Low Self-Esteem in Teenagers: Causes & Solutions

Attachment options… self-esteem in teenagers

Low self-esteem is an ever-growing problem for teenagers in a post-pandemic, social media-centric world. Extensive studies show an increased risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety among teenagers who experience low self-esteem.

The variables that affect self-esteem are different for every person. One should also note that fluctuations in self-esteem are common for everyone, and adults or adolescents who display a few characteristics may not necessarily be suffering from deeper issues.

Proper intervention by parents and medical experts early in a child’s life is the key to helping them develop healthy self-esteem and build self-confidence. Shortridge Academy is your solution for issues with your child’s self-confidence, low self-esteem, and general well-being.

What is Self Esteem?

low self esteem in teenagers

How we perceive and value ourselves is known as self-esteem. Research suggests that self-esteem starts to develop before the teenage years and is almost fully stable before adulthood is reached. This raises the importance of helping your child’s mental development, as negative self-esteem can carry on for decades and be hard to overcome.

Why Is Self-Esteem in Teenagers Important?

The teenage years are very important on the roadway to adulthood. These are the years when a person begins to properly understand and discover their true selves. Important decisions about the direction one’s life is to take are usually made during these years. A lack of confidence in a teenager can lower their self-esteem and lead them to make decisions that are harmful to their well-being and will have long-lasting negative effects.

Positive self-esteem will help your adolescent learn to accept and love themselves, build healthy and lasting relationships, and deal appropriately with any problems they will face later in life. Good self-esteem can lead your child to be more willing to try new things, take informed risks and help them become more productive and rounded human beings.

A teenager with healthy self-esteem will likely possess the following characteristics:

  • Forgiveness of their shortcomings
  • Willingness to help others
  • Independent and mature behavior
  • Pride in personal achievements
  • Become more goal-oriented
  • Willingness to tackle challenges and try new things
  • Ability to accept frustration and deal with it in a healthy manner

What Affects Self-Esteem in Teenagers?

Self-esteem fluctuations are normal in every person on Earth. We all have periods where our sense of self-worth is lower than normal, as well as other periods where our self-confidence soars higher than the heavens. Everyday situations can affect a grown adult’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Various factors affect self-esteem in growing teenagers. In a growing child, these factors can have deep-reaching roots that directly influence later mental development. Some major issues that affect self-esteem are below.

Gender and self-esteem

Studies conducted in Western countries show that, on average, adolescent males have higher self-esteem than adolescent females. Teenage girls, especially those suffering from obesity, are hit with a barrage of body-image expectations through social media, movies, music videos, and peers. Teenage boys who are underweight often suffer lower self-esteem born from desires to be taller and more muscular.

Social class and Self-esteem

Less affluent teenagers generally have lower levels of self-esteem than middle and upper-class teenagers. This distinction increases into later adolescence. One likely explanation is that children from higher-income families tend to have more resources and can provide their children with the latest fashions and trends.

Higher-class families are also able to afford to cater better to their child’s specific needs in school and society.

How Does Low Self-Esteem Affect Teenagers?

Low self-esteem can have a stunting effect on an adolescent’s mental development. A person that suffers from low self-esteem may fail to develop the tools to help them later in life. Their decision-making skills can be inhibited and they may find it hard, if not impossible, to form healthy relationships and establish appropriate boundaries.

Teenagers with low self-esteem often perform poorly in school and tend to neglect their self-care. Their desire to be accepted and noticed may lead them to do extreme things to please other people, no matter the personal cost.

The fear of failure or ridicule can cause adolescents with low self-esteem to avoid any situations where they are the center of attention or have to make any decisions. These situations can include class presentations, extra-curricular activities, and making new friends – all of which are an essential part of a teenager’s life.

Is Low Self-Esteem an Indicator of a Mental Health Problem?

Though they can be intertwined, low self-esteem is not in itself a mental health problem. Low self-esteem can, however, lead to deeper mental health problems. Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, could lower your teen’s self-esteem and make it more difficult for them to work on self-improvement. Our therapeutic boarding school’s center for teen counseling in New England can be a major help to get your child back on track.

Levels of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem manifests itself in various ways and to varying degrees within each person. Since most people go through periods of low or heightened self-esteem, exhibiting one or two signs of low or extreme self-esteem are not definite indications of deeper problems.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can manifest itself in different ways within a person. Some common indicators of low self-esteem are:

  • Feelings of inferiority to others (inferiority complex)
  • Difficulties with expressing wants and needs
  • Constant focus on one’s shortcomings
  • Continuing feelings of fear, worry, and self-doubt
  • Feelings of no control and negative outlooks about one’s life
  • Crippling fears of failure
  • Trouble believing and accepting positive feedback
  • Problems establishing boundaries or saying “no”
  • Always prioritizing other’s needs over their own
  • Continual struggles with confidence

Various mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can develop from prolonged cases of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem also negatively impacts one’s ability to achieve their goals and fosters grounds for negative relationships with others. Quality of life is also seriously affected and the risk of suicidal thoughts or visions of self-harm is greatly increased.

