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How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem?

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

Why Is Self-Esteem Important? continued...

Your daily experiences can certainly affect your feelings about yourself. The grade you get on an exam, how your friends treat you, the ups and downs in a romantic relationship -- all can have a temporary impact on your well-being.

For teens with good self-esteem, these daily "ups and downs" may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they think about themselves, but only to a limited extent. But for teens with poor self-esteem, these ups and downs may make all the difference in the world, leaving them feeling dejected and filled with negative self-awareness.

The good news is that self-esteem is something you can work on -- and improve.

How Can I Build My Self-Esteem?

Before you begin to improve your self-esteem, it's important to believe deep down that you can change it. Change doesn't necessarily happen quickly or easily, but it can happen. Consider the following tips:

  • Stop thinking bad thoughts about yourself. Instead, celebrate your strengths and achievements. Write down five things you do well, and tape it to your bedroom mirror. Read the list repeatedly until you can say these five things without thinking. Remember this list when you start to feel low, and use it to bring yourself back to reality.
  • Beware of perfectionism. Aim for accomplishments, even simple ones, rather than perfection.
  • Overlook your mistakes. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and see them as learning opportunities.
  • Stop putting yourself down. Don't beat yourself up for your weaknesses. Everybody has them.
  • Try new things. Be proud of new things you learn to do.
  • Start doing something for others. Try tutoring, volunteer work, or mentoring a younger student. When you feel like you can make a difference in the world, your self-esteem will soar.
  • Know what you can change, and accept the things you cannot change. There are certain "givens" in life, such as eye color, body type, and race. These are things we all must accept. But if you need to, say, lose weight or smile more, you can do something about it. Talk to your doctor about a healthy diet and exercise plan. Practice smiling in a mirror and challenge yourself to smile 25 times each day.
  • Stop the "stinking thinking." In other words, when you hear negative thoughts in your head, stop them. One way is to put a rubber band on your wrist. Each time you have a negative thought, snap the rubber band. Ouch! After awhile, you can "reprogram" yourself to avoid those negative thoughts.
  • Exercise daily. Exercise boosts endorphins, the body's natural opiates, which make you feel good inside. When you exercise daily, you'll ease stress and feel better about yourself.
  • Remember, no one can "make you" feel bad. Only you can make yourself feel bad!

In cases where emotional pain and self-criticizing habits are deep or long lasting, you might need the help of a counselor or therapist. Or, seek help from your primary health care provider, who can give you a referral to a therapist if needed. Mental health professionals can help teenagers change negative behaviors by teaching positive ones that help to boost self-image.

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Reviewed on February 01, 2007

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