Dear Steph,

I’m 17 and I’m going into 6th year in September. But my self-esteem is really low. I get nervous meeting new people and I don’t like to do new things. I have a great group of friends but they just tell me to get over it and be happy. This summer is going to be really hard because they want to hang out in the park, go to the beach, and meet up with boys…I get nervous even at the thoughts of it! I only ever feel confident and “good enough” when I’m getting compliments and praise. I feel like I need someone constantly telling me that I’m pretty and skinny enough in order to even think about going out. My friends are right, I need to get over it, but I can’t! Can you help? Thanks.


Hey there,

Self-esteem is a big one. Especially at the tender age of 17. I’m not surprised that you’re having these thoughts and feelings, and while it is normal, it’s terribly uncomfortable and difficult to manage so I’m glad you reached out 🙂 

Self-esteem can be defined as how we feel about ourselves as a person and in an ideal scenario, it’s a bit like a mathematical formula (because I know you’re all missing maths RN!). Here’s what a balanced self-esteem looks like: 

A + B + C + D + E + F + G + H = Healthy Self Esteem. 

As young females, between our own brain chemistry, and the outside world, we often end up believing that our worth is solely defined by our appearance. So when you feel this need to be pretty or skinny enough, it sounds like your self-esteem is only based on appearance right now – so the mathematical formula looks more like this: A + B = Poor Self-Esteem

This is quite common because we forget, don’t we? We forget how magnificent we are. We forget how multi-faceted we are. We forget how miraculous we are. We reduce ourselves and our worth to a jean size, or a number on the scale, or how well our eyelashes are glued on. Sounds silly right? But it’s a very real state of being for many, many, far too many girls and women, and we need to challenge that within ourselves. Our worth is so much more than a 2D photoshopped picture. We are made up of thoughts, abilities, ideas, dreams, talents, relationships, and much, much more. 

Here’s a task for you. Get an empty jar, some scraps of paper and a pen. On each scrap of paper, write down something positive about yourself, past, present, and future. Scrunch them all up and pop them into the jar. However full the jar is, is how healthy your self-esteem is. Is it pretty low? Fill it up! The goal is to fill the jar. Think of anything and everything. That one time you asked your friend if she was ok. The time you apologised to your brother. The time you made a homemade card for your neighbour. The time you helped your friend with her homework. The time you and your friend laughed so hard you cried. All of these things are parts of you that need to be remembered and celebrated. 

When you start to build up your self-esteem (which can take time so be patient with yourself), you won’t need anyone else’s validation. Compliments will be a bonus and you will feel much more relaxed in new environments with new people because you’re intact and you’re feeling good.

I hope this helps you to start working on your self-esteem because you deserve it! And don’t ever forget how amazing you are.

Take care,


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