Self-confidence and teenagers

guy exploring in desert
guy exploring in desert

guy exploring in desert

Teenagers are confronted with a variety of tough issues, and learning how to deal with them can test their confidence. Tough issues range from dealing with changes to their physical appearance to being accepted in friendship groups. This is then reflected in how they behave in public, how well they perform in school and other areas of their life, and family expectations. By becoming more accepting of themselves, teenagers become better equipped to deal with hurtful things that may damage their self-confidence.

This can help if you:

  • want to know what issues may be affecting your child’s confidence
  • worry that your child is shy or not getting involved in activities at school
  • want to know more about how to help your child build their confidence.

Why is self-confidence important for teenagers?

Self-confidence is the belief that you’ll be successful in a particular situation or at a specific task. Your child’s self-confidence is related to their self-esteem, which is feeling good about yourself and feeling that you’re a worthwhile person. But, having high self-esteem doesn’t mean you always feel confident. Self-confidence can vary throughout life, particularly during major life changes such as adolescence. It’s estimated that up to half of adolescents will struggle with low confidence levels during the early teenage years. Self-confidence helps teenagers make safe, informed decisions. Confident teenagers can avoid people and situations that aren’t necessarily right for them, and to find those that are.

What does positive self-confidence look like?

There are signs you can look out for to tell if your teenager is self-confident. These include:

  • good posture
  • a relaxed walk
  • alert eyes
  • an ease at both giving and receiving praise
  • openness to criticism and feedback
  • a curiosity about new ideas
  • a refusal to get upset when things go differently than planned.

What are the signs of low self-confidence?

There are some things that you can look out for that may indicate that your child is lacking confidence. These include:

  • an awkwardness accepting praise
  • unconfident body language, such as walking with their head down and reluctance to make eye contact
  • negativity about others and avoidance of social situations
  • not joining in on activities
  • holding back in class
  • being shy or timid
  • a willingness to succumb to peer influence
  • an expectation that they will fail at things they try, or to not try as hard when things get tricky.

As a parent, you can give your child opportunities to fail and succeed in a safe environment. Often poor self-confidence comes from running up against adversity and not understanding how to recover from it.
You can play an important role in building your child’s self-confidence. Check out some practical strategies for supporting you child. 

Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on