What Are Common Causes of Low Self-Esteem in Teenagers?

N. Madison
N. Madison

There are many factors that can contribute to low self-esteem in teenagers. Among them are poor self-image, such as feeling inadequate because one is overweight or has acne, though a teen may also develop a poor self-image in the absence of such issues. Rejection, criticism, bullying, or abuse from peers, parents, and adults in authority also commonly contribute to low self-esteem. Sometimes difficulty performing well in school or sports also adds to the problem. Additionally, changes in hormones may prove to be a contributing factor in self-esteem problems.

A teen might experience low self-esteem if she sets her expectations too high.
A teen might experience low self-esteem if she sets her expectations too high.

One of the most common causes of low self-esteem in teenagers is poor self-image. Many teens worry that they weigh too much, although some teens also criticize themselves for being too short, too tall, and sometimes even too skinny. Some teens may also feel they do not measure up to others when it comes to such things as texture of hair or body proportions. In many cases, acne can also cause low-self esteem. It is important to note, however, that many teens feel they do not measure up in terms of appearance, even when others find them very attractive and do not notice any significant flaws.

In some cases, loss of self-esteem is caused by negative experiences, such as bullying and abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual.
In some cases, loss of self-esteem is caused by negative experiences, such as bullying and abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual.

Sometimes external factors play a role when it comes to low self-esteem in teenagers. For example, a teen may feel he is being rejected by his peers, and in some cases, he may even feel that his parents and family members reject him as well. Bullying and teasing can also lead to these issues. Even criticism, if provided too often or in a manner that is not constructive, can damage a teen's self-esteem. Additionally, abuse of all types, whether verbal or physical, can damage a teen's image of himself.

Even if others find them attractive, many teens are unhappy with their looks.
Even if others find them attractive, many teens are unhappy with their looks.

In many cases, a teen sets expectations for himself, and his failure to live up to them leads to low self-esteem. For example, if a teen feels he should perform well academically, but he does poorly, this may damage the way he views himself. This is also true of other activities a teen feels are important. For example, if he thinks he should have mechanical abilities or excel in sports but fails in that regard, his self-esteem may suffer. This cause may prove even more significant if the teen's family members also express disappointment in his abilities.

Harassing text messages can contribute to low self-esteem in teenagers.
Harassing text messages can contribute to low self-esteem in teenagers.

Interestingly, hormones may also have an effect on a teen's self-esteem. The hormonal changes that often take place during the teen years can cause a person to feel unsure of himself or depressed. At the very least, they may contribute to self-esteem issues that are already developing.

Weight can have a big impact on self-esteem in adolescents.
Weight can have a big impact on self-esteem in adolescents.
Abuse as a child can cause teenagers to have low self-esteem.
Abuse as a child can cause teenagers to have low self-esteem.
Teenagers may try to emulate celebrities and others if they have low self-esteem.
Teenagers may try to emulate celebrities and others if they have low self-esteem.
Acne caused by puberty can result in low self-esteem for teenagers.
Acne caused by puberty can result in low self-esteem for teenagers.
Parental neglect can cause self-esteem issues for adolescents.
Parental neglect can cause self-esteem issues for adolescents.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

burcinc

I'm not an expert and I haven't seen self esteem statistics but I think that it's fairly common for teenagers to experience low self esteem. There are just so many different changes taking place in their lives. It can be difficult to cope with everything. Hormonal and physical changes are enough to cause these emotions.

candyquilt

@SarahGen-- The divorce could have certainly affected her negatively. How is her relationship with her father? Does she receive enough attention from both parents? If she is not seeing her father very often now, this could be causing her to have low self esteem.

She might also have problems at school that you might not be aware of. I urge you to speak with her teachers and the school counselor. She ought to receive counseling. It might be better to see a child psychologist however since you are suspecting your divorce as a cause. I think it i easier for teenagers to improve low self esteem than adults. It's a tough time but with professional help and care from loved ones, this does not have to be a permanent problem.

SarahGen

My teenager daughter is showing low self esteem symptoms. She is constantly criticizing herself and does not feel happy even when she succeeds at something. I keep praising her and telling her that she is doing well but it doesn't seem to be helping. I'm not sure what to do.

Her father and I got divorced recently and she seems to have changed after this. Could the divorce be the cause of her low self esteem?

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