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  • Writer's pictureDr. Samantha Brustad

Building Self-Esteem in Teens: Strategies and Activities for Boosting Confidence

Self-esteem is an essential part of a teenager’s overall emotional and mental well-being. Adolescence is a time of significant changes, and it is common for teens to experience self-doubt, insecurity, and low self-esteem during this period of their lives. These feelings can impact their relationships, academic performance, and overall quality of life. Parents, teachers, and caregivers all can play a crucial part in helping teens build self-esteem and confidence.

Several activities and strategies can help teens build self-esteem and confidence. One of the most effective ways is to encourage them to participate in activities that they enjoy and are good at. When teens engage in activities that they excel in, they cultivate a sense of accomplishment and pride, which can raise their self-esteem. Furthermore, parents and caregivers can help teens set realistic goals and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

Teenagers can also raise their self-esteem by practicing self-care. This can include beneficial new habits such as exercise, healthy eating, and a proper sleep schedule. The act of introducing new healthy habits into one’s routine can cause a positive feedback loop of emotions, allowing teens to raise their self-esteem. Additionally, parents and caregivers can encourage teens to practice positive self-talk and challenge negative thoughts. By challenging negative self-talk with positive thought patterns, teens can build a more positive self-image and improve their overall self-esteem.

Most importantly, teens benefit greatly from outside support. Professional therapy services can help a teen manage life’s challenges healthily, providing a safe environment for them to prosper. Here at Balanced Minds Psychology & Wellness, we specialize in helping children, teens, and young adults in the Tampa Bay area navigate life’s challenges, and we highly recommend therapy services to help build self-esteem in teens.

Continue reading below for a deeper dive into teenage self-esteem!


Understanding Self-Esteem in Teens

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is the way a person feels about themselves. Self-esteem is one’s overall evaluation of their worth and value as a person, serving as the foundation of their mental and emotional well-being. Self-esteem has roots based on one’s inner beliefs, perceptions, and experiences including past traumas. One’s self-esteem plays an important role, affecting how one thinks, feels, and behaves in different life situations.

Why is Self-Esteem Important for Teens?

The teenage years of a person’s life are a tumultuous period, featuring significant physical, emotional, and social changes. Self-esteem is particularly important for teenagers as self-esteem can help them develop a positive sense of self and build resilience to cope with life’s challenges and setbacks. When teens have healthy self-esteem, they are more likely to:

  • Take on new challenges and try new things

  • Develop positive relationships with peers and adults

  • Make healthy choices and set boundaries

  • Feel confident in their abilities and decisions

  • healthily handle stress and pressure

Teenagers lacking self-esteem can struggle to manage the many challenges common to this period of their lives. Repeated failures can cause a negative feedback loop for teenagers, and without healthy self-esteem, many teens may find themselves in a rut that seems impossible to climb out of.

Factors that Affect Self-Esteem in Teens

Several factors can affect a teenager's self-esteem. These can include:

  • Family and Home Environment: Parental support, or lack thereof, along with the dynamics within a family can play a significant role in helping or hurting a teen’s self-esteem. Establishing a positive line of communication can help a teen cultivate healthy self-esteem in the face of challenges.

  • Academic Performance: Teens struggling academically can find their self-esteem affected greatly. Fostering an environment of support and celebrating small wins can help teens remain confident despite facing struggles.

  • Body Image: In an age of social media and hyper-exaggerated beauty standards, a teen’s interpretation of their physical appearance can play a big role in their levels of self-esteem.

  • Social Media: With this rising generation, teens have access to the wider world of the internet on a scale never seen before. As social media serves as a “highlight reel” of most people’s lives, teens could find themselves negatively impacted by the dynamics of social media. Additionally, social media can exacerbate a teenager’s inclination towards unhealthy habits or lower the frequency in which they partake in activities they enjoy.

  • Peer Relationships: Teens with many positive relationships will see their self-esteem flourish. It is important to support social relationships with peers, especially through mutual activities and events.

Parents, caregivers, and educators need to be aware of these factors to help teens develop healthy self-esteem through positive reinforcement, encouragement, and support.


Strategies for Building Self-Esteem in Teens

Encouraging Positive Self-Talk

One of the most effective ways to build self-esteem in teens is by encouraging positive self-talk. Self-talk refers to the internal dialogue that goes on in our minds, and it can have a powerful impact on our self-esteem. Motivating teens to use positive self-talk can help them feel more confident and capable.

Parents and caregivers can help by modeling positive self-talk themselves and pointing out when teens are engaging in negative self-talk. Reframing negative thoughts into positive ones is a highly effective way to help a teen grow their positive self-talk. For example, if a teen says "I'm terrible at math," suggest a reframing of that thought such as "I'm still learning math, and I'm getting better every day."

Teenagers also benefit from repeated “small wins” that can help strengthen habits of positive self-talk. The saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” rings true, and celebrating a “small” achievement, like a 10% increase in a test score or a healthy diet choice, can help a teen to create positive thought patterns.

Fostering A Growth Mindset

Fostering a growth mindset is another important strategy for building self-esteem in teens. A growth mindset is characterized by a belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. Encouraging teens to adopt a growth mindset can help them feel more confident in their abilities and more willing to take on challenges.

