Adolescence is a time of many changes, mentally, physically and emotionally. During times of significant change, our beliefs about ourselves can drastically change. Research suggests that 50% of teens struggle with low self-esteem. The transition between junior high and high school, along with high school to college, are stressful times for teens due to the change in their identity. During adolescence, teens are working on creating their identity and feeling comfortable in their world. When settings change, this causes chaos and confusion for the teen.
Adolescent and Family Therapy Team
Due to the physiological changes that accompany adolescence, teens become less confident with their appearance. There is increased pressure from the media to look a certain way because the media tends to classify beauty as very specific body types for males and females. This places added pressures on teens, and adults, to conform to this standard. There has also been an increase in bullying, specifically cyberbullying, leading to increased trauma in adolescents. These traumas can lead to drastic changes in the teens’ beliefs about themselves and the world around them.
Many teens will not discuss their self-esteem openly so how do you know if your teenager is struggling with low self-esteem?
Here are a few indicators of low self-esteem in teens: 1) Limited interpersonal interactions – This may be observed as isolating from others, minimal eye contact, or walking around with their head down. 2) Negative phrases about themselves – This may be heard as “I’m not good enough”, “I’m bad”, “I’m not liked”, “I’m fat”, “I’m ugly”, “I’m stupid”, etc. Many teens have negative beliefs about themselves that stem from relationship injuries and/or traumas. They may also talk badly about others, leading to complaining and gossiping. 3) Engagement in risky behaviors – Teens that feel worthless may act out as a way to bid for attention from family and friends. 4) Apologizing for everything – Teens with low self-esteem may try to avoid conflict by apologizing when something goes wrong, even if it is not their fault. They feel guilty and do not want others to be mad at them. Research suggests that teens that have secure attachment to their family and feel loved and accepted, are less likely to have lower self-esteem.
If you notice any of these warning signs, or other signs that your teen is struggling with low self-esteem.