Self-esteem is simply how you feel about yourself and how you judge your worth. This evaluation has a profound impact on the choices you make since it determines, to a great extent, what you consider yourself capable and worthy of doing. Do you view yourself as strong, smart and valuable? If so, you probably take risks, speak out and stand up for what you believe in. Do you view yourself as ugly, weak or worthless? If so, you most likely are fearful, stay in the shadows and question every decision you make. How you view yourself usually determines how you act around others and how you see yourself as a role in society. Self-esteem, whether it is negative or positive, can be damaging or uplifting, respectively. Teenage low self-esteem stems from teens who feel poorly about themselves and judge themselves to be inferior to others are at risk of not fulfilling their true potential in life. They may not take the initiative to set and pursue personal goals; they may not put any effort into their education or careers; they may accept poor treatment from family, friends and romantic partners and all of these things could potentially ruin their future.
Causes of low teenage self-esteem
Self-esteem begins in early childhood and is directly related to upbringing and primary caregiver relationships. Absentee parents, negative minded parents, abusive parents, authority figures in conflict, unsupportive parents, and disapproving authority figures all lead to the development of low self-esteem in childhood which eventually carries on into adolescence and adulthood.
- Uninvolved/Negligent Parents: Parents who spend minimal time in the home raising their kids or parents and guardians who are struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse issues or other challenges may not be able to provide their children with the care, guidance, and attention they need and deserve. This can cause significant abandonment and self-esteem problems for young people.
- Negative Peers: Being part of a social group that brings others down by disrespect, peer pressure, and bullying can cause others to feel that something is wrong with them and they are to be blamed. Over time these negative behaviors can become damaging and can destroy an individual’s self-esteem.
- Trauma: Abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual or a combination of these often causes feelings of shame and even guilt. A teenager may feel that he or she did something to deserve the abuse or that he or she was not worthy of the respect, love, and care of the abuser. Teenagers who have suffered abuse may have a significant amount of anxiety and depression associated with the event as well, which can interfere with their ability to lead a fulfilling life.
- Body Image: Body image is a massive factor for a teenager’s self-esteem, especially that of young women. According to studies, 53% of girls are unhappy with their bodies, a number that rises to 78% by the age of 17 and 50% of teen girls and 30% of teen boys practice unhealthy behaviors in an effort to lose weight, including skipping meals, vomiting, smoking cigarettes, fasting and using laxatives. Female bodies are constantly objectified in the media, making it seem as though their bodies exist for others to look at, touch, or use. Puberty can be dramatic and scary for many which can lead teenagers to compare themselves to what they see in the media leading to feelings of inadequacy, shame, and disempowerment. While young women are disproportionately affected by body image messages, young men are not immune. Many young men struggle with low self-esteem associated with weight and body composition, particularly concerning muscle mass.