The self-esteem gremlin!

Written with young people in mind but also great for us grown ups!

I have been working along-side children and teenagers for nearly 20 years and I have my own tween and teenager to add to the mix, so I have had a lot of experience in how low self-esteem can effect a young person’s life. It also has a ripple affect on those around them, especially those who care.

People (young or old) with low self-esteem often treat those around them badly because they are feeling bad about themselves, It is a vicious circle the worse they feel, the worse they may treat those around them and they are then treated badly in return which will make them feel bad about themselves. It is a cycle of destruction and can destroy relationships. Interestingly this is often the pattern we see in bully’s.

So what is self-esteem? ‘confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect’.

Self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It’s based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves and these are often formed from other people’s values, and what we believe to be right. Many of these opinions and beliefs come from outside our own judgement- parents, family, friends, society and of course social media, this is especially true for young people. 

It is said that the first low point in self-esteem occurs in early adolescence (ages 9-13) when the young person’s stops being treated like a child, this creates some un-stability. In this process, many parts of the young persons self-definition is now considered “childish” Many of the children’s favourite interests, activities, and relationships that supported self-esteem are often sacrificed for the sake of growth and acting older.

The second low point in self-esteem happens towards the end of adolescence (ages 18-23) This is usually when the teenager is confronted with the scary reality of independence and feels overwhelmed and uncertain of what the future holds! With this in mind it is easy to feel disappointed in themselves, to get down on themselves, and even to punish themselves, self- esteem falling in the process.

Low self-esteem can also be caused by other more serious factors and life events such as  bullying, abuse, problems at school or family relationship issues. This is when I would advise you to seek professional help from a counsellor or advice from your GP.

In teenagers their self-esteem is clearly reflected in their behaviour. A young person or teen with high self-esteem will be able to:

  • act independently
  • assume responsibility
  • take pride in his accomplishments
  • tolerate frustration
  • attempt new tasks and challenges
  • handle positive and negative emotions
  • offer assistance to others

But…

A young person with low self-esteem will:

  • avoid trying new things
  • feel unloved and unwanted
  • blame others for his own shortcomings
  • feel, or pretend to feel, emotionally indifferent
  • be unable to tolerate a normal level of frustration
  • put down his own talents and abilities
  • be easily influenced

It is my belief that parents can help to promote their child’s self-esteem …

  • Be generous with praise, also compliment your children for every day stuff not just when they display talent or do well at school. 
  • Teach your child to make positive self-talk. 
  • Teach your child about decision-making and to recognize when he/she has made a good decision
  • Encourage your teenagers to focus and establish interests, help them to learn to focus on their strengths by pointing out to them all the things they can do.
  • Constructive criticism, they need to know when things are right but do this in a gentle and positive way. 
  • Seek your youngster’s opinions, these will often enlighten you to what is going on in their lives.
  • Explore social media with your children from an early age. Many teenagers look for validation through these platform and this will have an impact on their self-esteem whether we like it or not. Unfortunately it has proven to be a more negative one. Education around this is so important.

Finally my top tip is to keep the communication open, make sure your young people know they can talk to you about anything, no matter how bad they think it is!