Self-Esteem Part 1: Signs & Causes of Low Self-Esteem in Teens

Self-Esteem Part 1: Signs & Causes of Low Self-Esteem in Teens

Self-Esteem Part 1: Signs & Causes of Low Self-Esteem in Teens 2560 1707 MakeYouThink

At some point in everyone’s life their self-esteem or confidence in themselves may falter or temporarily lower. While this can seem like a normal occurrence people must face during their life, a person with self-esteem issues will struggle every day in a battle with their inner critic.

A particular trying time when self-esteem fluctuates considerably is during adolescence or teenage years.  It is hard to see a teen struggling or even recognize self-esteem issues in them – but you can help.

In part one of this two-part blog series we will explain what self-esteem is, why it’s important, what causes self-esteem issues, and the signs to look for.

What is low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which an individual views him/herself as inadequate, unlovable, and/or incompetent. Once formed, this negative view permeates every thought, producing faulty assumptions and on-going self-defeating behaviour.[1]

Why is self-esteem important?

A teen with positive self-esteem will be more equipped to face life’s challenges, try new things or take healthy risks, and take pride in their accomplishments. This positive learning and development will help set them up for a healthy future by giving them clarity into career choices, relationship values, and foster body positivity.

When a teen doesn’t have a healthy sense of self-worth, they may begin to treat their bodies and minds in ways that are disrespectful, neglectful and even harmful.

What causes low self-esteem?

The most common causes of low self-esteem include:

  • bullying
  • unsupportive, critical, and/or neglectful parentsCyber Bullying
  • negative friends/bad influences
  • mood disorders (e.g. depression)
  • stressful & disruptive life events (e.g. divorce, moving)
  • trauma or abuse
  • unrealistic goals
  • poor performance at school
  • anxiety
  • ongoing medical issues

What are the signs of low self-esteem?

A teen who is struggling with low self-esteem will constantly be battling their inner critic, opening the door for negative self-talk, lower levels of self-worth and de-valuing themselves as a person. Often times many people don’t realize a teen is struggling with self-esteem issues.

Here are common signs that a teen may have low self-esteem:

Avoids Eye Contact

A teen with low levels of self-worth may find it hard to make eye contact when talking with someone. This may be attributed to a feeling of shame combined with a need to hide during public situations in an attempt to go un-noticed.

Loses Motivation

The fear of failure in a teen struggling with low self-esteem will diminish any desire or motivation to try new things or take-part in new opportunities. Especially if these new opportunities are in front of their peers.

Negative Self TalkNegative Self-Talk

Low self-esteem very often results in a teens inner critic being openly expressed within conversations with other people and with themselves. This can include statements such as “I am not good enough to make the team”, “I will just get it wrong”, “There’s no way I could do that”, “I am hopeless”, and “I am worthless”.

Negative Talk About Others

Often a teen that struggles with low self-esteem will seek to draw attention away from themselves by teasing or name-calling a peer. This peer will more than likely have the same qualities or physical traits they do not like about themselves.

Inappropriate physical contact or complete avoidance

Low levels of self-esteem can affect physical contact in two ways. In an attempt for acceptance and connection, a teen who feels worthless may actively seek it out through physical touch. Or the extreme opposite can result from self-esteem issues – complete, and utter avoidance of physical contact from others due to strong feelings of disgust or shame about themselves and their bodies.

Avoids Social Situations

The last thing a teen wants is to draw attention to their perceived flaws or failures. In an attempt to do so they will avoid any social situations that could potentially highlight and reinforce these beliefs.

Has Trouble Making Friends

Similar to the way low self-esteem effects a teens willingness to try new things, it also reduces their confidence to make new friends and/or build friendships. This is extremely troubling as peer relationships are an important part of self-worth development.

Now that you understand what self-esteem is, the causes, and the signs to look out for it’s important to understand that every person develops at a different rate. Meaning a teen’s self-esteem may change quite frequently over their adolescent years from negative to more positive.

In part two of this series we will dive into the various ways to help improve a teen’s self-esteem.

[1] Neuman, M.D., Fredric. “Low Self-esteem.” Psychology Today. Accessed January 28, 2020.