Teenage Girls: Self esteem & Confidence

Words that don’t always seem to go together: self-esteem and teenager. Read what one of our leading experts has to say on the topic of teenage girls and how you as the adult can help tackle this problem of low self esteem before it even starts. 



Low self esteem is common among teen girls and can often be masked by high confidence. If it’s not dealt with, it can lead to tears and anguish but for some young girls it can consume them to a point of becoming a bully, manifesting in aggression and rage towards others both verbally and physically or a young person can become reclusive and retreat from social groups as their low-self esteem takes hold. The following looks at how to tackle low self esteem in its early stages.


Positive and negative lists- which one is longer?

But low self esteem is often hidden by seemingly an over confident character. How can you tell if your daughter is suffering from low self esteem?

  1. Ask your daughter to list all the things she dislikes about herself. Does she find this task easy or difficult? If it’s easy and the list is seemingly endless, this suggests low self esteem. Combat it by the following: If she says my hair is too frizzy, positively say ‘I like your curls’. How does she react? If her reaction is negative, go through her list and reinforce the positives. Is her list just about looks or is it negative towards other areas of life? Education for example?
  2. Ask her to list all the positive things about herself. If this is harder or nonexistent, use the positive list created above together to help her. You could even write it for her.

Confidence can mask low self esteem but this type of confidence usually manifests in toxic relationships such as bullying or unsafe friendship choices by hanging around with older teenagers or choosing to opt out from activities she used to participate in (dropping school clubs, etc). Talking to your young person is key to finding out what she is thinking- make time for them. Find a babysitter for the younger siblings or rearrange your schedule to go and have a coffee with her. Treat your daughter with the respect that you would afford a friend who needed your time. Listening to her concerns will make her feel valued, just sharing that time will increase her self worth and value.

Words have a lasting impact

It’s always difficult for parents and carers to navigate a teenage girl’s moods and whilst more often than not, self esteem revolves around looks and personality, it’s important that a parent praises the whole child. Once you have the positive and negative list completed, look for other ways to praise: ‘your school report was excellent.’ Your math teacher said….’ ‘Thanks for making the bed/coffee/finding the keys/collecting your sister’. Focus on the positive and engage her school teachers to do the same.

Pictures say a thousand words

An easy way parents can help boost self esteem is by having family portraits around the home. Not just baby photographs but pictures which track the whole life of a young person that celebrate and cherish their role within the family.

Judy Weiser, a psychologist, art therapist and author based in Vancouver says;

“Family photographs let children learn who they are and where they fit. They learn their genealogy and the uniqueness of their own family and its story. When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves: ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from’.

photo by Shandi-lee CoxCC BY NC ND 2.0

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