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19 Best Activities for Building Self-Confidence in Teens

Building self confidence in teens helps to improve self-worth and form their sense of purpose.

The teenage years are a formative time and full of change. 

As parents, you want your teen to be confident in who they are, the goals they set, and the decisions they make.  But as teens search for and navigate through their place in the world, their levels of self-confidence and self-esteem are constantly being challenged.

The causes of low self-esteem in teens

A lack of self-confidence is not uncommon during the teenage years and can lead to issues with peers, school performance and decision making.  Societal expectations, chronic criticism and bullying can all contribute to low self-esteem.

Growing up in a world of smart phones and social media scrolling means our teens are constantly bombarded with information.  That information, real or not, can greatly influence their beliefs.  Beliefs about how they should or shouldn’t look, how they should or shouldn’t act and even what they should or shouldn’t like. 

The good news is that there are effective strategies and activities that parents, and other role models, can use to help improve a teen’s self-worth, recognize their value and identify or reinforce their sense of purpose.

The value of building self-esteem in teenagers

Now, more than ever, one of the most important things in raising a teen is to focus on building self-confidence and self-esteem.  When teens understand the depth of their value and feel that they have purpose, they are more likely to develop solid core beliefs and stand by them. 

Teens who believe in themselves and their abilities are better equipped to navigate peer pressure, recover from setbacks, try new or different things, and take healthy risks.

How to build self-confidence with your teen

Building a teen’s self-esteem will take consistent effort over time.  Engaging with your teen and partnering with them on this journey will provide the support they need.  Help motivate them by using some of these confidence building activities below.    

19 Best Activities for Building Self-Confidence in Teens

1. Create a “Wall of Fame”

One of the best ways to increase self-confidence and build self esteem is to visually remind yourself of what you are capable of or what you have already achieved.  Designate a space in your teen’s room where they can showcase their accomplishments and regularly refer to those moments.  Encourage your teen to get creative and think out of the box when choosing items to hang.  Awards or tokens relating to academic performance and team sports may be top of mind but inspire them to dig deep and think about other times when they felt accomplished, helpful or were surprised by their own abilities.  Mementos such as their name badge from a volunteer event, a printed email or note of praise from a teacher or other adult, photos from an activity they participated in, a thank you card or any keepsakes from a challenge they overcame are all powerful items to include on their wall of fame.

2. Explore a new hobby

In addition to hobbies acting as an effective stress reducer and providing a relaxing escape from the obligatory world of schoolwork and other teenage responsibilities, pastimes can also produce physiological mood boosters that lead to a more positive outlook.  Participating in a hobby may serve as an avenue to help your teen find a greater sense of purpose as well, which is one of the tenets of high self-esteem.  Encourage your child to explore a new skill and try new things to see what fits them best.  From photography and fitness to gardening and vlogging, there are endless new activities and hobbies for teens to explore.

3. Practice positive body language

The power of body language is real. Your non-verbal communication sends signals to others about your emotions, intentions, and your state of mind, which includes your level of confidence.  But even when you’re not feeling your best, practicing positive body language can give your self-esteem a helpful boost. Acting in a way that exudes confidence starts with some small changes in behavior.  Practice a few positive body language gestures with your teen daily, such as standing up straight with shoulders back, making eye contact, keeping hands out of pockets, and not fidgeting.  Be sure to praise your child when you catch them showing good body language as it will go a long way in increasing their awareness!

4. Be kind to your body

Body image is dynamic and changes over your lifetime.  How you think about your body, act towards your body, and feel about your body is a compilation of your own perceptions. Given the major hormonal and bodily changes that occur during adolescence, coupled with the impact of social media, the teen years are high risk for developing a negative body image.  According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the pre-teen and early teenage age years are just as susceptible with 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Think about your own body image and where you can improve your thoughts and perceptions regarding your physical appearance.  Have an open conversation with your teen and partner with them on body positive activities.  NEDA has a comprehensive guide of body positive activities that family members can work on together or individually.

