How to Boost Teenager Daughter's Self-esteem

Updated on August 17, 2010
M.C. asks from Berkeley, CA
9 answers

Hello mamas,
My daughter just turned 14. She has all the qualities that a young lady could dream of: kind, smart, funny, sportive, gifted and physically beautiful. You would say that I am biased, but all our friends, PTA parents, neighbors, whoever knows her would say the same thing :)
She is however painfully shy and has low self-esteem. She always thinks she does not do things well enough. I guess part of it because she is a perfectionist. We are not pushy parents. We provide her opportunities for learning and activities but we never question about her results (we don't have to!). I was a teenager with low self-esteem myself but I did not have one-tenth of the qualities my daughter has. Through long and difficult years, I finally became happy with who I am as an adult. I guess lots of teenagers, especially girls at some point, need some help with self- confidence. I hope we could help our daughter to find hers.
I would like to hear advices from you. If you have any good books about the subject to recommend for us and for her, it would be greatly appreciated.


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answers from San Antonio on

My oldest is 18 and just starting to come out of his shyness a little at a time.
He has not been very shy with adults, but he is very shy around peers.

We both read the book:

Shyness: A Bold New Approach by Bernardo Carducci, PhD

and we discussed it as he read it. Good suggestions for teens and adults in here!!!

And, did you know that 89% of adults said that they were shy at some point in their teen years. It comes along with self-consciousness and worrying about what other people think, or if you fit in, or dozens of other things....
My son felt better knowing that only 11 % of teens do NOT consider themsleves shy. And he is getting in one or 2 activities a week that are outside of his comfort help get over that.

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answers from Boston on

American Girl has some great books about situations for girls - staying home alone, getting into middle school, the Help book with all kinds of little scenarios and answers. My girls love them and we own a bunch. The library has some or else you can order them on Amazon. But if she is truly shy, then she can play act to make it through certain situations but she will always be shy. In America this is considered a less desirable trait, but not in every country. Try to look a the positive side of all her traits, and put this one in a good light too. She is very careful, checks things out before jumping in, probably has a few very good friends, is probably a very trustworthy and reliable friend in return, all positive sides of being shy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

I know you don't want to say anything harsh to her when she already feels down, but there is one message that got through to me about shyness and low self esteem-which I struggled with for years. I had an acting teacher who didn't allow any negativity in his students and had very strict rules for positive constructive criticism. I learned a lot about life in that class even though I ended up not being interested in acting. He had an especially hard time "breaking out" the really shy people.

He explained that shyness and low self esteem are actually hostility and ungratefulness. Of course everyone protested and the debate ensued, but he had some points.

Basically, it is respectful to your creator, or the world in general to appreciate your gifts by acknowledging them and feeling grateful for them by admitting to yourself you have them. To feel bad about yourself is a choice to discredit your blessings-which many other people wish they had.

As for shyness, people don't know (and arent' always impressed) that you are shy. For all they know, you don't feel THEY are worthy of reaching out to. It is much better to be selfless and deny your own self inflicted insecurity, even though it's difficult, in order to shine and respect other people's time. You may not FEEL like going and smiling at someone and asking how THEY are doing-you may FEEL like moping to yourself and acting shy. But what does the nicer person do? You have the power to overcome these choices, and when you do, your self esteem builds because you are giving to the world instead of denying its blessings.

These concepts really resonated with me, especially realizing it was my choice to feel insecure and scared and shy. Since you know her home life is supportive and she has no reason for this, if you feel she can handle it, you should explain this to her. It's the dark side that tries to keep us down with shyness and low self esteem, and it succeeds with many people-especially when they have been dragged down by family etc.

