5 Powerful Teen Self-Esteem Activities {+ Printable Workbook}

Reviewed by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Author: Stephanie Soza BSc

Research shows that low self-esteem is incredibly common among teenagers, particularly for teenage girls. I can certainly vouch for that through my clinical work.

I have designed these self-esteem activities for teens to help them identify their strengths and values.

Your teen has something unique to offer the world. These confidence building activities will help them see it!

The self-esteem workbook which you can download below has gone down a storm in our psychology clinic, Everlief! Our teens love its ease of use and how simple it is just to pick an activity and get started.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SELF-ESTEEM WORKBOOK FOR TEENS BY CLICKING HERE!

Self-Esteem in Teenagers

During adolescence, the priorities of a child undergo a significant shift.

The teenage years are often marked by an increased emphasis on friendships, the introduction of romantic relationships, and heightened social media use.

Teens may also experience anxiety related to job competence or academic achievement.

These changes occur alongside the physical and hormonal changes that are characteristic of this developmental stage.

As a result, it is common for self-esteem to suffer during this time.

Did you know that you can use specific teenage confidence building activities to improve the way your child feels about themselves?

Many parents feel powerless when it comes to teenage self confidence and self-esteem, and I want to change that by teaching you some powerful self-esteem activities.

Fostering a healthy sense of self-worth during adolescence will equip your teenager with the confidence they need to navigate these uncertain times.

Perhaps even more importantly, a strong foundation of self-esteem will set the stage for a fulfilling and prosperous life.

I believe that parents should actively aim to protect and build their teenagers’ self-esteem, because it’s essential for their overall well-being.

three teen friends outdoors, positive self-esteem

The Three Areas of Self-Esteem in Teenagers

Self-esteem is a person’s subjective evaluation of their own worth.

It’s a complex construct with many different components.

However, psychologists agree that there are three main areas of self-esteem for young people:

Competence: How skilled and effective a person perceives him/herself to be in a situation.

Resilience: The ability to adapt successfully to life’s challenges.

Optimism: Being hopeful that difficult situations can have a positive outcome.

The teenage confidence building activities I have chosen for my self-esteem worksheets each target one or more of these three areas.

A teenager needs to have all three of the above to have positive self-esteem.

Take a moment to reflect…

Which of these areas is your teen struggling with? Competence, resilience or optimism?

Your answer will help you determine which activities will be most helpful from my self-esteem worksheets for teens, which you can download for free below.

Common Causes of Low Self-Esteem in Adolescence

The areas of a teenager’s life which negatively affect their self-esteem will vary significantly among individuals. Below are a few of the potential influences on poor self-esteem:

  • Insincere friends or negative peer pressure to do things that are not in their interests.
  • Poor performance at school or high pressure to get good grades.
  • Social media e.g. unrealistic body image portrayal.
  • Mental health problems may cause your teen to feel they are less equipped to cope with daily life or new situations than their peers.
  • Body image issues or worries about appearance.
  • Unsupportive or critical family members, persistent hurtful comments.
  • Chronic stress e.g. from bullying, family conflict or family financial worries.
  • Low physical activity levels (exercise releases endorphins and feel-good chemicals such as serotonin which make us feel good about ourselves).

The Self-Esteem Bucket

We each have different qualities, strengths and weaknesses. We all experience life differently, and it is unrealistic to expect a child to have high self-esteem throughout childhood. It is normal for our self-esteem levels to fluctuate.

To help visualise teen self-esteem, I like to use the analogy of a self-esteem bucket. If we have a strong foundation, the bucket is filled with things in our lives that make us feel like a good person and good about who we are. For example, having supportive friends or mastering a new skill.

Sometimes things can happen which make holes in the bucket, which causes the good feelings to leak out, resulting in lowered teen self-esteem. These can be hurtful comments from others, negative self-beliefs or just when things do not go to plan.

Teenage Confidence Building Activities

So, we know that teen self-esteem can be like a leaky bucket.

We can’t just leave the holes in the buckets, so we must find ways to fix these holes. These plugs might be as simple as reminding yourself that you are a good friend, or reminding yourself that if you keep going, things will work out.

Sometimes it is a more complex process to increase self-esteem and stop our buckets from leaking.

We can also support our children to actively seek out teenage confidence building activities. This pro-actively ensures that their self esteem bucket will be getting topped up!

The self-esteem activities below won’t fill your child’s bucket if it’s nearly empty. Think of them as confidence booster activities. They will help fill up the bucket whilst your teen experiences a dip in their self-confidence.

happy teen girl holding a phone in her hand

Activities for Building Self-Esteem in Teenagers

Building teen self esteem takes persistent effort over time. Specific activities for self esteem building will be an important aspect of this effort.

