Empowering Your Teen: Balancing Social Approval with Self-Happiness

Mom and Daughter

Being a teenager is a time of self-discovery and identity formation. Adolescents naturally seek acceptance from their peers, making them highly attuned to what others think of them. This desire for social approval often leads to the fear of being judged by others.

As a parent, it can be hard to watch your teen miss out on opportunities or succumb to peer pressure because of their concern about others’ perceptions. It may seem like your words are getting ignored if you’ve tried telling your teen, “It doesn’t matter what others think.” Because the truth is, your teen does care about others’ opinions. However, while it’s normal to consider the thoughts of others, obsessing over it and fearing judgment can result in overanalyzing interactions, anxiety, isolation, and regret.

There are steps parents can take to help their teens recognize when they’re “caring too much” about what others think and ways to overcome the fear of being judged.

Prioritize Personal Happiness:

When your teen’s concern over what others think prevents them from doing the things that make them happy, causes them not to be their authentic self, or goes against the things they believe in, it is a cause for concern. You can help your teen by reminding them that it can be liberating to not constantly worry about what they assume others may think. Doing the things that make them happy is far more fulfilling than second-guessing others’ thoughts or reactions.

Accept Individuality:

It is impossible to make everyone happy. People pleasing can only go so far. Instead of trying to conform to everyone’s opinion, consider the people whose thoughts matter the most and learn to be okay with not pleasing everyone.

Define Self-Worth Internally:

Beware of seeing yourself through other people’s eyes. It’s crucial to remind your teen that it’s easy to get caught up in how others see them, but their opinions don’t define your teen’s worth and identity. Moreover, others’ views are variable, influenced by their emotions, mindset, and other factors that can change over time, none of which are within your teen’s control.

Reality vs. Assumption:

What we fear others may think often doesn’t match reality. Teens can escalate situations in their minds to the point of stress. Things often turn out to be less dire than they initially imagined. The next time you notice them worrying or making assumptions, help them remember that the truth is often kinder than their fears. Asking, “What is the worst possible outcome?” and then asking, “What is the likelihood of that worst outcome occurring?” can be very helpful.

Practice Mindfulness:

There are many ways to take a step back and choose mindfulness over circular thinking. Your teen can try out apps like Insight Timer or Calm to meditate if they prefer a more digital approach. Journaling their thoughts and emotions can also help. Other ways to practice mindfulness include going on walks and getting fresh air or a change of scenery, deep breathing, and listening to uplifting music or podcasts. Mindfulness can help them connect to themselves, allowing them to navigate the balancing act of social acceptance and self-happiness more effectively.

For more ways to help your teen balance social approval with self-happiness, contact info@calchildpsych.com.

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