Healthy Self-Esteem

Healthy self-esteem is the range we all strive to fall in. People who have healthy self-esteem normally display the following traits:

  • Recognition and acceptance of strengths and shortcomings.
  • Ability to decline or just say no
  • Confidence
  • Ability to express needs
  • Belief in self-equality concerning others, no less or more
  • Ability to avoid focusing on prior negative experiences
  • Possessive of a positive life outlook

A healthy level of self-esteem allows a person to move through life with the knowledge that they can accomplish everything in their mind, which is a major motivator when pursuing their goals. Maintaining appropriate boundaries and healthy relationships with others is also more achievable with a healthy level of self-esteem.

Excessive Self-Esteem

People often mistake excessive self-esteem for narcissism. Though they share similar traits, narcissism is an entirely different personality disorder.

Narcissism is a mental disorder that pushes people to have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Such people thrive and seek the constant attention of other people. Narcissists often lack empathy for others. This sense of self-importance is a facade, and narcissists are easily upset by any form of criticism and doubt their self-worth.

Excessive self-esteem can be characterized by the following traits:

  • Preoccupation with being perfect
  • Excessive focus on always being right
  • Beliefs that one cannot fail in anything they do
  • Beliefs that their skills in any field trump anyone else’s, even experts in said fields
  • Expression of grandiose ideas
  • Gross overestimation of one’s abilities and skills

When self-esteem is too high, it can result in relationship problems, difficulty with social situations, and an inability to accept criticism.

Excessive self-esteem can lead to an inability to accept criticism, relationship issues, and increased difficulties with social situations.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem in Teenagers?

1. Phone Use and Social Media

Social media has a major impact on teens’ self-esteem. People often do not post their failures on social media platforms, but rather post all their successes and embellish their own traits and talk at length about how and why they are better than everyone around them.

Being bombarded by such messages from all angles has a direct damaging effect on a teenager’s self-perception.

The social-media problem goes beyond that, however. Extended phone use by teenagers contributes to sedentariness and leads to poor sleep quality.

2. Peer Pressure & Social Situations

Acceptance by peers is important to how adolescents view themselves, and they spend an inordinate amount of time looking for a place where they feel they belong. The deep need to be liked by peers they look up to often causes them to succumb to peer pressure.

Temporary failures in social situations tend to be blown out of proportion by teenagers which causes their self-esteem to plummet. This may lead them to avoid social interactions as they dwell on misinterpreted social cues.

3. Body Image

Body image and self-esteem are so interlinked that when a teenager is suffering from self-confidence issues, the first assumption is usually that it involves how they perceive their body. Most teenagers find fault with different parts of their bodies as they grow, but it is more prevalent in adolescent girls than in adolescent boys.

Prolonged focus on one’s appearance and image could develop into body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is a mental health disorder wherein a person cannot abstain from focusing on self-perceived or imagined flaws in their physical appearance.

4. Depression & Anxiety

Anxiety and depression are not uncommon among teenagers. These mental health issues increase the risk of a teen developing low self-esteem.

5. Parent Influence

Low self-esteem can manifest itself in children as young as five. Constant belittlement, beratement, negligence, and criticism from guardians or parents can make a child grow up without a sense of self-identity or self-worth.

Such an upbringing often pushes these children to join gangs or other groups as they feel a distance lack of identity and heightened inferiority without them

6. High Expectations from Parents and Teachers

Overbearing pressure from teachers, parents, and society for adolescents to achieve 100% success in everything they touch builds unrealistic perceptions of reality. Teens burdened with these expectations many times develop signs of low self-esteem such as self-harming behaviors, suicidal thoughts, and increased self-criticism.

We all have limits to what we can achieve and different speeds at accomplishing our goals. Teenagers must be allowed the opportunity to independently discover their true potential. Demanding more from a teen than they are capable of can cause severe damage to their self-esteem and foster other psychological issues.

What Are the Effects of Low Self-Esteem on a Teenager?

Self-esteem has various effects on a growing child, none of which are positive. Below is a look at a few of the major effects.

