We have been discussing self-esteem in teenagers. To be truthful, the research (and its application) we are referring to is universal to children and adults. We have already discussed connectiveness as a component of healthy self-esteem. Another important aspect of self-esteem is uniqueness.
Appreciation for uniqueness increases sense of self-worth
Who of us does not wish to be his own person? To be known, valued and affirmed for who one is and for one’s own way is an amazing gift. Appreciating one’s unique strengths, gifts, differences and distinctions–whether that person is our spouse, child, friend or co-worker–raises one’s sense of self-worth and makes for healthy relationships.
As teenagers launch into adult life and determine who they are going to be, they are especially in need of affirmations and understanding. As they shape their future, establish their core beliefs and form new relationships, their sense of uniqueness relates directly to their sense of self and self-worth.
A healthy sense of uniqueness is the extent to which teenagers feel:
- respect for themselves
- that there is something special about them
- that they know things and can do things
- that they are able to express themselves in their own way
- that they can use their imagination to give free reign to creative potential
- that they can enjoy being different
Without a sense of uniqueness
Imagine feeling like you are just one of many and could offer nothing special to anyone. It would follow that you may not see or understand your purpose, meaning or true place in the world. Thus, your self-esteem would be uncertain, which would result in unresolved feelings about your self-worth. This would be difficult for anyone, especially teens.
Those teenagers who have problems feeling unique may:
- refuse to be imaginative or creative
- show off more than is normal to receive recognition and praise
- show little curiosity
- conform to the wishes and ideas of others
- be embarrassed when praised and disparage their own performance
- show a narrow range of emotional expression
But can one be too unique?
Interestingly, it is possible for teenagers to feel too unique. They may feel like outsiders, nerds or out-of-place with others in their lives (See CUPS and connectiveness posts) which would affect their sense of self-esteem and their ability to relate to peers. After all, we know how significant their peer relationships are to them.
Uniqueness is vital to emotional health and self-esteem
As we watch our teenagers grow and develop into adults, it is significantly important to acknowledge their uniqueness. It remains helpful to be aware of what a healthy sense of uniqueness looks like and to observe them so you will recognize when problems arise with how they may feel about their place in the world.
In my next blog we will look at what you can do to increase the sense of uniqueness in your teenager’s life.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
*Some information taken from Understanding Teens, Diane Wagenhals, 2007.