Work as a team with your teenager on activities to build confidence in their everyday lives… Start with my five teenage self-esteem activities below!

The printable pdf is a comprehensive teen self esteem worksheet containing full instructions for the five teenage confidence building activities described below.

TAKE THE QUIZ!

Your 5 Teen Self Esteem Activities: Free PDF Self Esteem Worksheets

First, ask your teenager to choose their favourite teen self esteem activity from these five.

Next, print out the self esteem worksheets below.

Then you all you have to do is get started!

1.    Positive Goal Setting and ‘Open When…’ Letters

This confidence building activity involves two parts.

Firstly, your teenager will make a list of 3-5 positive goals that you want to achieve.

Setting goals and will give them a sense of purpose.

A sense of purpose will in turn offer them a more optimistic outlook on their future. When thinking of these goals, it is useful to remember to make them SMART.

SMART Goals Are…

SSpecific: Specific and narrow goals are more achievable. It can be helpful to write down how they plan to achieve each goal.

MMeasurable: Try to ensure that they will be able to recognise when they have completed their goal. They should set out what evidence will prove that they are making progress. Re-evaluate when necessary.

AAttainable: Ensure these goals can be reasonably accomplished within a certain time frame.

RRelevant: Your teen’s goals should align with theirr values and long-term objectives.

TTime-based: Goals should have a projected completion date. This will help your teen stay motivated and allocate their time.

Goal setting to build teen self-esteem using SMART goals

Sticking to SMART goals will help to ensure your teenager’s goals can and will be achieved. This is essential when they are working on their self-esteem and confidence.

Be sure to remind them that life isn’t always straightforward. There will be challenges and unexpected events along the way.

Under each goal (perhaps in a different colour), your teen will write 1-2 challenges or negative things that they might face when trying to achieve their goal.

This is a great way to be better prepared for challenges and will help them stay realistic and prepared.

Case Study: 16 Year-Old Sam

Sam is passionate about art and wants to share his art with the world.

He lacks self-confidence and doesn’t know if he “has what it takes” to make it as an artist.

But he has decided that he needs to be bold and take a step outside his comfort zone.

Sam’s (SMART) goal

I will set up a website for my digital art over the Summer holidays. I will post at least 10 pieces on the site, and by the end of August I will aim to sell at least one piece of art.

Sam’s Potential Challenges

I might struggle with the tech side of setting up a website. I might find it hard to get people to visit the site.

“Open When…” Letters

The second part of this activity involves writing ‘Open When…’ Letters. These are such fantastic confidence building activities for young adults, helping them actively recognise their successes.

For each of your teenager’s goals, they will need to write two short letters:

1.    The first letter is written to their future self when they are faced with one of the challenges they anticipated. This should be a letter of encouragement and a reminder of why they want to achieve the goal. This will help them stay resilient. In other words, it will help them to keep going when things get tough.

Case Study: Sam’s First “Open When” Letter

Hi Sam,

You knew this wouldn’t be easy.

It’s great that you have made a start. Take it as a big win!

If you feel stuck, maybe just take a break for a day or two?

Then think about what small step could get you unstuck. Like asking a “techie friend” for advice (maybe Saff or Jim, or one of the other boys in art class who do digital art).

Just keep swimming!

Sam

2.    The second letter is a letter to their future self when they have accomplished their goal.

This should be a letter of congratulations, and a reminder of all the new possibilities that they have created for themselves.

Congratulating and recognising their achievements will help to develop a sense of competence.

As you may remember, a sense of competence is one of the three essential components of healthy teen self-esteem.

Your teen will place each letter in an envelope and write ‘Open When… (insert relevant situation)’ on the front.

Case Study: Sam’s Second “Open When” Letter

Sam,

Don’t forget to be proud.

You created a picture of something you wanted in your head, and now you have made it happen. It’s unreal that you created a website!

Also…You sold your art work!

That means anything is possible. Forget the doubters.

Now go out and celebrate.

Sam

2.    Negative Belief Challenge Self-Esteem Exercise

Low self-esteem can begin with negative life experiences, which can influence the way we see ourselves.

Low self-esteem can begin with negative life experiences, which can influence the way we see ourselves.

Remember that actively engaging in confidence building activities will top up the self-esteem bucket for your teen.

The negative belief challenge is a very targeted self-esteem exercise, aiming to actually build your child’s positive outlook on life and increase their optimism.

Very deep-rooted negative beliefs about ourselves are known as negative core beliefs. These can impact every action, interaction and decision we make in everyday life.

Negative core beliefs can have a profound impact on teen self esteem.

