How you can help your teenager with self-esteem issues
Self-esteem is a common issue that parents will often talk to me about. Parents would like their teenager to have a higher self-esteem. They want to know what they can do as parents to help their teenager develop a more positive self-image. If you Google ‘self-esteem and teenagers’, you will come up with thousands of hits, so […]
Self-esteem is a common issue that parents will often talk to me about. Parents would like their teenager to have a higher self-esteem. They want to know what they can do as parents to help their teenager develop a more positive self-image. If you Google ‘self-esteem and teenagers’, you will come up with thousands of hits, so where do you start, and what does having good or high self-esteem actually mean?
What is self-esteem?
If you look online, you will come up with thousands of definitions and thousands of pages of advice on how to improve your self-esteem. Personally and professionally, I believe that the focus needs to be on teaching our teenagers how to problem solve and learn to accept that we all have negative judgements of ourselves, but mostly, we can manage to achieve tasks and goals in spite of the negative self-talk.
- The psychology definition suggests that self-esteem is about a person’s emotional evaluation of his or her own worth;
- It is a judgement of oneself;
- It is a feeling of having respect for yourself.
If you think back to your teenage years, you may remember struggling with your image, body image, appearance, where you fit in. I know that I certainly did, and often wished I could change certain things about myself. We live in a society where we are constantly fed unattainable, photo-brushed idealised images of what attractiveness means, let alone the deeper sense of identity. There is a huge industry that makes multi-millions fed by our insecurities, such as cosmetic surgery, the latest skincare products, shakes, pills, vitamins, clothing, diet meals, ‘selfies’ and how many ‘Likes’ they got, and many more. This is what our teenagers are faced with every day, and on top of this, they have the pressures and struggles of doing well at school, having the right friends, whom they are ‘going out with’, and making choices. They’re not quite adults yet and are learning about responsibilities, trying to find their own identities, and often sitting between the two worlds of not being a child, and not being an adult.
How important is high self-esteem?
Think about all the pressures that teenagers face every day:
- Comparisons they often make of themselves with people they think are confident, and who feel good about themselves;
- school pressures;
- body image;
- social media.
The pressures to be confident and successful are high. Teenagers can be paralysed to take chances for fear that they might ‘get it wrong’ and therefore be seen as failing. If they are waiting for the right moment when they feel confident enough to do the thing they wish they could do, then the fact is, they will never be able to do it, and they can feel like they have low self-esteem. If we can teach them some different ways of actually noticing and dealing with the feelings of self-doubt, self-criticism, fear, and all of the other feelings and thoughts they might be experiencing, then they might be more able to appreciate and respect themselves for who they really are, regardless of the imperfections. If you think about a time that you have done something that was hard, and you weren’t feeling confident, and all of those feelings of self-doubt were creeping in, but you did it anyway because it was something that meant a lot to you, then this is the direction we can start to move with our teenagers.
Ways to help your teenager
Have you ever been speaking to someone about something you didn’t feel very good about, and they said, words to the effect of “don’t be silly, you’re fine. What are you worrying about that for?” How did you feel after the response? Like you weren’t heard? Like your feelings weren’t worth talking about? It is hard to hear our teenagers say something negative about themselves. It hurts us when our teenagers are hurting, and we can try and solve it, or make it feel better, when in fact, we may be unintentionally discounting what they just said.
- Take a few breaths whilst listening to what your teenager is saying. Think about whether you need to respond or ‘fix’ this. Say words like, “I’m sorry you’re feeling like that.” “It must be hard being where you are right now.” “I can only imagine what you are experiencing.”
- Encourage your teenager to talk by starting the conversation with “tell me about…….”
- Normalise feelings and thoughts by talking about some of the difficult things you faced when you were a teenager. This is not about making it about you, but about showing your teenager that by talking about some of the difficult things you faced, you are showing your teenager that you have felt vulnerable too.
- Encourage your teenager to respect the thoughts of self-doubt they might be having. It’s about accepting that we all have feelings of not being “good enough”.
- Focus on what your teenager does rather than how they feel, such as if they are persisting with something, or overcoming something.
- Talk about what the true sense of the word ‘courage’ means. So much emphasis is put on ‘courageous’ meaning doing something dangerous rather than doing something that is meaningful to them in spite of the feelings of anxiety or fear. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
- Allow your teenager to make mistakes, and notice when you want to try and fix it for them. Encourage them to take responsibility for their mistakes and teach them that no one is perfect.
If you think that this article has raised any issues, or you are concerned that you or your teenager may need some extra support, please contact me through the contact page, or 0403 848 398, or you can make an appointment via www.papillonwellness.com.au