How important is self-esteem in the life of a teenager? The answer to that is a resounding, “Very!” The teenage years are a critical time of self-discovery when life-long patterns are formed. In fact, having good self-esteem in adolescence directly correlates with success later in life.
Perhaps even more importantly, teenage self-esteem affects decisions involving risky behaviors such as drug use or engaging in sexual activities. A youth with high self-esteem is more likely to resist peer pressure. And finally, low self-esteem can lead to depression, which if it becomes severe enough could lead to thoughts of suicide. To put it another way, low self-esteem in teens is not something to be taken lightly. In the teen years especially people need to feel valued and loved.
Fortunately there are ways you can help the young person in your life develop and maintain their self-esteem and enable them to enjoy this exciting time in their lives.
How self-esteem affects us
Self-esteem refers to how a person feels about him or herself, and also how they think others view them. How we feel about ourselves can influence whether we see our lives and the world in general in a positive or negative light. Lets say two middle school students are getting ready to take a very important math test, and neither excels at math. One of the students has healthy self-esteem and might be thinking to himself, “Well, it’s not my best subject but there are a lot of other things I do well. I’m going to do my best and then move on to something I’m really good at like art.” The other student with low self-esteem could be setting himself up for failure with negative thoughts like, “Why even bother? I know I’m terrible at math. I can’t do anything right.”
People with healthy self-esteem can take pride in their accomplishments and deal with the occasional failure without letting it affect their total image of themselves as a person.
Self-esteem problems: causes and solutions
A young person, or anyone for that matter, can have a damaged self-esteem if they are constantly criticized or put down. But the negative thoughts can also come from within as a result of a person’s unrealistic expectations for themselves.
Teens are especially concerned with how others see them and how they compare to other young people they see on television and in movies. This can lead to thoughts that they are not attractive enough, thin enough, athletic enough, etc. Sometimes a nagging inner voice can constantly tell them they are just not good enough.
A few factors that may contribute to teenage low self-esteem:
- Unrealistic expectations
Parents can help their teen overcome poor self-esteem issues by remembering to say at least one positive thing for every negative comment. You can help your youth take pride in their appearance by helping them pick out clothes or exercising together. Focus on your child’s effort more than their successes or failures. Monitor their friendships if you can. Encourage your teenager to spend time with people who make them feel good and don’t put them down.
It is never too late to mend damaged self-esteem. With encouragement and support you can help your child prepare for adulthood with a healthy self-esteem that will enable them to be successful in whatever they do.