Friday, July 6, 2012

Teenage Low Self-Esteem - It Comes with the Territory

It's unfortunate that so many teenagers feel miserable... 
  • Maybe they can't afford the clothes the cool kids wear - I WON'T BE POPULAR.
  • Maybe they lag behind in reading and basic learning skills - I'M NOT SMART.
  • Maybe they were born into a poor family - I'M NOT WORTHY
  • Maybe they're small in stature - I WON'T BE PICKED FOR THE TEAM
  • Maybe they weren't taught good social skills - I WON'T FIT IN
  • Maybe they're slow to develop physically - I'M NOT ATTRACTIVE
  • Maybe they're susceptible to acne - I'M UGLY
  • Maybe they've made mistakes - I'M INADEQUATE
When you were a teen, did you ever experience any of these negative thoughts? I know I did.

It's a tough time of life, even a perilous time. I wouldn't be a teenager again for anything in the world. All the above thoughts lead to low self-esteem. The consequences of considering yourself inferior are almost never good.

Teenagers know they're growing up; they don't want to be thought of as children anymore. They want to feel grown up because they know they're not. They may act like they know everything, but deep down they wish they could close the experience and knowledge gap between them and adults. This makes them feel lacking, unhappy and insecure, Which leads them to desperately want to be liked, which leads them to be vulnerable to peer pressure, which leads them down the wrong paths.

Some things an adult can do to help...
  • Talk to them on an adult level. Don't call them names or judge them as if there was something wrong with them.
  • Treat them with respect. Don't abuse them or infringe on their basic rights as human beings.
  • When they deserve it, tell them what you liked about what they did.
  • Affirm their good qualities, based on actions you've observed.
  • Affirm their potential.
  • Pass on wisdom and life skills.
  • Ask them questions that help them think through their own problems.
  • Rather than criticizing them or making them feel bad for their mistakes, help them learn from them.
When you were a teenager, was there an adult in your life who made you feel valued and helped you grow stronger as a person?

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2012. Building Personal Strength .


Beth Westmark said...

My step-grands are all either teenagers or twenty-somethings now. The teenagers are so beautiful and yet so vulnerable. I see hope and despair in their eyes, sometimes both extremes within the blink of an eye. I respect and hope for them to find their own unique ways safely, maybe even joyfully, at least in time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Denny,

Thanks for the timely article. Just in the psychologists office with my son who is depressed. Feeling like I should have done more sooner. It's so very important to listen and attend to the tender souls of a teenager.