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Teen Health

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How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem?

Experts offer tips that enable teenagers to boost their self-esteem.

WebMD Feature

Looking for ways to improve your self-esteem? You're not alone! It's normal to have doubts about yourself during adolescence.

Look what happened to "Lauren" (not her real name) when she dressed for PE the first day of school. As she tied her tennis shoes, she noticed she had on two different colored socks -- one pink and one white. She was mortified! What would the other students think when they saw her?

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Lauren quickly took the socks off and stuffed them in the left pocket of her gym shirt. She hated attention of any type and hoped no one would notice. Yet when she walked into the gym and sat down, a boy who was always obnoxious stood up, pointed to Lauren, and said, "Hey, girl. Why is your gym shirt so lopsided?"

Lauren looked down. The stuffed socks in her pocket made her look very busty -- on her left side only. With tears running down her face, she stared at the floor until the teacher excused the class to run laps.

While Lauren normally had good self-esteem, the way she handled this embarrassing situation is typical of many teens, who may feel insecure in a large group or among people they don't know well.

What Is Self-Esteem?

According to Nathaniel Branden, PhD, noted author and expert on the subject, "self-esteem is the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness."

Basically, having healthy self-esteem means thinking as highly of yourself as you think of your friends and peers. Many people have become so used to negative feedback that we are more aware of our weaknesses than our strengths. Often, we cannot enjoy our successes -- no matter how large or small they might be -- because we think of ourselves as "failures."

Why Is Self-Esteem Important?

Healthy self-esteem plays a role in almost everything you do. Teens with high self-esteem have better relationships with peers and adults, feel happier about their accomplishments, and find it easier to deal with disappointments and failures. They are more likely to ask for help and support from family and friends. They're also more likely to do well in school, setting reasonable goals and accomplishing them.

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