Positive Self-Talk for Adolescents

Written by: Bailey Little, M.Ed.
Positive Self-Talk for Adolescents

We’ve all encountered individuals who seem to constantly criticize or speak negatively about others. Being in the presence of such negativity can significantly affect our mood and self-esteem. However, for many teenagers, that critical voice isn’t external—it’s their own inner dialogue and thoughts that often lean towards negativity and self-criticism.

What is Self-Talk?

Self-talk is the inner dialogue we have in our heads throughout our days. It can build us up and increase our confidence when it is positive, and it can tear us down and make us want to hide away when it is negative. Thoughts like “I’ll never be good enough” or “nobody likes me” can lead to struggles with self-esteem and cause social withdrawal, which often reinforces those negative beliefs.

The Impact of Positive Self-Talk

Encouraging teens to adopt positive self-talk isn’t about being overly optimistic or denying challenges. Instead, it’s about cultivating a mindset that acknowledges difficulties while fostering resilience and self-belief. Positive self-talk can help teens in multiple ways, including:

1. Building Confidence: Affirming their own strengths and abilities can help boost self-confidence, leading to increased social engagement and the ability to take on challenges and pursue their goals.
2. Increasing Resilience: When teens have a positive self-image, they can more easily tackle and bounce back from setbacks and challenges, believing that they can handle difficulties they face.
3. Promoting Emotional Well-being: By reframing negative situations and emotions, positive self-talk reduces stress levels and leads to a more optimistic outlook.

Practical Strategies for Teens

There are many strategies teens can use to improve their internal dialogues. Below are some basic strategies for general guidance. If your teen is consistently struggling with their internal dialogue, you may also consider having them meet individually with a therapist to further address these issues.

  • Awareness: Often, we are unaware of how we talk to ourselves. Encourage your teen to notice how they talk to themself throughout the day. Is it with the same kindness they would speak to a friend? Are they being their own bully?
  • Challenge Negative Thoughts: Teach them to question negative beliefs and replace them with more realistic and supportive statements. Help them recognize and replace absolute language like “always” and “never” or “everybody else” and “nobody.”
  • Affirmations: Encourage your teen to choose several affirmations they can say to themself throughout the day to continue changing that internal dialogue to be more helpful and positive.