Lack Of Self-Esteem In Teens

Published on October 6th, 2015

Updated on January 3rd, 2024

Sad Teenage Girl

For those of you who have been through it, you know that being a teen is tough. It is filled with confusion, discomfort, and insecurity. It is a time when things are changing physically, psychologically, and socially. Oftentimes, emotions are running high. 

Becoming a teenager means you now have more ability to act independently. You can make your own decisions and choose between right and wrong.

What Affects Self-Esteem in Teens?

Self-esteem reveals how a person feels about themselves overall. It reflects their sense of self-worth. Self-esteem can change over time. Teenagers are just beginning to explore who they are and what they like or dislike about themselves. Self-esteem can impact their mental states, actions, and everyday life. It is not just a feeling, it is something that greatly impacts every person’s life.

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It does seem that having good self-esteem is harder than ever these days, especially for teenagers. Technology plays a part in this. People use technology as a primary means to communicate. It opens access to teenagers in an unlimited way, which makes them susceptible to different influences. Sometimes, those influences are harmful or invasive. 

Example: Bullying that used to be isolated to school has now extended to the Internet, making it more widespread and aggressive.

Media can also affect a teenager’s self-esteem. The focus on appearance, and exposure to sexual images in the media, fad diets, and celebrity gossip all can be factors that contribute to a teen’s self-esteem. 

Technology and media are not the only things to blame for this though. Neglectful or inattentive parents can contribute to low self-esteem, as can being around negative peers.

There are some gender differences when it comes to self-esteem. Typically, a girl’s self-esteem is more strongly related to body image, shape, and weight. A boy’s self-esteem is often equated to amount of friends, popularity, and physical strength.

How do you know if you or your teen is struggling with low self-esteem? It can look different for everyone, yet there are some common threads to look out for:

Increased Isolation

If your teen is experiencing low self-esteem, chances are they feel unlikeable and even unimportant. This often causes the avoidance of social situations, which ends up strengthening these beliefs. Because peer relationships are so crucial to a teenager’s self-esteem, those who have few friends or lose friends are at risk of low self-esteem.

Apologizing Frequently

If you have not heard your teen say “I’m sorry” lately, the thought of your teen apologizing for something probably sounds quite desirable. Yet, if it has become a pattern for your teen to apologize, this may indicate low self-esteem. Those struggling with low self-esteem feel like they cannot do things correctly. They may be constantly fearful of doing something wrong. This can result in guilt, shame, and frequent apologies.

Seeking Excess Attention

When teens feel unimportant or lack self-worth, they often try to compensate for those feelings in other ways. This may mean your child attempts to seek attention by dominating conversations, speaking very loudly when interacting in a group, or using language, dress, or other means to draw attention.

Frequently Putting Themselves Down

If you notice your child is consistently saying negative things about themselves or discounting accomplishments, they may feel bad about themselves. They may be experiencing low self-esteem.

Teenage Boy Portrait

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

As stated before, self-esteem- whether it is high or low- can present in a variety of ways, depending on individual characteristics. The following are potential signs of low self-esteem:

Signs Of Healthy Self-Esteem

Knowing the signs of healthy self-esteem is also important. Promoting healthy self-esteem can help promote healthy development. Confident teens often display the following behaviors of healthy self-esteem:


A teen with healthy self-esteem can ask for what they need and express their feelings. They can also listen. 

Note: Other things can affect a teen’s communication, such as the strength of relationships and cognitive ability.

Encouraging of Others

The ability to support and encourage friends, family, and peers is a sign of healthy self-esteem. Being able to nurture others usually indicates your teen has mastered the skill of nurturing themselves. This is a predictor of healthy self-esteem.


Is your teen a part of a team or willing to participate in new activities? If so, there is a good chance they have healthy self-esteem. The willingness to try new things (whether or not they are successful at these things) can be a sign of healthy self-esteem.

Signs of Healthy Self-Esteem

  • Can act independently
  • Encourages/supports others
  • Communicative
  • Participatory
  • Can endure frustration without an emotional breakdown
  • Tries new things
  • Takes on new challenges

If you have become aware that your teen might be struggling with low self-esteem, there are some things you can do to help.

If you continue to notice signs of low self-esteem, consider seeking therapy for your teen.

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