Why Does Low Self-Esteem Intensify the Impact of the Various Influences on Teen Decision Making?

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Written By Muhammad Saad

I'm a psychologist dedicated to evidence-based research in psychology, covering diverse aspects of the field.

let’s talk real talk about low self-esteem and teen decision-making. Ever wonder why some teens seem to struggle more with making choices than others? When I was a teen, I remember feeling like I couldn’t do anything right. It’s like walking through a confusing maze. And when you’re not sure about yourself, all the different things pulling at you become even more overwhelming. To really understand why teens make the choices they do, you have to look at how they see themselves.

Lets Break Down This Question : Why Does Low Self-Esteem Intensify the Impact of the Various Influences on Teen Decision Making?

Understanding Teen Decision Making

The developing adolescent brain: Impulsivity vs. rationality

During adolescence, the brain undergoes significant changes, which can impact decision-making abilities. One key area of development is the prefrontal cortex,

which is responsible for rational thinking, impulse control, and decision making. However, this part of the brain is not fully developed until the mid-20s, which can lead to a tendency towards impulsivity and risk-taking behavior in teenagers.

Impulsivity is the tendency to act without thinking, often driven by emotions rather than logic. This can lead to poor decision making and risky behavior, such as reckless driving, substance abuse, and unprotected sex.

While some level of impulsivity is normal during adolescence, it can be particularly pronounced in those with underlying mental health issues, such as ADHD or anxiety.

On the other hand, rational thinking involves careful consideration of the consequences of one’s actions. It involves weighing the pros and cons and making decisions based on logic rather than emotion.

While teenagers are capable of rational thinking, their developing brains may not always prioritize this mode of decision making.

Peer influence: The power of social dynamics in teen choices

Peer influence is a powerful force in shaping the decisions and behavior of teenagers. During adolescence, teenagers are highly attuned to the opinions and actions of their peers, and may feel pressure to conform in order to fit in.

This can lead to a range of choices, from positive ones such as joining a sports team or volunteering, to negative ones such as substance abuse or bullying.

The power of peer influence is rooted in the desire for social acceptance and belonging. Teenagers may feel that they need to conform to their peer group in order to be accepted and valued.

This can be particularly pronounced during times of transition, such as starting a new school or moving to a new town.

The Influence of Low Self-Esteem on Teen Decision Making

Low self-esteem can have a significant impact on teen decision making, leading to a range of negative outcomes. When a teenager lacks confidence in themselves and their abilities, they may be more susceptible to negative influences and less likely to make positive choices.

  • Negative life experiences: Traumatic events, bullying, or chronic stress can all contribute to low self-esteem and impact decision making.
  • Parental influence: Parents who are overly critical, dismissive, or neglectful can contribute to low self-esteem in their teenagers.
  • Comparison to others: Social comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth, particularly in adolescence.
  • Perfectionism: Setting unrealistic standards for oneself can lead to a sense of failure and low self-esteem.
  • Lack of positive reinforcement: Without positive feedback and reinforcement, teenagers may struggle to develop a sense of self-worth and confidence.
  • Social anxiety: Fear of social situations and negative self-talk can contribute to low self-esteem and impact decision making.

The Connection Between Low Self-Esteem and Decision Making

Low self-esteem can have a significant impact on decision making, particularly in adolescents. When teenagers lack confidence in themselves and their abilities, they may be more likely to make poor decisions or engage in risky behaviors. Here are some key ways that low self-esteem can impact decision making:

  • Increased vulnerability to peer pressure: Teenagers with low self-esteem may feel a strong need to fit in with their peer group and may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors in order to gain acceptance.
  • Fear of failure: Low self-esteem can lead to a fear of failure, which can cause teenagers to avoid taking risks or making decisions that might lead to failure.
  • Negative self-talk: When teenagers have low self-esteem, they may engage in negative self-talk, which can impact their decision-making abilities and lead to poor choices.
  • Lack of confidence: Low self-esteem can cause teenagers to lack confidence in their abilities and decision-making skills, leading to indecision and poor decision-making.
  • Decreased resilience: Teenagers with low self-esteem may struggle to bounce back from setbacks or failures, which can impact their decision-making abilities and lead to a cycle of negative thinking and poor choices.

By promoting self-esteem and self-confidence in teenagers, it is possible to help them make better decisions and avoid negative influences. This can include providing opportunities for success and achievement, encouraging positive self-talk, and helping teenagers develop their own decision-making skills.


“The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals” by Lisa M. Schab
“The Developing Person Through the Life Span” by Kathleen Stassen Berger
“The Handbook of Self-Esteem” edited by Mark R. Leary and June Price Tangney

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