5. Check on their circle and identify a mentor

Your circle should include people who boost your confidence levels and want to see you succeed.  These are people that have a strong influence on you and how you feel about yourself.  Your circle should made up of friends who you can feel “real” around and that accept you for who you are without judgement.  Someone may seem like a good person to have in your circle until you get out the microscope and really see what they bring you.  Ask your teen these simple, following questions:  Who are the people in their circle that support them in achieving their goals?  And how do the people in their circle allow them to feel comfortable being themselves?  If you notice hesitancy or feel they are challenged by the questions, then it may be a great time to introduce your teen to the concept and benefits of being mentored. Brainstorm together and identify a role model for them to reach out to for mentoring.

6. Pay it Forward, Volunteer

Doing something good or helpful for others creates a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and pride.  Volunteering is a great way to promote a healthy self-esteem and increases a sense of belonging and appreciation. Talk with your teen about their interests and identify organizations in your area that align with their passions.  Nursing homes, hospitals, animal shelters, local YMCA’s and donation centers are all great sources of opportunities for volunteer work.  Encourage your child to recruit a good friend, or some family members, and sign up to volunteer within the community. 

7. Create a self-appreciation chart

Self-appreciation is key to help break the cycle of comparison to others. Those comparisons lead to self-doubt and create limiting beliefs or negative thoughts.  Learning to appreciate who you are and the good that is within you is the first step, and one of the most effective ways, to combat those self-doubting tendencies.  Create a simple chart with your teen that includes ways to appreciate themselves daily.  Some ideas include choosing a positive affirmation for the day, writing down at least one thing that they did well, acknowledging something they like when they look in the mirror, or how they reframed a negative thought.  Keep the chart in a place where it is easy for them reference.   

8. Incorporate daily exercise or movement

One of the best confidence-building activities is exercise.  While longer term benefits may include things like improving body image, the good news is that regular movement and exercise bring tons of short term wins your teenager will benefit from immediately!  Physical activity releases “feel good” chemicals in your body that help to manage stress more efficiently, increase energy and decrease anxiety.  This is why people tend to feel happier after completing a workout.  Get your teen moving regularly with activities that they enjoy so they are more apt to stick with it. Partner with them or encourage them to recruit a good friend into their routine, if helpful. Remind them that a little hard work goes a long way in creating a more positive self-image and healthy mindset! A study conducted by clinical and research fellows at Harvard’s School of Public Health confirmed that even 15 minutes of movement a day can help to keep depression at bay.

9. Introduce mindfulness techniques

The practice of mindfulness helps you to slow down and increase your self-awareness.  Learning how to pause improves your ability to think clearly and in turn, make better decisions and choices.  As peer pressure heightens during the teenage years, young adults may find themselves in difficult situations or uncomfortable social situations where the art of pausing may help them to quickly connect to their core beliefs and make decisions that are aligned with their values.

While mindfulness exercises such as yoga provide tremendous benefit, even simple breathing exercises that allow you to focus on being more present or taking time to quietly listen to music can provide mood boosting effects and improve positive thinking.

10. Tap into music

There is no doubt that the act of learning to play a musical instrument helps increase a child’s confidence.  It encourages creativity, allows for self-expression, and can help to build social skills.  Even better, learning a musical instrument can happen at any age.  But the power of music reaches beyond being able to generate it.  Listening to music can have a huge impact on your mood and provide a quick pick me up.  In fact, dancing and singing to music are two more great ways to build self-esteem through songs.  Encourage your teenager to create a motivational playlist of their favorite upbeat songs.  Engage other family members and listen to your teen’s playlist in the house while your prepping dinner or in the car on the way to school or other activities.

11. Identify and explore personal strengths

Recognizing or identifying your own personal strengths and qualities is a useful way to unearth more positive self-esteem.  Ask your teen to think about a particular situation when they were “at their best.”  It could be a time when they successfully overcame a difficult challenge, a time when they were proud of an accomplishment they achieved or even a time when they contributed in a way that provided them with an increased sense of self-worth.  Ask them to identify the personal strengths or unique values that surfaced to the top during those moments.  Remind them to keep their strengths top on mind or recall them the next time they experience a hard time with feelings of low self-confidence. If your teen is struggling to recall these moments, try having them take a free online strengths finder assessment as a refresher.

