Adolescence is a time of growth and change. As the brain is maturing and learning, teenagers begin to search for who they will eventually become. Not only can it be a confusing time, it can also be challenging. Social pressures and self-expectations often lead teenagers to yearn for acceptance and often doubt themselves. It is during this time that self-esteem is so important.
Self-esteem is primarily based on self-concept, or the attitude, idea, or opinion one has of oneself based on the response of others or social norms. When we are younger our self-concept is influenced by the values of those closest to us. But as teenagers those values begin to change with the addition of outside influences. As a teen begins to mature they judge themselves based on related feelings, thoughts, experiences, physical attributes and intellectual status. These positive or negative conclusions develop what they feel is their self-worth.
Developing positive self-esteem in the teen years is critical even though it can be a difficult time. High self-esteem will help lay the foundation for a teens future including making healthier choices, accepting and dealing with frustrations, and building the confidence to deal with life’s everyday challenges.
Teens with high self-esteem:
• Feel loved and accepted.
• Are not afraid to try new experiences.
• Feel good about their future.
• Take responsibility for themselves and their actions.
• Are emotionally stable.
• Are sensitive to others.
• Communicate well and have a strong social community.
Teens with low self-esteem:
• See themselves as unloved or unworthy.
• May have negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy.
• Refuse to do group activities.
• Tend to be antisocial.
• Often have no discipline, can’t commit or take responsibility.
• Have a need for constant attention.
• May be aggressive.
• Have a higher risk of using of drugs or alcohol.
There are ways to help a teen challenge their inner critic and begin to rewrite a negative self-dialogue. Help your teen develop self-affirming messages to build self-acceptance and an appreciation for their unique talents. Avoid shaming and turn mistakes into learning opportunities. Support your teen with generous but specific praise (e.g. helping make dinner, getting a B+ on a test) and help them work through the decision-making process until they develop the confidence to tackle issues on their own.
If your teen has low self-esteem and isn’t responding to support from family and friends don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Casa Pacifica has residential treatment options like our START (Short Term Adolescent Residential Treatment) program as well as full family support in the home. Please see our website for more information on treatment options.