Self-esteem in adolescence is believed to be closely tied to teens' levels of family support and social acceptance by peers. Physical appearance can be very important to some teens, and can lead to low self-esteem in teens who perceive themselves as physically undesirable or less attractive than their peers. Adolescents can also experience declines in self-esteem if they fail to find themselves excelling in some area of life, whether it be academics, sports, or a hobby.
Increasing self-esteem in adolescence usually involves increasing teens' level of parental support and social interaction. Adolescents who experience personal success, especially those who do well at something that inspires them, are considered more likely to enjoy healthy levels of self-esteem.
Experts believe changes in self-esteem during adolescence can be linked to the adolescent struggle for identity and a sense of belonging. Young adolescents are considered most likely to suffer from drops in self-esteem, due to the lifestyle changes that can occur as one transitions from childhood to the teen years. It is believed, however, that children who enjoy healthy self-esteem will go on to enjoy healthy levels of self-esteem in adolescence.
Adolescents, especially girls, can experience fluctuations in their feelings of self worth due to dissatisfaction with their physical appearance. Girls are considered particularly vulnerable to problems with body image, since they can be greatly influenced by cultural messages that relay a rigid standard of feminine beauty. Boys may struggle with self-esteem problems related to performance issues, especially academic and athletic performance. They may also struggle to adapt to culturally prescribed roles for adult men.
Academic performance is considered an important indicator of self-esteem. Teens who do well in school are most likely to enjoy healthy self-esteem. Good performance in sports, or an enjoyable hobby, such as music or art, can also contribute to an adolescent's self-esteem. Activities such as these allow teens to learn about themselves and build a sense of self-worth by discovering their strengths. Extracurricular and group activities can help teens meet like-minded others and forge friendships, satisfying the need for social acceptance that can be crucial to maintaining healthy self-esteem in adolescence.
The consequences of low self-esteem for adolescents can be severe. Depression, anxiety, self-harming, eating disorders, and even suicide can result. Experts believe, however, that young teens who receive help with self-esteem problems can easily go on to experience healthy levels of self-esteem in late adolescence and adulthood.