  1. Negative feelings. Self-esteem and a person’s mood are interlinked. Absent or low self-esteem in a teenager can raise a host of negative feelings. Depression, anxiety, shame, fear, sadness, loneliness, stress, and anger become the order of the day. Periods of feelings “blue,” or other negative feelings, come upon every person at some point in life. However, teenagers with low self-esteem can experience many of these emotions in combination and have difficulties trying to shake them.
  2. Self-loathing. Self-hate will lead a teenager to despise their actions and thoughts and make it difficult for them to forgive themselves. Teenagers loathing their bodies will harbor feelings of unworthiness that will lead them to neglect their self-care and damage relationships and social interactions.
  3. Beliefs they have nothing to offer. This is a major effect stemming from deep-rooted feelings of worthlessness. Teenagers can feel that their peer’s gifts, skills, and traits as being superior to their own. Adolescents then become convinced that no one cares about what they have to think or say, how they feel, or whether or not they have something to offer. These feelings lead to loneliness, becoming more withdrawn, increased hesitation to engage others, repressed anger, and deep-rooted hate.
  4. Motivational difficulties. Low self-esteem can make every day feel glum, gray, and wet. Teenagers with low self-esteem can feel that they shouldn’t bother trying anything because they’re going to fail anyway. This results in very low performance with daily tasks, school work, and duties at home. This can also dampen an adolescent’s willingness to try new things and interest in new experiences.
  5. Obsession with perfection. Teenagers who assume that they have to achieve perfection in everything they do eventually develop a sense of failure and feelings of never being good enough. Such teenagers find it extremely difficult to forgive themselves and often see the mistakes that they make as confirmation that they are themselves mistakes. This situation is referred to as “toxic shame.”
  6. Reduced resilience. Adolescents with low self-esteem can find great difficulty in bouncing back from temporary failings or setbacks. This stems from the feelings of futility, lack of hope, and beliefs that things couldn’t get better for them.
  7. Diminished self-care. Self-care is directly affected by a teenager’s sense of self-worth. A negative self-image can lead adolescents to neglect their hygiene, sleep, nutrition, exercise, and care of their personal space. This can lead a teenager to seek damaging activities such as drugs, alcohol, compulsive sex, over-shopping, and eating disorders to distract from their feelings of pain, failure, and conflict.
  8. Relationship struggles. Low self-esteem inevitably causes relationships to suffer. Beliefs that one cannot healthily maintain relationships or even that one doesn’t deserve to be in a good relationship can lead teenagers to put zero effort towards presenting their best self to others around them.
  9. People pleasing. Teenagers with low self-esteem tend to become “people pleasers.” The need for acceptance and praise from other people combined with the sense of worthlessness and inferiority combine to make an adolescent focus all their energy on making other people happy, even if it means that they will suffer in some way.
  10. Feeling a lack of power to change anything. Adolescents with low self-esteem can develop a sense that they are powerless to change anything in their lives and adopt the “Que sera, sera” (what will be will be) mentality. This works to further amplify the feelings of anger and loathing.

How To Improve Self-Esteem in Your Teen

low self esteem teenager

Prolonged low self-esteem can harm your teen’s mental development and give rise to other problems that can accompany them into later life.

Helping your teen develop healthy self-esteem and a positive self-image will boost their confidence, enhance their decision-making skills and help them manage failure better. It’s always best to start at a very young age, but it’s never too late to pick up the slack. You can try the following suggestions to help your child.

Help Your Teen’s Decision-making Skills Develop

The realization that their decisions could lead to positive outcomes is a good way to help your adolescent develop healthy self-esteem. You could try setting them simple tasks, such as whether to do homework first and then watch TV (or vice versa) where they have different options to achieve the end goal.

Allowing your teen to take the lead in certain scenarios will help them build enough confidence to establish a healthy level of self-esteem.

Ask Their Opinion

Try asking for your teen’s insights into a few of the decisions you need to make. Find out what they would do in your place concerning, for example, purchasing a present for a friend or relative, minor work-related conflicts of interest, or even which new sweater you should get the next time you go shopping.

Attentive listening and follow-up questions for clarification will help foster a feeling of self-worth within your child.

Only Give Genuine Compliments

Teenagers possess a sixth sense when it comes to discerning between real and fake compliments from parents. Ensure that your compliments towards your teen are sincere and personal and appropriate for the moment. Repeating the compliment several days later will help reinforce your pride in their accomplishments.

Set Goals Together

A sense of accomplishment, through achieving set goals goes a long way to improving an adolescent’s self-esteem. Show your teen how to set realistic and achievable goals, and be there to encourage them and cheer them on as they struggle to meet them.

Practice Self-care

You can set an excellent example for your teenager by establishing self-care practices that they can emulate. Make a special day of it and visit a local spa for some special treatment. Take your child for outdoor activities and sports in the park, or plan some home exercises and encourage them to eat more nutritious foods. Schedule downtime for them and help them establish healthier sleeping patterns.

Focusing on proper physical health will promote better mental health and raise self-esteem.

Get Help From Shortridge Academy Now

Without proper help, teens struggling with low self-esteem can end up with more serious mental health issues or end up turning to drugs, alcohol, and other abhorrent behaviors as a coping mechanism.

Navigating your relationship with your growing teenager can be difficult, especially if you have no idea how to approach them. Contact our team at Shortridge Academy today for questions, suggestions and to get help with your adolescent’s self-esteem issues. We have an extensive team of mental health professionals and medical experts who can help your teen regain their feelings of self-worth and individuality.

top Skip to content