By Julie Wales, Family & Special Needs Counsellor 
Teenage self-esteem and tips to improve. 
One of the many conversations I have with teenagers and adults is about their low self-esteem. Teenagers are heavily influenced by their friends and peer groups, parents, and teachers. 
Social media plays a huge part in self-esteem and identity.  
Teens are wondering “Who Am I”? Where do I fit in? Low self-esteem plays havoc with anxiety and resilience, so they may feel helpless and unable to ‘bounce back’ from friendship fallouts or school stress. 
We all need to feel like we belong and feel cared for by the people around us and be comfortable in our own skin. 

What is self-esteem? 

Self-esteem means feeling good about yourself. 
People with self-esteem: 
feel liked and accepted 
are proud of what they do 
believe in themselves 
People with low self-esteem: 
feel bad about themselves 
are hard on themselves 
think they are not good enough 

Where does self-esteem come from? 

Parents, teachers, and others.  
The people in our lives can affect how we feel about ourselves. When they focus on what's good about us, we feel good about ourselves. When they are patient when we make mistakes, we learn to accept ourselves. When we have friends and get along, we feel liked. 
But if adults scold more than they praise, it's hard to feel good about yourself. Bullying and mean teasing by siblings or peers can hurt self-esteem, too. Harsh words can stick and become part of how you think about yourself. Luckily, it doesn't have to stay that way. 
The voice in your own head.  
The things you say to yourself play a big part in how you feel about yourself. Thinking, "I'm not good enough" or "I'll never make friends," hurts your self-esteem. 
There are other ways to think about the same things. "I didn't win this time — but maybe next time." "Maybe I can make some friends." That voice is more hopeful. It helps you feel OK. And it could turn out to be true. 
Sometimes, the voice in our head is based on harsh words others have said. Or on bad times we have faced. Sometimes, the voice is just us being hard on ourselves. But we can change the voice in our own head. We can learn to think better of ourselves. 
Learning to do things.  
We feel good when we learn to read, add, draw, or build. Play a sport, play music, write an essay, ride a bike. Set the table, wash the car. Help a friend, walk the dog. Each thing you learn and do is a chance to feel good about yourself. Step back and look what you can do. Let yourself feel happy with it. 
But sometimes we're too hard on ourselves. We don't accept that what we do is good enough. If we think, "It's not really any good," "It's not perfect," or "I can't do it well enough," we miss the chance to build self-esteem. 

Ask yourself if your thought is ...  

True? Is this thought FACT or opinion? What IS true about this situation? 
Helpful? Is this thought helpful to me? What WOULD be helpful to think right now? 
Inspiring or Important? Does this thought inspire me, or is it especially important, right now? What IS important to think or do right now? 
Necessary? Do I really need to believe and act on this thought? Immediately? Later? Never? What IS necessary to do right now? 
Kind? Is this thought kind to me or others? What WOULD be a kind thought, right now? 

What can I do to boost my self-esteem? 

You can do things to feel better about yourself. It's never too late. Here are some tips to raise your self-esteem: 
Be with people who treat you well.  
Some people act in ways that tear you down. Others lift you up by what they say and do. Learn to tell the difference. Choose friends who help you feel OK about yourself. Find people you can be yourself with. Be that type of friend for others. 
Say helpful things to yourself.  
Tune in to the voice in your head. Is it too critical? Are you too hard on yourself? For a few days, write down some of the things you say to yourself. Look over your list. Are these things you'd say to a good friend? If not, rewrite them in a way that's true, fair, and kind. Read your new phrases often. Do it until it's more of a habit to think that way. 
Accept what's not perfect. It's always good to do the best you can. But when you think you need to be perfect, you can't feel good about anything less. Accept your best. Let yourself feel good about that. Ask for help if you can't get past a need to be perfect. 
Set goals and work towards them.  
If you want to feel good about yourself, do things that are good for you. Maybe you want to eat a healthier diet, get more fit, or study better. Make a goal. Then plan for how to do it. Stick with your plan. Track your progress. Be proud of what you've done so far. Say to yourself, "I've been following my plan to work out every day for 45 minutes. I feel good about it. I know I can keep it up." 
Focus on what goes well.  
Are you so used to talking about problems that they're all you see? It's easy to get caught up in what's wrong. But unless you balance it with what's good, it just makes you feel bad. Next time, catch yourself when you complain about yourself or your day. Find something that went well instead. 
Give and help.  
Giving is one the best ways to build self-esteem. Tutor a classmate, help clean up your neighbourhood, walk for a good cause. Help at home or at school. Make it a habit to be kind and fair. Do things that make you proud of the kind of person you are. When you do things that make a difference (even a small one) your self-esteem will grow. 

The link between Self-Esteem, Mental Health and Body Image 

If you need some counselling support to enable you to reach that next step in your life then please contact Julie Wales via the contact form at
I look forward to working together! 
If you would like to discuss online counselling and support for you or your family, or you find that your child is struggling with a deeper level of anxiety, please do get in touch on 07412 651 894, or email I look forward to helping you! 
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