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Self-Esteem Hacks for Teens

How to be your teen’s best coach for developing positive self-regard

Published on: August 16, 2023

Asian teen girl smiling at camera

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on the THIRA website

Navigating the teenage years can be a challenging experience for many young people. Between puberty and the effects of hormones on teenage emotions, trying to fit in, dealing with insecurities, discovering an individual sense of self-worth and chasing independence, being a teen can be an emotional roller coaster. Because of those heightened hormones, teens tend to feel things very deeply. While all of these feelings are valid and normal, they can be overwhelming at times, especially for teens who haven’t developed the coping skills necessary to be able to navigate socially and emotionally challenging situations.

This begs the question: Is it possible to make it through the teenage years with your self-esteem intact?

The teenage years are a time of many developmental changes, which means that investing your time as a parent to coach your child to evolve healthy self-esteem during these crucial years can help them develop a deeper sense of their emotional well-being and decrease some of the risk factors of other mental health issues they may face for many years to come.

The following are six key coaching tips to help your teen boost their self-esteem, be kind to their mind and learn skills they can tap to overcome negative feelings and cope when overwhelming thoughts threaten to take over.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem refers to an individual’s overall evaluation of their worth and value as a person. It encompasses a range of beliefs and attitudes about oneself, including self-confidence, self-worth and self-criticism. Self-esteem can be shaped by a variety of factors, including experiences, social relationships and cultural norms. Research has shown that having positive social relationships, social support and social acceptance can contribute to higher levels of self-esteem.

Self-esteem can impact many aspects of a teen’s daily life and healthy development, including their social interactions, academic performance, mental health and overall well-being. A healthy sense of self-esteem can lead to greater confidence, better decision-making skills, more supportive relationships and a more positive outlook on life. Conversely, low self-esteem can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, depression, poor academic performance, social isolation and a range of other negative outcomes. One study shows that 70 percent of girls ages 15–17 admitted to avoiding things such as school or social interactions because of insecurity.

So, what causes low self-esteem?

Many factors contribute to low self-esteem, but social media is a major culprit. It is no surprise that studies have proven there is a link between social comparison and self-worth. The constant prompting to be visible online gives way to comparing oneself to others, developing a fear of missing out (FOMO), curating one’s online/social media personas, and tracking likes and social media followers. This focus easily contributes to social anxiety, thereby impacting positive social relationships, interactions, support and acceptance. Social anxiety leads to lowered self-esteem, especially when 97 percent of teenagers report that they use social media on a daily basis.

6 self-esteem hacks for teens

Here are some tips to help guide your teen in developing higher self-esteem and a more positive mindset. Whether you use all of these tips or only a few in your coaching, it is important to recognize what works for and resonates with your teen. Here are the words of wisdom they need to hear from you.

1. Practice radical acceptance.

Radical acceptance essentially focuses on letting go of what you have no control over. By taking a nonjudgmental approach to letting go of control, you better manage your expectations and reactions, and therefore you are more grounded in reality, instead of feeling stuck in anxiety or spiraling depression. Fortunately, improving self-esteem is within your control when you use radical acceptance skills.

Example: Did you fumble over your words in class or say something to a friend that you wish you could take back? Accept what happened (there’s no use worrying about it anymore) and see what you can do in the future to better handle those situations. You can practice reading out loud; you can work on pausing before you speak; and you can remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes.

2. Go in with gratitude.

Focus on the good and the positive. Yes, being a teenager is difficult. But there are a lot of positive and momentous aspects of being a teenager, too. No one will remember the pimple you had at prom. Try to use gratitude to shift your perspective in order to decrease your anxiety and increase your self-esteem.

3. Validate yourself.

Practice labeling your emotions nonjudgmentally. Most people who have difficulty regulating their emotions also have difficulty accepting them. Accepting them is a necessary first step. (Learn effective techniques for acknowledging and regulating emotions based on dialectical behavior principles here)

4. Don’t compare yourself.

There is a common saying that “comparison is the thief of joy.” Social media is a highlight reel of people’s lives and it is not often a genuine reflection of their day-to-day reality. People tend to share the good, not the bad. It is unfair to compare yourself to someone based on your superficial perception of what they choose to share.

5. Set respectful boundaries.

Setting boundaries helps you have more control regarding who you surround yourself with — and how they impact you. In your teen years and into adulthood, you’ll need to learn to protect your time and emotional well-being. All people need socialization and human connection, but it’s okay to be selective when choosing to whom you give access to your inner self.

6. Identify your strengths.

Many people tend to focus on their perceived deficits instead of their strengths. Think about compliments you may have received, or when you did or said something that made you proud and happy; or consider a skill you have that you find many people lack. Note your strengths to boost your confidence and your self-esteem. Focus on and appreciate your unique attributes.

Support is available for Seattle-area teens

Being a teenager is not easy. It is emotionally, mentally, socially and physically draining! But your teen’s self-esteem does not have to be completely drained or even compromised. If you want more tips or individualized support to address your teen’s confidence, self-esteem, self-worth or other issues, THIRA Health can help.

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