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How to recognise low self-esteem in your child

17 June 2019

Team Girls is dedicated to fostering and promoting girls’ participation in sport. It’s about girls supporting girls, building up their confidence, and knowing they’re stronger when they stand together – on and off the court.

Adults understand that it’s only natural to feel down about yourself every now and then; and that if those feelings are always there, or you just can't shake them off, they can have a big effect on your life. 

Kids are no different, but they're still coming to grips with what self-esteem is all about. It's helpful, therefore, to recognise some of the signs of low self-esteem in your child. Here are some signs to watch for.

Being self-critical 

A kid may feel like they're not good enough, or say things like: ‘I can never do anything right.’ This could be self-doubt over every little thing they do or say, a sense of worry about what others may think, or a general fear of making a mistake.

Comparing themselves unfavourably to others

They may have developed a habit of comparing themselves to other people – siblings, parents, friends or classmates – and judging themselves unfavourably, based on what other people are doing. 

Being uneasy with compliments 

Some kids brush off any compliment they are given, believing they don’t deserve it, or that, if they accept it, they'll have to do even better next time.

Having negative feelings

Low self-esteem can be closely linked to moods, such as feeling sad, ashamed, anxious or angry, for any number of reasons. It can also be hard to get motivated; for example, a child might think that something isn’t worth doing when really, they just don't want to fail.

Difficulty in making friends and maintaining relationships

Having the ability to fit in with others and just hang out with them doesn’t come easily for some kids. They may think that they don't deserve good friends, or that they don’t have anything to offer.

Avoiding new things 

Trying out new things can seem scary. Some kids might try to avoid doing anything that’s unfamiliar, perhaps because they believe that no good could come of it, or because they’re afraid there'll be a bad outcome.

Not looking after themselves

When a child has low self-esteem, it can be all too easy for them to neglect sleep, food and exercise, because they don’t care about themselves or their wellbeing.

If left unaddressed, low self-esteem can lead to other problems that can have an even greater impact on your child’s wellbeing later in life. 

These could include: 

  • relationship troubles or difficulty interacting with other people
  • negative moods, such as feeling sad, anxious, ashamed or angry
  • low motivation
  • poor body image
  • reliance on alcohol, drugs and/or sex to feel better about themselves.


A lot of kids will experience low self-esteem at some stage, particularly in their teenage years. As a parent, it's important to watch for the signs and try to support your child if you notice that something is up. 

Reach out logo

ReachOut is Australia's leading online health website for young people and their parents. Working with registered counsellors, psychologists and mental health professionals ReachOut provides online self-help tools that are used by over 1.5 million Australians each year. A valuable resource for many parents, teens and young adults.

If your child, or anyone you know is having issues with self-esteem, confidence or mental or physical health, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

This content includes the views and opinions of a third-party, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Suncorp. Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, personal situation or needs.

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