It’s tough being a girl! Between the powerful influence of social media, unreachable standards of beauty, and overwhelming pressure to succeed, teens and young adults often find themselves drowning in fear and insecurity. They are afraid they won’t be accepted. They worry about looking good, being liked, getting into a top college, landing a successful internship, being offered the job of their dreams, finding a partner, living happily ever after, and the list goes on.
When insecurity runs high, teen girls and young adult women may show one or more of the following characteristics:
- Avoid socializing
- Act shy or prefer to be alone
- Want to control everything
- Are perfectionistic
- Have difficulty trusting others and forming close friendships
- Have low self-esteem and confidence
- Try hard to fit in by compromising their authentic strengths and values
- Experience feelings of anxiety, fear, or inadequacy
How to help an insecure teen or young adult:
- Normalize insecurity. Many girls think that they should never feel insecure and when they do, they think something is wrong with them. Remind your daughter that it is OK to feel insecure and her insecurity probably indicates a need. Ask her what would help her feel more confident. Identify specific actions she can take or support she may need. This will help her feel calm and in control.
- Celebrate who she is. When you acknowledge your daughter’s inner qualities, her sense of self strengthens. She begins to see herself beyond her outward appearance and accomplishments. When she is connected to her inner strengths and values, her self-esteem and confidence blossom and act as a protective shield against outside pressures and triggers.
- Balance growth and change with self-acceptance. Help your daughter identify areas she wants to change and those that are unchangeable. For example, as you practice normalizing insecurity and asking what would help her feel more secure, you may identify a personal quality that she’d like to develop or a skill she’d like to improve. This is a wonderful opportunity to promote personal growth. Your daughter may also wish for things that are unchangeable. For example, she may wish for changes in her physical appearance: longer legs, a smaller nose, or narrower hips. This is an opportunity to talk about self-acceptance and self-love.
- Teach her emotional regulation and self-soothing strategies. Through modeling and “think alouds” (where you state out loud what you are going through or practicing), you can teach your daughter how to manage her emotions and calm herself down. Start by considering the ways in which you manage difficult feelings or process hard emotions. Then, intentionally share these strategies with your daughter.
You may also consider teaching your daughter the process I teach the girls I coach:
- Name what you are feeling
- Allow the feeling to be there without adding pressure to change it or make it different
- Take a deep breath to calm the body
- Ask yourself, What do I need? Or What is most important right now?
- Take a positive action
- Provide support. Teens and young adults can have a hard time believing their parents’ praise and compliments. Very often, they think, “She’s just saying that because she’s my mom!” An outside support provides your daughter with an objective perspective. A life coach promotes the development of a healthy self-esteem and teaches your daughter how to overcome insecurity, deepen self-awareness, and handle challenges or triggers.
Insecurity is a common experience among teens and young adults, but it manifests differently. Some girls experience social insecurity, while others experience academic insecurity. Moreover, some feel insecurity more intensely than others. While these suggestions will help, if you notice your daughter’s insecurity is making it difficult for her to function or having unwanted impacts on her life, it is important to seek a professional’s opinion and support.