12. Create a mental highlight reel

Your mental highlight reel is your factual evidence of times when you experienced success whether it was the result of putting in hard work or the outcome of making good decisions.   During periods of low confidence, it can be useful for young children or teenagers to recall and visualize those moments.  Ask them to remember everything they can about the situation including the effort they made and the pride they felt as a result.  Have them create a mental stack of those moments that they can refer to often as a reminder of what they are capable of. 

13. Use positive affirmations

An affirmation is a positive statement, brief phrase, or word, that challenges low self-esteem, negative self-talk, destructive thoughts, self-doubt, and the practice of self-sabotaging behaviors. Affirmations are practical, typically short and sweet, and crystal clear in asserting the truth. With consistent use, the positive self-talk of affirmations seeks to disrupt and rewire negative thought patterns in your brain. In addition to serving as great mood boosters and elevating confidence levels, positive affirmations also support coping strategies for dealing with stressful situations.

The most important thing for them to be effective is to recite them daily and be consistent.  If this is the first time your teenager is using positive affirmations and they are feeling a bit uncomfortable, then you can suggest they start by focusing on a positive word of the day.  The best thing is to just get started!  Check out this list of 67 powerful affirmations to build confidence and self-esteem for tons of great examples.

14. Set goals

Goal setting is an effective way to establish a work ethic, build perseverance and create a sense of purpose.  Knowing what you are working towards can build optimism for the future and keep you motivated in the present.  Learning the process of setting SMART goals as a teen develops useful life skills they will carry into adulthood, both personally and professionally.  SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. 

Specific – What do I want to accomplish?

Measurable – How will I define and measure my success?

Attainable – How will the goal be accomplished? What resources are needed? How will I leverage my strengths?

Relevant – How does this goal align with my values and what is important to me?

Timely – When can I realistically accomplish this goal?

Download a free, printable SMART Goal Worksheet and more helpful resources at the bottom of this post.

15. Address mistakes or poor choices

Life lessons are impactful, if you take the time to learn from what they are teaching you. Reframing perceived failures as teachable moments is an effective awareness exercise that aims to curb the negative feelings associated with mistakes and highlight the ways in which those situations can be handled differently next time. This type of activity will help your teen process that while failure is a normal part of life, the resulting lessons can be utilized for greater future success.

16. Get a job

Employment carries a level of responsibility that most teens have not experienced.  That type of responsibility can help to push them out of their routine or comfort zone, try new things, or test their abilities.  Teenagers may feel a greater sense of purpose and that they are making a difference. It also exposes them to different people and teaches them interaction skills which can go a long way in building confidence.

17. Pick a “Quote of the Day”

A simple, little quote can sometimes hit big and elicit inspiration, strength, and confidence.  Have your teen pick a confidence building quote of the day and get creative with where to display the wise words – write it on the bathroom mirror, hang it on the fridge, make it their phone screen for the day or place some stealth sticky notes in fun places like their car or sports equipment bag.

18. Establish meaningful self-care practices

Self-worth grows with good self-care practices.  It also becomes harder to love others when you don’t show yourself enough love.  The first step is to help your teen identify what types of self-care practices they feel are most beneficial to them – just because you like to go get pedicures doesn’t mean your 15 year-old will get the same wonderful feeling from someone touching their toes.  Once your child has picked a few things out to put into practice, help them understand the importance of carving out time and establishing a routine to support their new self-care practices. 

19. Journal

Journaling establishes a safe environment for young people to express their feelings.  Aside from the tremendous mental health benefits of traditional journaling, other forms of journaling, such as gratitude journaling or bullet journaling, are powerful tools to introduce to your teen as well.  Bullet journaling provides a creative outlet by allowing teens to express themselves through drawing, doodling, or charting. Keeping a gratitude journal helps to promote thankfulness. The simple, yet effective way of practicing thankfulness begins to train your brain to seek out the good over the bad, very similar to how the consistent use of positive affirmations reprograms your inner thoughts and seeks to build confidence over self-doubt.

It’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all solution when helping teens build confidence.

Implementing a few of these self-esteem boosting activities, and being consistent with the effort, will go a long way in providing the support your teen needs to feel valued, loved and reminded of their capabilities!

Download your FREE SMART Goals Worksheet!

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