esteem include:

Emotional signs of low self-esteem

  • feeling unloved and unwanted

  • not being able to deal with normal levels of frustration

  • fear of failure or embarrassment

  • low levels of motivation and interest

Physical signs of low self-esteem

  • avoiding new things and not taking up opportunities

  • blaming others for their own mistakes

  • negative self-talk and comparisons to others

  • difficulty making friends

  • can’t take compliments and shows mixed feelings of anxiety or stress.

How to help your teen overcome low self-worth and self-esteem issues

There are things you can do to support your child to have positive self-esteem, but it’s also important to remember that teenage self-esteem develops and changes quite frequently overtime. If your child doesn’t show signs of positive self-esteem immediately, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong!

You can help your child develop positive self-esteem with tips here.