Parents and caregivers can foster a growth mindset by praising effort and hard work rather than innate talent or intelligence. Encouraging teens to take on challenges and try new things, even if they might fail, can also be helpful. Helping teens see failure as an opportunity for growth rather than a sign of inadequacy can be a powerful way to build self-esteem.

Challenging Negative Thoughts

Teens who struggle with low self-esteem often have a lot of negative thoughts about themselves. Challenging these negative thoughts can be an effective way to build self-esteem. Parents and caregivers can help by pointing out when teens are engaging in negative self-talk and encouraging them to reframe their thoughts in a more positive light.

As an example, if a teen says "I’ll never make a new friend", advise them to ask themselves if that thought is accurate or if there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Oftentimes, low self-esteem can cause a spiral in negative thought patterns that can be disrupted with outside assistance.

Introducing Healthy Routines

Healthy routines can also be an important part of building self-esteem in teens. Inspiring teens to take care of themselves physically and mentally can help them feel more confident and capable.

Parents and caregivers can help by encouraging teens to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and engage in regular exercise. These healthy habits can raise a teen’s mood, leading to an increase in their desire to partake in healthy activities.

Emboldening teens to pursue hobbies and activities they enjoy can also be helpful, especially if they are skilled in those areas. Allowing a teen to build up “small wins” plays a crucial part in solidifying healthy habits.

Seeking Professional Help

Finally, it's important to recognize that building self-esteem in teens can be a challenging process, and sometimes professional help may be necessary. If a teen is struggling with low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety, it may be helpful to seek the help of a mental health professional.

Parents and caregivers can help by inspiring teens to talk to a trusted adult about their feelings and by seeking out appropriate resources and support. Professional help can provide teens with the tools and strategies they need to build self-esteem and improve their mental health.

At Balanced Minds Psychology & Wellness, we specialize in assisting teens and children with navigating life’s challenges. Teenagers benefit heavily from talk therapy, allowing them to manage the litany of changes in their lives while building a strong foundation for their adult lives.


Activities to Help Teens Build Self-Esteem

Goal Setting & Celebrating Accomplishments

Goal setting is a powerful tool for building self-esteem in teens. Inspire your teen to set realistic goals that are challenging but achievable. Help them break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps. Celebrate each step along the way, as this will help your teen build confidence in their ability to achieve what they set out to do.

Don’t be afraid to make the goals simple! Even small changes are something to celebrate, and teenagers can grow their self-esteem by constantly picking up “small wins”. This could be as simple as acknowledging a good grade on a test or completing a difficult task. Celebrating accomplishments helps teens feel proud of themselves and builds confidence in their abilities.

Creative Outlets

Inspire your teen to explore their creative side. Creative outlets such as art, music, or writing can be a great way for teens to express themselves and build self-esteem. Allowing your teen to try different forms of creative expression helps to foster healthy self-esteem and better prepares them for adult life.

Oftentimes, teens may lack a creative outlet they feel comfortable with, so be sure to establish a safe environment for them to express themselves. Remember, your teenager does not have to be the next Picasso or Beethoven to grow their self-esteem!

Physical Activity

Physical activity is another great way to build self-esteem in teens. Regular exercise can help teens feel better about themselves and their bodies.

Regular physical activity can also help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Assist your teen in finding an activity they enjoy, whether it's a team sport, yoga, or simply going for a walk. If they push back initially, consider recommending an activity you can partake in together.

Positive Relationships

Positive relationships are essential for building self-esteem in teens. Support your teen in surrounding themselves with people who lift them up and support them. Help your teen develop healthy friendships and relationships with family members.

Providing a safe place for your teen to tackle life’s challenges is also key to growing their self-esteem. Maintain a line of open communication and provide a safe and supportive environment for your teen to express themselves. This will help your teen grow their social relationships as they enter their adult life, leading to a life full of healthy communication and a strong support system.


Reflecting on thoughts and feelings through journaling is a great way for teens to process their thoughts. Teens can record their thoughts and experiences and practice healthy thought patterns with your support. This can help them process their emotions and build self-awareness. Journaling can also be a great way to track progress and celebrate accomplishments.

Be sure to respect your teen’s boundaries even after inspiring them to partake in journaling. Trust them to celebrate their wins with you as they come, but allowing them to process their feelings through journaling without fear of judgment is crucial to growing their self-reliance.


Professional Guidance

If your teen is struggling with self-esteem, consider seeking professional guidance. A therapist or counselor can help your teen develop coping strategies and build self-esteem. Promote the positive benefits of therapy to your teen and provide support throughout the process.

If you are ready to help your teen grow their self-esteem so they are better prepared for life’s challenges, reach out to us at Balanced Minds Psychology & Wellness! We are an experienced and compassionate group of psychologists and therapists in the Tampa Bay area. Our specialty lies in assisting teens and children as they navigate through their youth. Feel free to reach out to us for a complimentary phone consultation. We are committed to providing a safe and supportive environment that helps your teenager along their journey.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or contact the following resources for support:




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