Self-esteem is closely linked to people’s mental health, and both excess and deficit can lead to serious emotional and behavioral problems.
Being such an important subject for the proper development of the individual, it is one of the key areas of intervention in psychotherapy. But in order to avoid major complications, it is important to detect problems with self-esteem in young people in time and to understand what kind of situations can trigger them. Therefore, in this article, we explain The main causes of low self-esteem in adolescence.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is one of the most studied phenomena in the world of psychology and also one of the most influential in the personality of any individual, regardless of age, social status or level of acquisition. . And since it’s something that can affect anyone, self-esteem issues are generally quite prevalent in our society.
Essentially, self-esteem can be defined as the individual’s appreciation of himself, taking into account your beliefs about the “I”. That is, it does not only include information that can be expressed in words; it also encompasses a number of emotions and feelings. Thus, self-esteem has a lot to do with how a person perceives themselves in relation to their ideal “I”, that is, how they would like to be.
It can be said that self-esteem is made up of 4 main elements: perceptual processes (all that information we receive from the environment, our body and our actions, which condition the opinion we have of ourselves- same); self-concept (meaning all those ideas, opinions or thoughts that we generate about ourselves from what we perceive), emotional charge (how all of this affects us emotionally) and the referents that we have around us (famous, influencers, eminent professionals in our sector…) and in the imagination itself (our late grandfather, religious personalities…).
What are the main causes of low self-esteem in adolescence?
Below, we review the causes of the most common self-esteem issues among the teenage population (although they are all related to each other to a greater or lesser extent).
1. Insecurities with own body
Adolescence is one of the stages of human development in which greater insecurities are seen in young boys and girls who begin to shape the personality they will have as adults.
The greatest insecurities in adolescence are related to the body itself and the gradual (even relatively abrupt) changes that are observed there. At this point in the transformation, most people are dissatisfied with the change in their bodies or expect these changes to happen more quickly or in a more harmonious and proportionate way.
On top of that, there can also be great insecurities in the case of boys and girls who have “non-normative” bodies within their peer group, especially as they begin to be compared to the canons. of beauty linked to the figure of young adults considered attractive, older than them.
2. Social pressure
The social pressure that many teenagers face is also often one of the main causes of low self-esteem and problems for many people.
At this age, adolescent role models stop being parents and become peersthat is, young people of the same age or a little older who can be friends or classmates and who need their recognition and acceptance to feel part of a reference group.
3. Difficulties in school
Possible difficulties in school and academic performance almost always lead to a drastic drop in a teenager’s self-esteem, because school it becomes one of the main sources of self-affirmation, socialization and personality formation.
In addition, the lack of skills in sports activities, especially among men during recess, can also have a decisive impact on the level of self-esteem.
4. Toxic relationships
It is also at this age that the first relationships begin to develop, and a toxic relationship it can significantly affect both the sufferer’s self-esteem and many other elements of their personality and mental health..
Additionally, when a relationship is toxic in the later stages of adolescence, emotional dependency dynamics can also develop, which can affect the person for life if professional psychological support is not available.
5. Constant comparisons and hypercompetitiveness
They also occur in adolescence dynamics of comparison and competition between classmates or friends to see who has the best clothes, the best mobile, or other items that work as class indicators.
Some young boys and girls may be ashamed of their poor financial situation, which can make a significant difference in their self-esteem.
6. Family issues
The family environment is another area in which a teenager relies to build his future personality.. This includes both the type of relationship with parents or siblings, the parenting style you are subjected to, and the amount of affection and understanding you receive at home.
A dysfunctional family pattern or negative parenting patterns for the child are also causes that can significantly lower the adolescent’s self-esteem. Also, in many cases, the young person may be ashamed of what their family members know about them and, failing to be able to become independent, they will not find an immediate way to stop feeling judged.
7. Cases of mistreatment or abuse
In the family or school setting, there may also be cases of physical or sexual mistreatment or abuse that will have a serious effect on the mental health of the adolescent who suffers from it. Unfortunately, bullying is very commonand although it has long been relatively normalized, we now know that its psychological effects on self-esteem can be devastating.
This is therefore another cause that can very negatively affect the self-esteem of the victim and pose a real health problem at all levels.
How to detect and prevent self-esteem problems in adolescents?
Some warning signs that it is worth seeking professional help they are the following (it is not necessary to give them all at the same time):
- He avoids at all times talking about what he did in school, beyond explaining the subjects taught in class.
- She cries relatively often without wanting to know why.
- He doesn’t have the initiative to stay with friends.
- He always resists the proposal to attend extracurricular activities (whatever they are).
- Always let others make all the decisions.
- He has no intention of learning anything on his own, even if he shows some interest in something.
- Exhibits self-injurious behaviors, even suicidal thoughts. These cases, although they seem extreme, are unfortunately all too frequent.
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- Horse, V. (1983). Social skills training and assessment manual. Madrid: Acronym XXI.
- Gongora, VC (2008). Personal values and self-esteem in the general and clinical population. Psychodebate 8 (0): 37.