Toolkit: Self-Esteem for Teens

Self-esteem has been a controversial issue in past years, especially as it relates to adolescents.

[start rant] This is inexplicable to me–what I seem to recall happening is a concerted campaign of ridicule and tut-tuttery against “self-esteem training in the public schools,” from people who believe we shouldn’t waste precious teaching time doing anything but the 3Rs and by the way corporal punishment wasn’t that bad and also too can I interest you, school board and state legislature, in this for-profit charter school curriculum developed by me and my friends? [end rant]

Kids struggle with self-esteem to the point of suicidality.  Just because you’re 14 and not a heavy-weight yet intellectually or psychologically and your issues don’t seem earth-shattering to the 50 year old men who wield the power in this world doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have help to STAY ALIVE!  [Ok, actual end of rant.  Maybe.]

But the fact of the matter is, self-esteem is a complex concept, all tangled up with confidence, competence, and societal expectations.  Here is a little list as a way to start thinking about it (from this website).


  • Try to stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself. If you’re used to focusing on your shortcomings, start thinking about positive aspects of yourself that outweigh them. When you catch yourself being too critical, counter it by saying something positive about yourself. Each day, write down three things about yourself that make you happy.

  • Aim for accomplishments rather than perfection. Some people become paralyzed by perfection. Instead of holding yourself back with thoughts like, “I won’t audition for the play until I lose 10 pounds,” think about what you’re good at and what you enjoy, and go for it.

  • View mistakes as learning opportunities. Accept that you will make mistakes because everyone does. Mistakes are part of learning. Remind yourself that a person’s talents are constantly developing, and everyone excels at different things — it’s what makes people interesting.

  • Try new things. Experiment with different activities that will help you get in touch with your talents. Then take pride in new skills you develop.

  • Recognize what you can change and what you can’t. If you realize that you’re unhappy with something about yourself that you can change, then start today. If it’s something you can’t change (like your height), then start to work toward loving yourself the way you are.

  • Set goals. Think about what you’d like to accomplish, then make a plan for how to do it. Stick with your plan and keep track of your progress.

  • Take pride in your opinions and ideas. Don’t be afraid to voice them.

  • Make a contribution. Tutor a classmate who’s having trouble, help clean up your neighborhood, participate in a walkathon for a good cause, or volunteer your time in some other way. Feeling like you’re making a difference and that your help is valued can do wonders to improve self-esteem.

  • Exercise! You’ll relieve stress, and be healthier and happier.

  • Have fun. Ever found yourself thinking stuff like “I’d have more friends if I were thinner”? Enjoy spending time with the people you care about and doing the things you love. Relax and have a good time — and avoid putting your life on hold.

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2 Responses to Toolkit: Self-Esteem for Teens

  1. Self esteem is really a big issue not only for teenagers but for most of us. I have made things that I can say I am proud of being a women in terms of my career but I still some issue with self esteem but not all the time, let’s say unstable self esteem. By the way, thank you for sharing you post this is can be a guidance for me as well.

    self esteem

    • Site Admin says:

      Thanks for your comment. The multiple roles we take on – particularly as women – can cause what probably feels like unstable self-esteem. One advantage of multiple roles is a sort of built-in cushion for hits to self-esteem in one area. For example, even if we don’t feel so great about our careers, we can still feel good about ourselves as mothers, etc. I’m researching and learning about specific treatment for self-esteem issues, and I’ll do more posts on what I find.

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