Self-image in teenagers: helping your child overcome negative self-esteem

Mark Lathrop | February 23, 2024

The teenage years are a rollercoaster of emotions and self-discovery. In this whirlwind, self-image often takes center stage, impacting everything from confidence to social interactions. So, what is self-image in teenagers, and how can you help your child navigate the challenges and have great mental health? Let’s talk about what self-image involves, what causes negative self-image, how it affects children and teens, and how to help them feel good about themselves. 

What is self-image in teenagers and children?

Self-image describes how teenagers think about themselves. It is a complex mix of beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about their physical appearance, abilities, personality, and overall worth. Self-image is influenced by factors both inside and outside of them, including personal experiences, family, friends, media, and pop culture. 

What causes negative self-image in teenagers and children?

Developing a healthy self-image is a complex process for teenagers and children. Given all the challenges kids face today, building a positive self-image is often easier said than done. Here are a few factors that can lead to a negative self-image. 

  • Personal experiences: Personal experiences can majorly impact self-image, either positively or negatively. Negative experiences, in particular, can make kids think badly about themselves and their self-worth. For example, academic struggles, pressure to excel, and a fear of failure can make teens feel like they are not good or smart enough. 
  • Body image: Body image can also play a significant role in shaping self-image, and when negative, it can harm their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. For example, constant exposure to unrealistic and highly edited images online can fuel unhealthy comparisons. Negative comments about their appearance can leave lasting scars and damage their confidence. 
  • Family dynamics: Family dynamics are another serious factor in self-image. While a supportive and nurturing home environment can boost a child’s confidence and self-worth, negative family dynamics can make them feel misunderstood, worthless, and unloved. 
  • The social scene: The social environment, including peers, community, and society, can also influence self-image. If a child or teen is bullied, they may feel unwanted or unworthy. Peer pressure can lead to internal conflict and self-doubt. 

Remember, this list isn’t exhaustive, and different factors can have varying impacts, depending on the individual and their unique experiences. While it’s important to consider each factor, it is also essential to consider how the factors work together to influence self-image, as kids and teens often face more than one struggle at once. By trying to understand all the complexity, we can work to create more supportive environments for teens.

How can having a negative self-image affect your children?

A negative self-image can have far-reaching consequences for children and teens, affecting their emotional, social, and academic well-being. On the emotional level, it can show up as depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. On the social level, a negative self-image can make it hard to trust others and build healthy relationships. It can also make kids more vulnerable to bullying. On the academic level, a negative self-image often lowers motivation and creates a major fear of failure. The severity of these effects can vary depending on each child and the support they get to heal and grow. 

How to help your child love their self-image

Fostering a child’s self-love and positive self-image requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some tips to try: 

  • Be a role model: Show your child self-acceptance and body positivity through your own words and actions. Be mindful of how you talk about yourself and others. 
  • Create a loving environment: Create a home environment that feels safe, supportive, and loving. Offer unconditional love and acceptance, regardless of your child’s achievements and failures. 
  • Foster resilience: Encourage your child to embrace challenges and develop coping skills for dealing with mistakes and failures. Teach them about resilience and the importance of learning from experiences. 
  • Get professional help: If you’re concerned about your child’s self-image or suspect underlying mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. At MIND 24-7, we’ve got you covered. MIND 24-7 offers walk-in treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns. We are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including holidays, and we can help anyone who walks in needing mental health care. All adults and youth are welcome—regardless of their ability to pay. We accept private insurance, Medicare, and AHCCCS, and will never turn someone away. If you or a loved one needs mental health care in minutes—not days or weeks—visit one of our convenient locations in the Phoenix area or text/call 1-844-MIND247.