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Struggling With Low Self-esteem

During the adolescent years, teens face tremendous social pressures. Teenagers are confronted with the additional responsibilities of approaching adulthood. They struggle to conform to peer pressure, and they have to somehow live up to the expectations of parents and society.

Teens are bombarded with media images of what a teenager should be. They are harassed by online bullying and mean comments on Twitter and Facebook.  As a consequence, many teens end up feeling not-good-enough and their self-esteem suffers. It’s little wonder they are stressed!

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is our own evaluation of our self-worth. It is how we feel and think about ourselves. When we evaluate our self-worth, we create identifications that affect the way we act in the world and relate to other people. An appropriate level of self-esteem helps us make decisions, form appropriate relationships, and act effectively in the world. Problems arise when self-esteem is either too high or too low.

In this article, we are going to look at low self-esteem, show how you can tell if your teen is affected, and go over some things you and your teen can do about it.

What are the causes?

Low self-esteem often starts in childhood when negative messages are sent by parents and peers. Negative messages are sent when other children shun kids that don’t fit in and when parent are overly harsh with their kids. Often parental influences are the strongest in creating feelings of unworthiness, and consequently, cause the most damage.

There are many esteem influencers in our childhood: parents, teachers, coaches and other kids can have an adverse effect on a kids self-esteem.  Self-esteem is also affected by illness, status in society, the culture and religion we practice. A variety of other external factors also contribute to our feelings of self-worth. Finally, our own thoughts have a powerful effect on our self-esteem. Focusing on flaws and being overly critical of yourself affects your self-esteem in a detrimental way.

What are the signs low self-esteem?

If you are concerned that your teenager has low self-esteem, there are some signs to look for. Body posture, attitude and self-image are important gauges to level of self-esteem.

Body posture is often indicative of how we feel. So, take a look at your teens posture. Does your teen walk around with their head down, droopy shoulders and hands in the pocket? Those are signs of low self-esteem.

Does your teen have a can-do attitude or a can’t-do attitude? Does your teenager participate in school activities, go to parties with friends? Or is your teen more isolated? Low self-esteem often causes teens to avoid social activities where they feel inferior or awkward.

Another sign to look for is extreme unhappiness with their looks. If your teen is excessively critical of the way they look, that is another indicator of low self-esteem.

There are many ways that low self-esteem can manifest in your teen. Parents need to use their intuition when trying to their level of self-worth.

Some other indicators of low self-esteem:

There are many different traits that characterize low self-esteem. Below is a list of some of the more common traits that are attributed to low self esteem.

  1. Feeling inferior

  2. Looser mentality

  3. Feelings of worthlessness

  4. Shyness, depression or anxiety

  5. Compulsive behavior

  6. Aggressive behavior

  7. Difficulty accepting compliments

  8. Avoiding risk

  9. Feeling isolated

  10. Excessively critical about themselves

  11. Avoids social event peers normally attend (social anxiety)

  12. Exaggerate negative events

  13. Unmotivated

  14. Unhappy

What are some of the negative effects?

Low self-esteem has significant consequences. Teens with low self-esteem are more susceptible to depression, drug addiction, and promiscuous behavior. Teen pregnancy is much higher among girls with low self-esteem. There are many other negative behavior patterns that have low self-esteem as a underlying factor.

Low self-esteem also leads to inaction and shying away from opportunities.  Not trying for fear of failure leads to a diminished experience of life. Unmotivated and unhappy teens miss out on important experiences to interact socially with their peers and engage in rewarding activities.

How can parents help?

Parents can help with their teen’s low self-esteem by providing encouragement and avoiding some common pitfalls. All parents need to discipline their kids. However, when doing so, they need to be mindful of how they do it. When disciplining kids, it is important to focus on correcting the behavior. The behavior is what needs changing. Parents should never say things that are emotionally damaging like “see how you are”, or other demeaning comments.

Parents should:

  1. Understand the effects of their messages

  2. Encourage positive attitudes

  3. Help with goal achieving projects

  4. Focus on the behavior not the person

How can teens help themselves?

Self-esteem is essentially how you think of yourself. You can make effective changes by changing the way you think. If you recognize that you have low self-esteem, you can employ strategies to change the way you think about yourself. One such strategy is simply asking yourself a question: Am I being to negative about this situation? Another strategy is to try to catch yourself when you are engaged in negative self-evaluation. If you are saying to yourself “I can’t do this” then take a moment to assess whether or not it is an accurate assessment or habitual negative thinking. Choose goals that are doable to get in the habit of being successful.

There are many more strategies available.

  1. Act in a way that will make you successful

  2. When feelings and appropriate actions conflict, take the appropriate action

  3. Understand that you can get past your feelings of low self-esteem

  4. Get some exercise. Exercise relieves built up stress

  5. Perform a service for other people. Participating in charity work is surprisingly rewarding.

  6. Set manageable goals

Low Self-esteem, High Self-esteem, Appropriate Self-esteem

Just like low self-esteem, high self-esteem leads to a distorted vision of yourself. An appropriate level of self-esteem is in the middle, not too high and not too low. An appropriate self-esteem will help you take effective action to improve and enjoy your life. Once your vision of yourself is appropriate, you can enter into positive relationships,  and strive for challenging doable goals.

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