Adolescent Self-Esteem

May 17, 2018 in Psychology 1 Shared
adolescent with low self-esteem

Adolescence is a phase full of changes. It’s a stage in our development when we are constantly looking for our place in the world. We feel the need to try out different roles and experiment. This is why high self-esteem is especially important for adolescents. Otherwise, they may start down an unfortunate path.

It is during adolescence when we feel a strong need to deeply reflect on ourselves. At the same time, the teen brain is maturing and learning new things. All of this is a part of finding our identity. And then only when we develop a coherent self-concept will be be able to build our self-esteem.

Self-esteem is based on self-concept

Our self-concept is the overall representation we have of ourselves. It feeds our self-knowledge. For example, self-concept is seen in ideas such as, “I am a very impulsive decision-maker”, “I love walking my dog in the park”, or “I’m very competitive at sports.”

In our first years of life, our self-concept is more flexible. Therefore we’re more liable at that time to incorporate the values, evaluations, and expectations of our role models into it. But in adolescence these are more arbitrary and likely to change. They’re also much less coherent.

mirror representing adolescent self-esteem

Once we realize who and what we are, our self-concept also determines our worth. That’s why self-concept encompasses self-esteem. It depends on our evaluation of our worth. Adolescent self-esteem encompasses the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. They judge all of these things. Then, they evaluate if they see themselves positively or negatively.

When do we form our self-esteem?

We begin forging our self-esteem early on in life, just like our self-concept. It is the product of various interacting factors. One factor is genetics (temperament), and the other is environmental (personal, social, and cultural). We assimilate and internalize these as we grow up. This evaluation may also vary depending on age.

How does a teenager assess themselves?

When you ask an adolescent to describe themselves, normally they’ll talk about external, physical attributes (attractiveness, features, figure) and the activities they do (intellectual abilities and how they relate to others). Likewise, their perspective of themselves will revolve around their concepts of worth and competence. It is closely related to success at school, social competence, and emotional balance. 

Adolescent self-esteem varies somewhat by gender:

  • Teenage girls tend to have lower and more vulnerable self-esteem. They tend to worry more about physical appearance, social success, and academic performance.
  • Male adolescent self-esteem is governed more by their ability to meet male stereotypes; being self-assured, strong, and fearless.

boy looking at mirror with low self-esteem

Adolescent self-esteem

Many aspects of a teenager’s life will depend on their level of self-esteem: school, family, relationships, etc. These factors, in turn, will influence their personality and happiness later on.

Teenagers with high self-esteem…

  • Feel loved and accepted by those around them. In addition, they are motivated to learn, try new things, and experience new places.
  • Tend to be optimistic about their future and can see problems from different points of view.
  • Create goals for the short- and long term. They are capable of taking responsibility for their own behavior and decisions. 
  • Know their strengths and weaknesses. Just like how they know how to accept criticism, they can slo self-criticize and face their problems.  
  • Have emotional stability and show empathy.
  • Are sensitive to others’ needs. They communicate easily and have a healthy social circle.

Teenagers with low self-esteem…

However, behaviors that indicate the beginning of low self-esteem in teenagers are based off of a lack of confidence in themselves and their abilities. Adolescents with low self-esteem…

  • See themselves as inferior to others, disrespected and undervalued. They may refuse to do group activities that involve cooperation.
  • Feel insecure and have a paralyzing fear of failure. 
  • Often lack discipline, commitment, and the ability to take responsibility.
  • Try to stand out, and due to their constant need for attention, may lie and be deceitful.
  • Blame others and have an aggressive, violent, regressive, defiant, or antisocial attitude.

adolescent girl crying with self-esteem problems

What is self-esteem for?

According to Erikson, adolescence is a search for identity and meaning. Although it’s a period marked by crises and hormonal chaos, it’s healthy and will result in a stronger identity in adulthood. Finding our identity is important when it comes to thinking about the future.

Therefore, self-esteem helps us accept ourselves and value our unique qualities. We should know our weaknesses but  we should also be aware of our strengths and let them shine.

It’s not about being egotistical; it’s about being realistic and feeding our self-worth. Self-esteem is a sign of respect for yourself and others. A person who respects themselves is a person who respects others. And a person who values themselves also values others.

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