How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem as a Teen?

Are you feeling unworthy and lacking confidence in your abilities? Do you sometimes believe you are not good enough, or don’t measure up in some way; whether that includes y our looks, school performance, or relationships with friends and family? Well don’t worry, you are definitely not alone. 7-in-10 teen girls feel that same exact way [1]. That means for every 100 girls you meet, 70 will be feeling like you. Makes it seem like a lot less lonely road, right? The thing is, with the rise of social media like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram; people only post the good stuff, so we forget that we are all just walking around masking our insecurities and feelings of unworthiness, hoping that no one will notice, and burying them deep down, hoping that it will go away. And if we don’t address them now, and nip it in the butt, those little traumas eventually turn into big traumas that are much harder to fix the older we get. The neurons in our brains form patterns around repeating thought patterns, and the more we think about something, the more those patterns get reinforced, building up the protein in our brains, which become “stuck.” It’s like being stuck in a feedback loop. The longer we wait to address them, the harder it is to rewire those patterns. So the key here is to catch it early in our teen years.

In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall subjective sense of personal worth or value. Basically, having healthy self-esteem means thinking as highly of yourself as you think of your friends and peers. Low self-esteem, on the other hand, is bred from a culture that overemphasizes unrealistic beauty standards through advertising and celebrity endorsement, and a school culture that conditions you from birth to be “somebody”, and has us competing for standardized grades with performance requirements pretty much the minute you come out of the womb. So what do we do? We focus on our weaknesses and forget our strengths. We compare ourselves to literally everyone else in our sphere of influence. I am going to let you in a little secret. Guess what? It’s not your fault you have feelings of low self-esteem. You are simply a product of our contemporary world. Now that is out of the way, what can be done about it? So yes it’s true, it’s not your fault. How you choose to respond though, is very much your responsibility. No one is responsible for experience but you.


Teens with high self-esteem praise their accomplishments, form better relationships with peers and adults, and are able to better navigate disappointment and failure. They’re also more successful in school, setting reasonable goals and accomplishing them. Self-esteem produces resiliency, which is how you bounce back in the face of adversity. When the seas get rough, you can ride the storm. Our self-image; what we’re good at, and what our strengths and weaknesses might be, helps define our self-esteem. When it’s healthy, we can assess ourselves accurately and are able to accept and value ourselves unconditionally. Life throws us curve balls all the time; from a bad grade on a test, being dumped by a significant other, hearing some gossip by a friend — all can temporarily impact our well-being.

For teens with good self-esteem, these daily “ups and downs” may lead to temporary fluctuations in how we think about ourselves, and it usually doesn’t last long. But for teens with poor self-esteem, these ups and downs may make all the difference in the world, leaving us feeling dejected and filled with negative self-awareness. There is light at the end of the tunnel; self-esteem is something you can work on — and improve.


It’s more than possible to change behavior and mindset. You need to want, believe deep down you can change it, then set your intention to change. Did you know it takes 30 days for something to become a habit? So consider doing the following for 30 days and I guarantee, you’ll see improvements in your self-esteem:

  • Stop thinking bad thoughts about yourself. Rather, applaud your strengths and achievements. Write down five things you do well, and tape it to your bedroom mirror. Read the list repeatedly until you can say these five things without thinking. Remember this list when you start to feel low and use it to bring yourself back to reality.
  • Overlook your mistakes. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and see them as learning opportunities.
  • Stop putting yourself down. Don’t beat yourself up for your weaknesses. Everybody has them.
  • Beware of perfectionism. Aim for accomplishments, even simple ones, rather than perfection.
  • Try new things. Be proud of new things you learn to do.
  • Start doing something for others. Try tutoring, volunteer work, or mentoring a younger student. When you feel like you can make a difference in the world, your self-esteem will soar.
  • Know what you can change, and accept the things you cannot change. There are certain “givens” in life, such as eye color, body type, and race. These are things we all must accept. But if you need to, say, lose weight or smile more, you can do something about it. Talk to your doctor about a healthy diet and exercise plan. Practice smiling in a mirror and challenge yourself to smile 25 times each day.
  • Hug more! Virginia Satir says, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Scientists have found that touch can reduce anxiety in people with low self-esteem (2). Touch can also keep people from isolating themselves when reminded of their mortality. Don’t have someone to hug? That’s okay, you can get the same effect by hugging yourself!!
  • Stop the “stinking thinking.” In other words, when you hear negative thoughts in your head, stop them. One way is to put a rubber band on your wrist. Each time you have a negative thought, snap the rubber band. Ouch! After a while, you can “reprogram” yourself to avoid those negative thoughts.
  • Exercise daily. Exercise boosts endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, which make you feel good inside. When you exercise daily, you’ll ease stress and feel better about yourself.
  • Remember, no one can “make you” feel bad. No one but us can be responsible for our experience. Meaning, we are the only ones who make ourselves feel bad; and how we respond and let things affect us is completely up to us.

In circumstances where emotional pain and self-criticizing habits are chronic and deep-seeded, you might need to see a therapist, counselor, or life coach. You can also visit your primary health care provider, who can give you a referral to a therapist if needed. Mental health professionals can help teenagers change negative behaviors by teaching positive ones that help to boost self-image.

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