Even when life is challenging, becoming a more positive person is not only possible, but leads to greater happiness and life satisfaction.

The following self-esteem activity is one of the best ways to manage and adapt negative core beliefs for a young adult:

  1. Your teenager will start this activity by writing out three negative beliefs that they hold about themselves. It can also be useful to describe why they feel this way.
  2. Next, they will go to someone they trust (such as you, their parent!) and ask them to comment upon each of the negative beliefs.
  3. Discussing negative beliefs with others can help teenagers with low self-esteem to reflect on them and gently adapt them over time. Negative core beliefs can be skewed and are very unlikely to reflect the way others see the young person.
  4. With the trusted person’s help, your teenager will begin to transform their negative core beliefs into more helpful beliefs.

Of course, this exercise will not lead to an overnight change in your teen’s self-esteem or beliefs. But it marks a change in trajectory.

Your teenager will no longer just accept the negative core beliefs that constantly shape their everyday lives.

They will start to spot them when they pop up.

They will begin to accept that this belief might not represent the truth. Over time, this teenage self-esteem activity will have a profound positive impact on the way your child feels about themselves.

This is a brilliant example of growth mindset in action! Growth mindset is the idea that our brains and minds are highly malleable, not fixed.

Your teenager should write the new constructive and adjusted beliefs down in their workbook, or somewhere prominent.

This will serve as a constant reminder to try to replace negative beliefs with realistic and constructive beliefs.

The next time these kinds of negative thoughts start to creep back in, they should re-visit their notes.

This self-esteem activity can be particularly important in building the optimism component of self-esteem. It’s also a great way to help young people reduce negative energy in their lives.

The negative belief challenge is also going to lead top growth in your teen’s communication skills when it comes to talking about tricky thoughts and emotions.

Learning to express thoughts and emotions is an essential component of emotional intelligence – the way we understand and respond to emotions in ourselves and others.

Case Study: Marianne’s Negative Core Beliefs

Fifteen year-old Marianne was bullied throughout primary school. She internalised (began to believe) what the bullies said to her.

Now she’s older and more self-confident but those problematic core beliefs remain stuck in her mind.

She will volunteer to be class rep, then remember that “nobody likes you” and withdraw. Each negative thought can make her feel depressed and anxious for hours or even days, once triggered.

Marianne and her mother get talking about this one day, and they decide it’s finally time to try to get the bullies’ voices out of Marianne’s head.

Marianne’s Negative Core Beliefs

  • I am a weirdo.
  • I am unlikeable.

After a lot of discussion with her mum and best friend Ally, Marianne came up with some beliefs to replace the negative ones.

She practised spotting when the negative core beliefs came up. for example, if they influenced a decision in her life.

Marianne’s New Core Beliefs

  • I’m different and unique, and that’s okay.
  • I am liked and loved by everyone who knows the real me.

Marianne started to repeat the new helpful beliefs over and over in her head, and deliberately replace the unhelpful ones.

After about 3 months she noticed her confidence increasing. A healthy self image slowly began to emerge.

She noticed that she felt proud of being unique and different instead of being ashamed. This led to more assertive communication if others were unkind to her.

Marianne also started to accept that she is liked – and loved – by those who are important to her. She realised there had been a massive positive shift in her self-esteem.

Teen self-esteem activities

3.    Self-Appreciation Project

 This teen self-esteem activity is like a gratitude journal but focuses more on your teenager’s self-identity and personal values.

For this activity, they will use the “person” blank template in the self-esteem worksheets (see below). They could also use a blank journal page or note book if they prefer, drawing an outline of a human body on the page.

On the inside of the body, they will write all the good things that they believe about themselves.

These might be appearance-based, personality-based, and achievement-based positives that they associate with themselves.

If your teenager has low self-esteem, they will probably find this self-esteem activity quite difficult. Encourage them to sit with any difficult feelings that come up, and keep going.

Remember that the positive aspects of ourselves don’t need to be 100% perfect all the time. Help them to be realistic.

For example, if they believe they are hardworking, but recall a time they were unable to complete a piece of work, they should still write it down. If they get stuck, ask questions such as:

What do you like about who you are?

  • If you could positively describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
  • What skills or talents do you have?
  • If someone shared identical characteristics with you, what would you admire about them?

Once your teenager has written down their thoughts, they need to come together with family members or good friends. They will ask them to write down positive qualities they associate with your child on the outside of the body template.

Finally, your teenager should display the diagram in a place where they will see it often. It will gradually build your teen’s self-esteem, reminding them to appreciate what they can offer the world, and reminding them of all the reasons other people value them.

It will build your teenager’s self confidence and sense of competence, reminding them of skills and qualities that will help them flourish.

teen self-esteem activities

4.    Motivational Jar Self-Esteem Activity

I love how visual and tangible this self-esteem activity is. For this reason, it’s probably my favourite out of these five confidence building activities for teenagers.

Find an old jar, or an envelope, or anything that your teenager could put pieces of paper into. They can decorate the outside of the container with pictures, symbols, words, or positive things that make them happy or resonate with them.

Next, help your teen to collect motivational quotes and thoughts. These might be well known quotes from their favourite role model, or found using Google or ChatGPT! Choose any that inspire your teen or make them feel good.

These prompts could also be taken from movies, songs, books… they get to decide.

Next they will write these down onto a piece of paper and cut each one up. They will fold them over and place them in the jar.

At the beginning of each day, as a self-esteem booster, your teen will take a quote out of the jar. This will encourage them to think about something positive and inspiring and can have a profound impact on their overall level of optimism.

Your teenager can also take out an extra quote whenever they are feeling down or their self-esteem is particularly low. It will give them that little boost to keep going.

To get you started, here are two of my favourite motivational quotes (sources unknown):

“It’s not what you are that is holding you back. It’s what you think you are not.”

“I am the best me there is, so I will make today my day.”

TAKE THE QUIZ!

5.    Board of Achievement

The Board of Achievement is one of the most powerful teenage confidence building activities because it is so “in your face”. You can’t deny your achievements when they are right in front of you, in black and white!

The board of achievement can either be a bulletin board, a whiteboard, or just a large piece of paper.

Whenever your teen achieves or does something they are proud of, they will put evidence on this board.

This could be official, such as passing an exam and placing the certificate onto the board. It can also be unofficial, like building up the confidence to start a new hobby or developing a new skill.

They can place a symbol representing this achievement on the board. They could pin a receipt from a purchase associated with their hobby or skill.

The possibilities are endless.

Your teenager should really let their personality ooze out of their board of achievement. It’s a physical representation of them!

The benefits of this activity are endless. I have found that the growth teens experience in terms of their development of self-knowledge is profound. They begin to understand the essence of what makes their character.

This confidence building activity for young adults focuses on the “competence” aspect of self-esteem. It’s a potent reminder of your teenager’s strengths and achievements, borrowed from the field of positive psychology.

Whenever they look at each of the achievements, they will recall the feelings and memories associated with each. This can also be an incentive and encourage them to strive to place more achievements on the board.

How to Download Your Free Self-Esteem Worksheets For Teens

Download your free teen self esteem worksheets below as a pdf workbook.

The workbook will support your child to complete the 5 activities described in this article.

They are perfect for home use but are also great self-esteem activities for high school students in class.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SELF-ESTEEM WORKBOOK FOR TEENS BY CLICKING HERE!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Teach Someone Self-Esteem?

Strengthen the three building blocks of self-esteem (competence, resilience, and optimism). Focus on “moving the needle” each day by engaging in activities to boost confidence in one of these areas.

For example, to strengthen resilience try a new activity that is slightly out of your comfort zone.

Practise getting comfortable with “failing” or not being good at it.

What Activities Can Boost Teenage Self-Esteem?

Activities that can boost teenage self-esteem include: positive goal setting and “open when” letters, learning how to challenge negative core beliefs, the motivational jar and the “board of achievement.

The key to building self-esteem is to engage in such positive and reflective activities “little and often” and to keep going.

Over time, small changes can add up to dramatic improvements in self-esteem.

Further Reading on Teenage Self Confidence and Self-Esteem

I hope you find these 5 self confidence activities powerful in building your teen’s self-esteem.

For even more practical ideas to build self-esteem, take a look at our article on 3 actionable steps to build self-esteem.

If your child doesn’t tend to open up to you or finds it hard to put their feelings into words, check out Dr Lucy Russell’s article: When Your Child Won’t (Or Can’t) Talk About Their Feelings. It’s full of excellent ideas.

If your child has trouble being assertive and expressing their needs, you will find this article about the power of “I statements” really eye-opening.

If you want tips on helping your child with self-esteem at home or getting professional help, read this: Getting Help For Teenage Low Self Esteem.

Finally, if you have a teen showing “attention-seeking” behaviour, read our article Is Attention Seeking Behaviour In Teens Normal? This may be related to low self-esteem.

About the Author: Stephanie Soza is currently studying for an MSc in Theory and Practice in Clinical Psychology at the University of Reading. She hopes to become a Clinical Psychologist in the future. She is also currently on clinical placement at Everlief with Dr Lucy Russell (Founder of They Are The Future). Stephanie has a specialist interest in the mental health and well-being of teenagers, particularly surrounding negative body image and eating disorders.  


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