No, she may not naturally become a social butterfly, but she can improve things a lot by a concerted effort to reach out to others, be friendly and confident and be thankful for what she has, if she only looks at it that way. It's very important so that she does not short change herself with future relationships and situations, feeling she is not worthy. Something I wish I learned at her age! Good work addressing this, Mom!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Is she involved with any school activities? I think being involved in a group or sport at school can really raise her self-esteem. I was painfully shy in jr. high, I blame it on moving to a new school in the middle of 6th grade. I moved back to what would've been my original high school, met w/ some old friends, and joined the pom pons squad. I was still a little shy, but being on a team really helped me open up, & I actually enjoyed dancing in front of the entire school. See what she likes & encourage her to join something! It could be a club, group, academic, sport, anything.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I'd encourage you to read the book Reviving Ophelia; Saving the Selves of Adolescent girls, by Mary Pipher. She is a psychologist who has some very worthwhile thoughts on the this subject. Her book was written in 1994, but I think it is still valuable today. I think it might help you deal with some of your daughter's issues.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

My advice is to get her involved in extracurricular activities that highlight her talents. Is she artistically, or musically gifted? Is she good at sports? Getting involved in these things will showcase her talents and make her feel more confident over time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

It's so hard to be a teenager these days, it really is. You couldn't pay me a million bucks to be a teen again. So even with all your great efforts, unfortunately our society almost praises low self-esteem girls and many feel that to be socially acceptable, they have to dump on themselves. No girl wants to be perceived as conceited or full of herself. It is common for teen girls to struggle with balancing confidence and "overconfidence." I think that shyness and low self-esteem are interrelated, and until her shyness is addressed she will likely not really improve her self-esteem (this coming from a self-professed shy mom!) I am betting her self-esteem is really a reflection of her perceived inadequacy as a shy person. Try to talk to her about she feels about being perceived as "shy." Does she like to be shy? Does she feel misunderstood, maybe she does not actually feel shy and would prefer to be called something else, or nothing at all? Explain to her that shy does not mean that she is inadequate, it is just another way that God makes people, and that it takes all kinds to make this world a worthwhile place to live in. At the same time, try to find an activity that she is naturally very good in, so that it becomes easy to get positive reinforcement from the activity. When she starts to talk about perfection, try to casually dismiss and say, eh, so what? we're not perfect, no one is, and it's perfectly alright to be that way! Maybe some humor might help to distract her.

While you're at it, try to also make sure that you are not inadvertently infusing her with messages that she needs to be perfect to be socially acceptable. For example, and while many moms may disagree with me, I think that while every girl should be praised for her physical beauty, a statement like "I envy you, you've got a great body" or "I wish I looked like you when I was your age" or things like that may carry an unwanted effect...she may feel that she is perfect or close to it right now, and that she must uphold her image (or grades, or sports ability) to the level it is right now in order to continue to be perceived that way. When she can't do it, she may then feel like she failed. So, in the same way your teen needs to learn about balancing confidence and overconfidence, it is also important for you to balance praise with "overpraise." Focus instead on the things that will never ever change about her...her warm spirit, her kind words, her sense of humor, her gift for singing or acting or whatever, and genuine worthiness as a human being.



answers from Provo on

I can just give you some advice that I have used over the years with my daughter. She is almost 20 years old and sent me a mother's day card that said she doesn't laugh so much so we are apart and she misses her best friend. It really touched me because I was always the shy one growing up and my mother liked it that way because it is easier to control someone who is unsure of themselves. When my daughter was growing up I always kept the communication open with her. I didn't want her to feel like there was anything that I would not talk about. (Another thing I NEVER had with my mother) I left her go with me to do errands and learn about life. She is in another state now so she is really grateful about that. Soon she will be telling you about the issues that her friends have at home and you can talk and bond. You can also learn about the issues she is dealing with. Make her feel the respect for you as a mother but the friendship of a close non-judgmental friend.



answers from Portland on

Maybe what she needs is to learn to do something lessons come to classes...join an "outside the home" organization for girls...Parents who don't have self-esteem cannot teach/help their children have self-esteen (got that from a class I attended)...She is at the age when what she is experiencing is probably a little normal...keep encouraging her and praise her when she does classes are good too. she needs to feel that she can "do something" well...sometimes it gets the children over the hump...Let her know she is loved and heart aches for young women who feel this was me when I was their age...but times are different now and children are more vulnerable to "dangerous situations" when they feel "less" than they should. Good friends, supportive family, etc...are of luck ....

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