10 Signs Of Low Self Esteem In Teenagers

by Chris

Adolescence is a time of life when a person’s self esteem is known to fluctuate significantly. It is estimated that up to a half of adolescents will struggle with low self esteem, many of these occurrences during the early teen years.

In previous posts I have discussed the key factors that influence teenager’s self esteem and how adults can help build healthy self esteem in young people.

But how do you know if a teenager has a problem with low self esteem? It is not like they are just going to come out and tell you!

So in this post I thought I would describe some common indicators that suggest a teenager may have issues with their self esteem.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, teens do not have to exhibit all of these signs to have low self esteem. These are merely a collection of signs that I and others have found to be commonly displayed by teens who have issues related to low self worth.

1. Walking with their head down

One of the most observable signs of low self esteem is when a teenager walks everywhere with their head pointed downwards and their chin stuck to the top of their chest. This is physical expression of shame and embarrassment.  Teens who with low self esteem often feel like they want to hide and get through public situations unnoticed.

2. Doesn’t make eye contact when talking

Teens who feel that they are not worth much find it very hard to make eye contact with others when communicating. They avoid making a connection because they assume others have the same negative view of them as they do.

3. Uses negative “I am” statements

The language teens use will often convey what it is they believe, this is especially true of how they speak about themselves. Teenagers who commonly refer to themselves as hopeless or worthless are expressing a belief about who they are. Phrases like “l am useless”, “I always get it wrong”, “I could never do that” or “the world would be better of without me” are examples of someone expressing negative beliefs about who they are.

4. Often involved in teasing, name calling, or gossiping about others

Teenagers who feel bad about themselves will often seek to be negative about others. This is usually a defense mechanism.  Often teens will be most critical of others who exhibit similar qualities that they don’t like about themselves. Other times it is a simple matter of making themselves feel or look better by making others look worse.

5. Engages in inappropriate physical contact or avoids physical contact

There is nothing more personal than our physical bodies.  Teens who feel worthless and long for affirmation may seek to find it physically.  The desire for physical touch from others is fueled by a deep sense of longing for acceptance and connectedness.  However feelings of worthlessness can also manifest in a genuine fear of physical contact from others.  Often teens who do not like to be touched have strong feelings of disgust or shame about their body and / or what it may represent.

6. Uses gestures that are dramatic and out of context

When teens feel like they are not valuable or worthwhile they can crave attention. One way of getting attention is act in such a way so that people notice.  Teens who act in a manner that is out of context are often those who have not been given the care or attention they required when they were younger.

7. Excessive bragging about themselves, their achievements, or appearance

One way of fighting deep feelings of being worthless is by trying to convince ourselves and others that we are not. Teenagers who are constantly talking about how good they are, or how good they look are trying to convince  other people and, most importantly, themselves that they are valuable.  There is a constant search by some teens to find positive messages from external sources that will drown out the negative internal ones that are constantly playing.

8. Speaks too loudly and aggressive in tone

When a teenager feels worthless they can believe that everyone else thinks they are insignificant too.  In order to compensate for these feelings of insignificance teens will try to verbally dominate communication as a means of seeking attention and recognition.  Unfortunately this will often result in increased levels of personal rejection from others.

9. Avoids social situations

If a teenager feels they are unlikeable they will avoid situations which reinforce that belief.  Teens who have few friends or weak relational bonds with peers commonly have quite low self esteem.  Peer relationships are an important component of how teens develop self worth. Teenagers who have few friends, or find it hard to make friends will feel less confident about who they are, this in turn results in them being less confident and willing to build friendships. The cycle continues.

10. Apologises constantly

Apologising a lot is usually associated with feeling guilty. if a teen believes they get things wrong all the time or don’t measure up to expectations they will feel guilty for failing. It creates a cycle. The guiltier they feel, the worse they feel about themselves, and the worse they feel about themselves, the guiltier they feel. Constant apologizing comes from the excessive feelings of guilt a teen may feel.

Image by the8rgrl