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Why are teens afraid to take action?


January 18, 2023 Well-being


Par Mugla Bolivard et Dantha Dorcéus

Adolescence is a period of transformation that can be filled with questions, new experiences, and hard decisions. For some young people, these changes can bring on many emotions and questions.

For others, it's not such a big deal. So, why do many young people find themselves frozen in fear to the point of not being able to move forward?

1- Low self-esteem 

Low self-esteem is one of the factors that affects a young person's ability to act. In fact, self-esteem plays a major role in many areas of life. What is self-esteem? Self-esteem is an evaluation of one's own value in a broad sense. It is often related to the opinion of others, which can influence a young person's behaviour, emotions, and thoughts.

How social pressure influences self-esteem

Social pressure is directly related to self-esteem, which makes it a scourge in the lives of adolescents. In fact, many teenagers put up barriers because they fear the judgment of others, which makes it difficult for them to adequately assert themselves. High self-esteem therefore encourages adolescents to explore and seek autonomy.

Strong self-esteem helps to reduce the impact of social pressure so that the young person can assert themselves and express their needs.

How parenting style influences self-esteem

Parental style is also a key factor in the development of a young person's self-esteem. In fact, having a controlling parent who asserts their authority over their child and does not leave any room for exchange can lead to a withdrawal on the part of the child. Thus, the teenager will not develop autonomy and risks remaining in the parent's shadow.

As a result, the young person does not have the opportunity to discover themselves and gain self-knowledge necessary to take on responsibility, which can be very harmful to their self-esteem. Positive parenting is therefore encouraged. In short, self-esteem is an essential component of self-actualization (the last need according to Maslow's pyramid of needs), which is required to achieve one's potential.

2- Poor physical and mental health

Another important aspect of their development is health. Although it may seem simple, health is a complex issue with several components that are essential to everyone's well-being. To begin with, an active lifestyle is recommended. Sport has been proven to benefit learning by allowing oxygen to circulate through the body and by promoting concentration.

The relationship between physical and mental health

In addition, sports allow us to release stress and express our emotions in a positive way. As sport releases dopamine and increases serotonin and endorphin levels (the happiness hormones), it also improves your mood. Good physical health also leads to better mental health. Being active helps with concentration and reduces stress and anxiety, which can reduce the risk of developing depression. Being active does require time and resources, which not everyone can afford.

Belonging to a group that shares common interests helps develop social skills and self-esteem.

3- A more difficult socio-cultural and economic situation

Finally, a young person's socio-economic situation has a major impact on what they can or cannot achieve. Indeed, the lack of economic resources and access to information limits adolescent empowerment. In the last ten years, more than one third of young people have experienced a parental divorce. Often, this constitutes a significant loss of income and therefore, reduces the spending planned for young people's activities and leisure.

Moreover, immigration can also be a factor in a household's economic situation. Arriving in a new country is not an easy situation. Finding a job, a place to live, and all the resources needed to settle in can be a major challenge. Often, young people from immigrant backgrounds do not have the opportunity to do what others around them are doing. Indeed, adapting to a culture other than their own can be complex (language, customs, financial resources, etc.) and is a culture shock. A young person who is going through these changes will have less time to devote to their personal development, as they will have other concerns or responsibilities.

Sometimes we need a little help

Adolescents have their share of challenges affecting their development into future adults. It is therefore important to take an interest in them and propose solutions. If, as a parent, you feel that you have tried everything to help your teenager and no longer know what to do, don't hesitate to ask for help from the professionals who work on youth well-being.

References (in French) :

Statistique Canada, Faits saillants- Enquête québécoise sur le tabac, l’alcool, la drogue et le jeu chez les élèves du secondaire en 2019
Statistique Canada, Divorces et taux de divortialité selon la durée du mariage, Québec 1970 à 2020
L’Encéphale, Estime de soi, coping, soutien social perçu et dépendance au cannabis chez l’adolescent et le jeune adulte
Université de Sherbrooke, L’estime de soi
Radio-Canada, La dépendance au numérique affecte jeunes et moins jeunes
Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Bouger pour être en bonne santé… mentale!
Psychologue.net, La pyramide de Maslow : la théorie des besoins
Psychomédia, L’estime de soi
Ministère de l’Immigartion, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, Présence et portrait régionaux des personnes immigrantes admises au Québec de 2010 à 2019