Why do Teenage Boys Struggle with Low Self Esteem?
Teenage boys struggle with low self-esteem too. While teenage girls usually develop low self-esteem based on social exclusion by peers and internalizing messages from others, boys are more likely to struggle with self-esteem due to a lack of a stable social group and social anxiety. As boys are less likely to be concerned with social acceptance, they are also less likely to develop relationships based on emotional bonds that help support their self-esteem.
What are Signs of Low Self Esteem in Boys?
While it is easier to recognize signs of low self-esteem in teenage girls, teenage boys with low self-esteem are more likely to be labeled as awkward, impulsive, or having poor social skills. For example, a teenage boy that plays sports, but lacks confidence in their ability to play well, may be seen as clumsy, unskilled, or overly passive. The assumption is that self-esteem in boys is related to skills more so than emotional awareness or negative self-talk. This is a harmful narrative, as boys are just as likely to struggle with low self-esteem, even though they might show it in different ways.
Some signs of low self-esteem in teenage boys may include:
- Social isolation and withdrawal
- Quiet in social settings
- Being very self-critical
- Mood changes/swings
- Trouble accepting compliments or identifying their strengths
- Focusing on the negative
- Academic struggles, including poor grades and missed assignments
- Lack of self care and hygiene practices
- Using substances as “liquid courage” in social settings
How to Help Teenage Boys with Low Self Esteem
- Listen. Due to their lack of emotional vocabulary, many young men do not know how to adequately portray the way they feel, let alone understand how to connect their emotions with a chain of events. This means it is important to listen carefully for underlying messages and to help guide them in making connections between their beliefs and their emotions.
- Spend quality time. Boys are more likely to build emotional bonds with others over shared activities and experiences than shared emotions or opinions. Quality time may feel more rewarding over physical activity rather than conversation, as they are better at reflecting on the present moment than the past or future. This may also mean that past evidence of quality time together or with a specific friend may not feel reassuring enough. Carve out time to make recurring plans.
- Offer encouragement, not just praise. Criticizing a child or constantly reinforcing what the boy has done wrong only adds to low self-esteem. It is hard for teenagers to learn from their mistakes if you are focused on the choices they have made and asking them to not do it again, rather than suggesting alternatives. We recommend praising their efforts to make different choices, rather than focusing on the end results or achievements. For example, validating how hard they studied for a test, not just showing approval for a high grade. This encourages them to stay motivated and see the emotional reward of their actions without unrealistic expectations for achievements.
- Identify his strengths. People with low self esteem have a hard time identifying things that they are good at or that they like about themselves. When they are able to name some of these things, they feel awkward sharing this with others, as they worry others may not believe them or that other people will point out evidence to the contrary. This is why it is critical that other people reflect the strengths they see in teenagers. This not only boosts their self-esteem but validates their confidence. This helps teenagers begin to see themselves more clearly and value what they have to offer to the world.
- Explore new hobbies. It is unrealistic to expect boys to be naturally gifted at activities that they try. Boys face immense pressure to succeed and take on the role of “head of household,” which means that they are more likely to have hobbies and careers planned for them without their input. They may join the football team because their older siblings played the sport or plan to become a lawyer because their parents are well-connected in the field. If they realize that they don’t enjoy these activities or subjects, they are more likely to believe they are a failure than to consider alternatives. Introducing boys to adventure activities helps them learn more about what they do and don’t like to do and helps them channel their energy into learning new skills and becoming passionate about something they are good at.
Equinox RTC Can Help
Equinox is a residential treatment center that helps boys ages 14-18 who struggle with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and addictive behaviors. Equinox offers a unique treatment program designed to fit each individual’s specific needs. This treatment center has a supportive environment that helps students heal from the inside-out. Students develop a healthy sense of social and emotional awareness and learn how to incorporate good habits into their daily lives. Equinox enforces a positive change in the lives of young men and offers them a fresh start at a happy and healthy future.
Contact us at 877-279-8925 to learn more. We can help your family today!
Kyle received his Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas Tech University. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Kyle has worked in a variety of clinical settings over the last seventeen years. His career has focused on treating both boys and girls, with specialization in trauma, processing difficulties, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, OCD and difficult family systems.