Low Self-Esteem & Puberty

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

The teen years can be challenging for adolescents. This lesson will discuss the connection between low self-esteem and puberty by reviewing potential physical and emotional factors that can lead to negative self-image.

Where did Jackie Go?

Jackie was always a happy-go-lucky kid who had lots of friends and was a pleasure to be around. Her grades were good, and her Mom was sure she would always be one of the most popular girls in school. As Jackie started going through puberty, however, she started to gain some weight and developed rather severe acne. When she entered middle school, Jackie's Mom noticed some troubling changes in her demeanor. She seemed to be withdrawing from social activities and friends, and began spending more and more of her time indoors playing video games. Now, when Mom tries to talk to her, Jackie just shrugs off her concerns.


Puberty is a word that causes most elementary school age girls and boys to chuckle. It is a transition period where children's bodies start to change and develop, and hormones run wild. Parents may find that they have a relaxed and happy child one day, and a moody stranger the next. For adolescents, puberty is both an exciting and confusing time. Below are some facts about puberty:

  • Sexual organs start to develop and mature
  • Boys tend to go through puberty about two years later than girls (average age of onset for boys is 14 compared to 12 for girls)
  • Production of hormones affects emotions
  • Being overweight in early childhood has been linked to the early onset of puberty
  • Body and facial hair starts to appear
  • Hormonal production can lead to acne (in some cases severe)
  • Both boys and girls tend to experience a significant increase in height
  • Fat content increases in girls and muscle growth occurs in boys

With all these changes taking place at such a fast pace, it's no wonder that teens, like Jackie, can feel overwhelmed and down. Let's take a look at the effect puberty can have on adolescent self-esteem.

Puberty and Low Self-Esteem

In a nutshell, self-esteem is the image we have of ourselves. People with high self-esteem tend to view themselves in a positive light whereas those with low self-esteem lack self-confidence and are very critical of themselves in general. The drastic changes that often accompany puberty can lead to the development of low-self esteem. As young teens struggle with adjusting to their new bodies and mindsets, they often start to become highly critical of themselves.

Some of the issues that girls deal with during puberty that can lead to low-self esteem include:

  • Weight gain
  • Maturing at a slower or faster pace than their peers
  • Developing acne
  • Feeling pressure to diet and stay thin
  • Bullying

While boys deal with similar issues such as acne, maturing at different rates, and bullying, they also face:

  • Vocal changes that result in cracks and highs and lows when speaking
  • Appearing awkward due to disproportionate growth in height and muscle mass
  • Growth of facial hair

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