Self-esteem is the psychological term that refers to the subjective view someone has of their self-worth. In other words, their overall sense of personal value. Self-esteem is also a measure of self-confidence and how much one likes oneself. A teen’s self-esteem will face many challenges during big life changes like starting high school or working in a job for the first time. However, not all self-esteem issues teens face are grounded in reality. In a 2004 biennial study consisting of almost 25,000 teens:
- 62% said they had cheated on a test.
- 82% said they had told a significant lie.
- 27% admitted to stealing something from a store.
The study covered a 12-month period, yet 92% of the participants also said they were happy with their ethical and moral standards. It’s a significant discrepancy that suggests that many teens’ idea of success is not based on any moral compass but is more in line with an attitude of doing whatever it takes.
How a Teen’s Self-Image May be Challenged
Self-image can be swayed by a teen’s body image, especially now that puberty has taken hold and their body is undergoing rapid development.
Being overweight can chip away at self-esteem, as can acne. Body image also plays a role in when a teen may choose to become sexually active, which can also impact self-esteem.
Bullying, not doing well in school, exposure to drugs and alcohol, and constant negative feedback from teachers and parents also delivers a lot of feedback that may damage self-esteem in a teen.
Low Self-Esteem in a Teen has Risks
Low self-esteem in a teen may lead to undesirable life choices, including:
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia
- Haphazard use of contraceptives
- Joining a gang
- Poor grades
How to Improve Self-Esteem in a Teen
Boosting self-esteem involves helping them make life choices that won’t drag them down, such as physical activity, online activities, and learning self-care and self-compassion. Here are just a few ways you can encourage a healthy level of self-esteem in your teen.
Encourage Physical Activity
Whether it’s a team sport or exercise on their own, physical activity is a known booster of self-esteem .
However, students who participate in physical activity as part of a group report more significant increases in self-esteem than those who exercised alone.
Learning self-compassion is all about learning to stop judging oneself and to treat yourself with and understanding.
Teens who are okay with their flaws and understand that everyone has struggles will have higher levels of self-compassion.
Stop Social Comparison
Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms can be toxic to teens who continuously compare themselves against their peers. 
It will be challenging to get teens to control how long they spend on social media and even more challenging to inspire them to take a break entirely.
However, research is revealing a disturbing association between teen depression and social media use.
The digital realm is not the only culprit producing an overabundance of social comparison. Schools also create such an environment by grading, labeling, and grouping students according to academic performance.
Focus on their Skills and Strengths
Take an interest in your teen’s hobbies and talents and support them by capitalizing on their strengths.
Not everyone can be a strong athlete, nor can everyone be a whiz at math, a skilled artist, or a science genius. We all have our strengths, and helping your child focus on and develop theirs will go a long way to improving your teen’s self-esteem.
References: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26241879  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0706743719885486