Self-Esteem for Teen Girls: A Guide for Parents

Have you noticed that your daughter has become more critical of herself or others? Does she appear more anxious or withdrawn? Is she afraid to try new things?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, your daughter may be suffering from low self-esteem. And she’s not alone.

The teen years are full of big changes. Many girls, even those who used to be confident, transform into awkward teens. They start to feel unsure of themselves or think they don't fit in anywhere.

As a parent, it can be tough to watch your daughter struggling to feel good about herself. That’s why I put together this guide on self-esteem for teen girls to help you understand what your daughter is going through and how you can support her.

What is self-esteem and why is it important for your teen daughter?

Simply put, self-esteem is the way we perceive ourselves. When we have healthy self-esteem, we can easily see our own worth. Self-esteem is what helps us identify and appreciate our strengths.  And it's what allows us to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes.

Self-esteem is the key ingredient that gives your teen the confidence to:

  • Try new things
  • Take pride in her work and accomplishments
  • Make healthy, positive choices

On the other hand, girls with low self-esteem may feel flawed or inferior to others or see themselves as unlovable or inadequate. The decisions they make often cause a further breakdown in their self-esteem and may look like:

  • Comparing themselves to others
  • Saying yes when they want to say no to please others
  • Relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as harmful eating habits, substance use, or staying in hurtful relationships

Strong self-esteem is an important part of your daughter’s health and well-being. It affects everything from relationships to setting and achieving goals.  Helping her improve her self-esteem is one of the best ways you can help your daughter live a happy and fulfilling life.

What low self-esteem looks like in teenage girls

If you have a teenage daughter with low self-esteem you may have noticed that she generally has a negative attitude about life. She might put herself down or talk badly about others.

Other signs of low self-esteem for teen girls include:

  • Losing interest in things she once loved
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Struggling to get things done
  • Unwillingness to try new things
  • Fear of failure
  • Excessive worries or fear
  • People-pleasing tendencies
  • Unable to set or maintain boundaries

What causes low self-esteem in teens?

Low self-esteem can affect anyone at any age. But according to one study, teen girls in particular experience a significant drop in self-esteem between the ages of 11 and 14.

What’s behind this low self-esteem for teen girls? There are a few factors.

 First, the teen years are full of upheaval that can make teenagers especially susceptible to low self-esteem. From physical to emotional, mental, hormonal, and social changes – you could say that there is more change than stability in a teenager’s life.   

These changes can make your daughter’s moods more unpredictable than ever. As a result, she may find it difficult to understand and communicate why she’s feeling the way she does. She might even feel ashamed of what she’s feeling, which reinforces the self-doubt and criticism she’s experiencing.

At the same time, your teen is also naturally starting to develop her independence. She may avoid asking for help, no matter how much she’s struggling. This causes her to feel more isolated and alone, making it even harder for her to ask for help.

Bullying, academic challenges, and mental health issues can further damage your daughter's self-esteem.

 With all of this to navigate, it’s no wonder so many teenage girls have low self-esteem.

What can parents do to support healthy self-esteem for teen girls?

The days when you could praise your daughter and get a huge smile in return may be over (hello, shrugs and eye-rolling!). But there are still ways to boost your daughter’s self-esteem. Here are a few things to try.

Be her safe space

Your daughter is dealing with significant internal and external pressure. She needs a safe place to unpack and unlearn negative actions and reactions. Encourage her to share by offering her a judgment-free zone, where she is free to express herself. Helping her explore her options and encouraging her to make her own decisions will help your daughter build self-trust.

Give her freedom – with boundaries

Allow your daughter to explore her new independence. It's a natural way to build her confidence and self-esteem. But, she’s still learning, so make sure to set and enforce clear and healthy boundaries and provide guidance when things go off track.

Give her opportunities to try – and fail

Encourage your daughter to try new things. And, if she fails at something, don’t rescue her, or focus on what she did wrong. Instead, remind her that it’s okay when things don’t go as planned. You can encourage her to use it as an opportunity to learn by helping her identify:

  • What she did right
  • What she can learn from the experience
  • How she can keep moving forward

Teach her healthy strategies to understand and manage her emotions

The teen years are full of confusing and ever-changing emotions. Help your daughter navigate her feelings by teaching her healthy coping techniques such as:

Pay attention to your behavior

How often do you criticize your daughter? If you find yourself pointing out her flaws more than you’re paying attention to her strengths, make an effort to focus on the positive. Make it a point to discover one positive thing to praise your daughter for daily.

Also, tune in to how often you are negative or critical in general. Do you say hurtful things about yourself or others in front of your daughter? Do you do things that diminish your or others’ well-being?

Modeling healthy self-esteem is one of the most important things you can do for your daughter. Take the time to become more aware of how you express yourself. If there’s room for improvement, commit to taking the necessary steps to strengthen your own self-esteem and self-expression.

More resources to help your daughter develop positive self-esteem

In my book, Jump-Start Your Confidence and Boost Your Self-Esteem, I discuss in detail how your daughter can overcome her fear and self-doubt and build strong self-esteem. This book and the Companion Journal have been written with your daughter in mind, but many parents tell me they too have benefited from reading the book. So why not check it out – you just might learn some tips to build your confidence and self-esteem while helping your daughter at the same time!


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1 comment

  • Mia Miller

    Great article! A great point you make here that many of us parents miss is looking at our own behavior. The behaviors we model to our teens have a huge impact on their minds and emotions.

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