Unpacking Self-Esteem in Adolescence: How It Impacts Later Life Outcomes

As a transformational coach, I am deeply passionate about understanding and improving self-esteem in adolescents. With research showing that self-esteem in this period of development has profound impacts on later life outcomes, it is essential that we unpack this topic to better inform ourselves in how to improve self-esteem in adolescents. In this blog post, I will explore the nuances of self-esteem in adolescents and the consequences of inadequate self-esteem on later life outcomes.

Adolescence is a period of development where youth explore their identity and capabilities. Self-esteem during this time has a major impact as it can affect young people’s social relationships, physical and mental health and overall wellbeing. Research suggests self-esteem in adolescents generally fluctuates, with lower levels in early adolescence and higher levels towards late adolescence. High self-esteem has been linked to positive self-experiences, better quality friendships, and improved physical and mental health outcomes.

Self-Esteem in Adolescence

Adolescence is a period of profound change, both physical and psychological. As teens grapple with newfound responsibilities, pressures, and self-expression, their self-esteem can be unstable. Self-esteem tends to decline during early adolescence and recover in the later stages. Different elements affect adolescent self-esteem, such as interactions with peers and family, academic performance, appearance, health problems, and other experiences.

Those with greater self-esteem often report feeling better about themselves and having healthier relationships with others. They are also more likely to be physically active, which can contribute to enhanced overall wellbeing.

Current Research on Self-Esteem in Adolescence

Quite a bit of research has been conducted on adolescent self-esteem this past decade. Researchers have determined that though levels can fluctuate in response to external factors, adolescents’ responses depend largely on their own perception of themselves which contributes to their success or failure. Therefore it’s important for young people to develop a sense of self worth by promoting positive beliefs about one’s own abilities.

  • Academic success plays an imperative role in teenage self esteem.
  • Good relationships with parents play an essential role in developing strong self-esteem among adolescents. Those with supportive parents exhibit greater satisfaction with their lives when compared to those without supportive parental relationships.
  • Regular physical activity can have a positive impact on mental health, including improved trust in others, reduced stress levels, enhanced cognitive functioning, and alleviated symptoms of mood disorders. It is an important way to promote good mental wellbeing.

Examples of Poor Self-Esteem and Negative Long-Term Outcomes

Adolescents who struggle with self-esteem issues often face long-term consequences well into adulthood. Examples of poor self-esteem issues include anxiety, depression, low self-worth, and difficulty establishing meaningful relationships. Such poor self-esteem can be accompanied by negative outcomes such as diminished job satisfaction and performance, higher likelihood of premature death, unhealthy habits like smoking or substance use, and a tendency to engage in risky behaviors.

Strategies to Improve Self-Esteem in Adolescence

Self-esteem is a crucial determiner of adolescent outcomes, yet it’s often challenging to foster. Here are some creative strategies for boosting teens’ self-worth:

  1. Encourage mindfulness – focus on the present & learn to accept oneself.
  2. Be kind – show empathy & express appreciation.
  3. Empower choices – let them make decisions & take responsibility.
  4. Set boundaries – instill limits but not too rigidly.
  5. Provide positive reinforcement – reward desirable behavior.

Short- and Long-Term Benefits of Improving Self-Esteem

Nurturing strong self-esteem in youth can be highly beneficial to their later life. In the short-term, higher self-esteem leads to improved relationships with peers and an increased belief in their ability to achieve success in life. Long-term, it pays off with increased resilience in the face of life challenges and higher levels of mental wellbeing.

Tips for Parents, Teachers and Other Adults Supporting Adolescents

Parents, teachers, and other adult allies can play a crucial role in helping adolescents unlock their self-esteem potential. Here are some tips:

  1. Model Respectful Behaviour: Show respect and courtesy towards others, regardless of race, gender, sexual identity or other differences.
  2. Encourage Healthy Boundaries: Help teens learn to draw the line between assertiveness and respect for themselves, as well as for others.
  3. Listen & Validate Feelings: Acknowledge a teen‘s feelings without judgement. Provide them with an opportunity to express their emotions freely.
  4. Encourage Positive Self-Talk: Instill healthy self-talk practices that motivate and build up rather than tear down.
  5. Provide Support & Encouragement: Offer support, affirmation and recognition for life choices – whether it’s big decisions or small steps in successes!


What are the three main categories of adolescent self-confidence?

Adolescent self-esteem comes in three main forms: emotional, relational, and cognitive. Emotional self-esteem relates to one’s emotional well-being and overall self-confidence. Relational self-esteem concerns how an individual perceives themselves in relationships with other people. Cognitive self-esteem reflects the individual’s opinion of their own competency and skills.

How does self-esteem change during adolescence?

During puberty, teenagers can experience rapid changes in their bodies and minds. These transitions can lead to low self-confidence and can weaken an individual’s sense of self-worth. Stressful events such as breakups, bullying and academic workloads, can further contribute to erosion of a teen’s self-esteem.

What factors lead to decreased self-confidence in teenagers?

Adolescence can be a difficult time for some teens, as they may feel inadequate or judged by their peers and parents. Low self-esteem can arise from issues such as negative body image, bullying, trauma, and even depression. These experiences can make it difficult for adolescents to view themselves in a positive light and may lead to feelings of worthlessness or insecurity.

What is the underlying reason for having low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem can stem from a variety of sources. It may be due to experiences of physical or emotional abuse, bullying, or feeling inadequate in comparison to others. It could also be the result of poor communication with those close to them, such as family members or peers. Lastly, it could come from a lack of confidence in their own abilities or unrealistic expectations that are not met.

How does self-esteem change during adolescence?

Adolescence is a time when many changes in self-esteem can occur. These can range from feeling more confident due to physical maturation and increased independence, to feeling insecure due to comparison with peers and academic/social pressures. During this period of life, it is important for teens to be supported by their parents, guardians, and community members in order to build resilience and foster healthy self-esteem.


To conclude, it is evident that self esteem in adolescence plays an important role in how young people develop their identity and capabilities, as well as their physical and mental health outcomes. High self-esteem in adolescents has been shown to lead to positive self-experiences, better quality friendships, and improved physical and mental health outcomes. Adolescence can be a challenging time for many young people, so it is important to encourage healthy self-esteem during this time so they can thrive into adulthood.

By understanding the importance of strong self-esteem in adolescents, we can ensure there are better programs and support systems in place to help young people navigate their adolescence. With the proper guidance and resources available, adolescents can learn how to build their inner confidence and set themselves up for success in later life.

You may also be interested in reading: