A feeling of insecurity and anxiety in a teenager. It feels unavoidable. However, as parents, you can educate yourself on potential mental health issues, signs of low self-esteem, and common high school anxiety triggers. With this knowledge and supportive advice, you can help your kid survive one of the potentially toughest periods of their life: the teenage years.
There is no better way to really and truly understand the feeling of insecurity that many teenagers face, than to look at the “fake scar study”.
Years ago, Dr. Robert Cleck, a psychologist at Dartmouth College, has devised an experiment to test his theory on self-conscious behavior.
With the help of makeup artists, researchers fashioned a scar on female subjects before their interaction with a stranger.
What the researchers did not tell the study participants was that the scar was removed before the face-to-face conversation with the stranger (telling the subject that they just had to “touch it up”).
To the researchers’ surprise, the women in the study reported that the stranger had stared at “the scar” and made them uncomfortable.
While the study participants weren’t necessarily teenagers, this proves the reality that our mindset truly has control over how we feel about ourselves as humans.
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The Modern Plague: A Feeling of Insecurity and Anxiety in a Teenager
The mind of a teenager is their biggest bully, harshest critic, and driver of anxiety and teenage angst.
Just like the “fake scar” study, these teenage insecurities are really a mindset.
In the teen’s brains, the “logic center” of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is still developing. Teenagers might rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala, or the “emotions center” to make decisions and solve problems.
The amygdala is associated with impulses, fear, aggression, and emotions.
Teens and young people are also dealing with new and scary territories such as:
- Academic pressures
- A new romantic relationship
- Body image issues
- Hormonal changes (and other physical changes)
- And other unique social situations
In addition to all of these new challenges is the biggest whopper of them all: the cell phone.
That little computer sits in their hands at all times, displaying the latest beauty trends they can’t afford on filtered pictures of kids who look like movie stars. Overloading them with cyber-bullying, access to things they shouldn’t have access to, and non-stop social media notifications.
Is the developing brain of a teenager equipped to deal with this?
Teenage Insecurity and Anxiety on the Rise
It’s no surprise that teenage anxiety is plaguing our society.
A recent survey found that between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels plummet by 30 percent.
Learn 5 ways to improve teenage girls confidence levels here.
Another poll found that for every four parents, only one thinks that their teen would confide in them about mental health issues.
Also, according to the NIH, an estimated 31.9% of adolescents (girls and boys) have an anxiety disorder.
This includes any anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.
Latest research also found that the number of children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder increased by 20% between 2007 and 2012.
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Although feeling of worry and insecurity is common in teenagers and young adults, it should not be taken lightly. When anxiety is left untreated, it can lead to additional issues such as an eating disorder, substance use disorders (such as substance abuse), and teen depression or even suicidal thoughts.
You should reach out to the doctor for professional help right away if you feel as though your teenager is struggling with mood disorders, having a hard time doing everyday activities , or worrying so much that it’s interfering with their daily life (including hygiene, school or work, and your social life).
Related: 5 Things to Know About How Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Effects Everyday Life
5 Ways to Battle Feelings of Insecurity During the Teen Years
Luckily, there are ways to help an insecure teen navigate through to early adulthood. And the good news is, their newfound confidence can help them tread through difficult times when they get older, too.
These 5 tips will help anxious teens battle a lack of confidence:
1) Teach Mindfulness Activities
Mindfulness is the basic ability to be fully present in the moment. Aware of where we are and what we’re doing. The concept of mindfulness refers to being able to live in the present moment – or to stop and smell the roses.
There are quick and easy mindful activities that kids can do that have been proven to improve sleep quality and attention span, help with anxiety and depression, and improve self-worth.
Click here for 3 mindfulness activities for teen anxiety.
2) Introduce Journaling and Affirmations
Your teen or kid may feel silly practicing positive self-talk, but it can do wonders for low self-confidence.
Interestingly, there is actual MRI evidence suggesting that certain brain pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks. The part of the brain (called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) that is involved in positive valuation becomes more active when we consider our personal values.
Whether having daily mirror conversations or journaling your thoughts on paper, it can strengthen emotional intelligence.
3) Be a good role model
Have you ever said “I need to lose weight” or “Ugh, I look so old” in front of your kids?
When you say negative things in front of your child or teen, they learn that judging oneself is standard behavior.
Vow to never say bad things about yourself in front of your kids. When I did this, I realized that it even helped my own anxiety.
Are you noticing symptoms of anxiety in younger children? Learn risk factors and how to help your child’s anxiety here.
4) Encourage Friendships
Friendships are extremely important during adolescent years. Teen friendships help young people feel a sense of acceptance and belonging.
Also, they help children and teens develop empathy and form a sense of identity.
Learn how parents can encourage friendships and teach kids what it means to be a true friend here.
5) Limit Social Media Use
There is a rush of the “happy hormones” oxytocin and dopamine in children and teens in response to social rewards. A “like” on social media literally causes a rush of feel-good feelings, which can be addicting.
Additionally, the teen brain sometimes forgets that social media platforms are not “real life”. “Perfect” influencers and realistic filters convince our youth that these are standards they should live up to.
Try this 7 Step Method to Break Screen Addiction for Family Members.
Final Thoughts on a Feeling of Insecurity and Anxiety in a Teenager
Even if you are already raising a confident teen, it’s a good idea to try these proactively.
These steps will prepare young children and teens to deal with stress, a traumatic experience, or any other unpredictable blow life throws their way.
Because the only predictable thing about life is that it will be unpredictable.
Once your teenager learns this, they will be prepared to take on this crazy, constantly changing world.
For more discussions on raising kids who are healthy at home and strong in the world, follow us on Facebook.
Remember: if your child is showing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition, ask your doctor for a list of mental health professionals who can help.