I Feel Ugly! Improving Your Self Confidence and Outlook as a Teen

Updated August 2, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you ever looked in the mirror and not liked what you saw? Maybe you’ve had thoughts like, “Why am I so ugly?” or, “I hate how I look!” You’re not alone. About 40 to 60 percent of adolescents are unhappy with their appearance.

Being a teenager is tough--you’re growing into your body, navigating the social world, and working hard to meet the demands of your parents and teachers all day long. Plus, with the prevalence of social media nowadays, there’s no shortage of Photoshopped, Facetuned, Snapchat-filtered beautiful people with whom to compare yourself. If you or a loved one finds yourself in this situation, it is okay to reach out for help through means such as online therapy!

How Come Teenagers Hate How They Look?

The truth is that many teens go through an “awkward phase,” and it’s just that--a phase. It’s temporary! Lots of teenagers struggle to cope with all of the changes taking place in their lives, both physically and emotionally. Teenagers are expected to begin to work hard at taking on more responsibility, such as a more difficult course load and their first job, and it’s simply a lot to handle.

Social media plays a large role in the insecurity that many teenagers feel, but even before social media, teenagers still considered themselves ugly. For most people, it’s completely normal to have a focus on appearance; it’s simply an expected part of development. But even though it’s normal, feeling ugly is not an enjoyable experience by any stretch of the imagination. Luckily, there are ways to combat this feeling and improve your confidence and low self esteem.

How Can You Be More Confident?

First, know that it’s okay if you do want to make minor changes to your physical appearance. Things like contact lenses, topical acne solutions, skin care, and regular exercise can make a difference in the way you look and the way you feel about yourself and your own beauty. Dressing in a way that allows you to express yourself and makes you feel confident is also a great method of improving your self-esteem.

But confidence is not all about looks. It has a lot to do with your character and who you are on the inside. Joining a sports team or a group like drama club can help you recognize your abilities, skills, and talents. Knowing you’re good at something and being part of a team or group can also boost your self-esteem.

Try making a list of your best qualities and attributes and reading over it anytime you feel ugly. Remind yourself that true beauty is who you are on the inside and is always going to be much more important than how you look on the outside.

Spending time with a good friend or friends who make you feel good about yourself is another way to increase your confidence. Paying attention to your inner voice and how you speak to yourself can also make a difference. If the things you tell yourself are so mean that you’d never say them to a friend or anyone else, then you shouldn’t say them to yourself, either! In fact, try to treat yourself the way you’d treat a person you care about very much. You’re likely to find that your thoughts become much kinder, and you’ll feel better about yourself as a result.

Helping others is also an amazing way to make you feel better about yourself. Who cares what you look like when you can do things like tutoring a fellow student who’s struggling in class or helping an elderly neighbor carry their groceries inside? People find that volunteering and giving to others or to the community really lets your character shine and helps you feel like you're making a difference.

What If I Can’t Stop Thinking About My Appearance?

While feeling ugly or unhappy with your appearance is a normal part of the teenage experience, there is a point when it becomes a problem because it begins to affect your mental health. There is actually a mental health disorder that goes along with this issue: body dysmorphic disorder.

People with body dysmorphic disorder usually have several of the following symptoms:

  • An extreme focus on their looks
  • Feeling anxious, worried, or stressed about their appearance for the majority of the time
  • Constantly checking or fixing their appearance
  • Trying not to be seen or even avoiding mirrors
  • A false image of how they look to others

Those who have body dysmorphic disorder are typically focused on a specific part of their body, like their skin, nose, or stomach, among many other qualities. Often, the flaw they see so clearly is invisible or hardly noticeable to others.

If you think you may have body dysmorphic disorder, get in contact with a mental health professional for potential services. They can evaluate your situation and determine whether a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder is accurate. They can also provide treatment; usually, body dysmorphic disorder is treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is a type of talk therapy that helps you rewire your thoughts by examining negative thought patterns and replacing them with more constructive, positive ones. Sometimes, psychiatrists will also prescribe medication for body dysmorphic disorder. Always speak to your doctor before considering prescription medication.

Seeing a mental health professional for mental health services can seem scary or overwhelming the first time, but remember that they are there to help you. Be open and honest with them; that’s the best thing if you want to improve your mental health. You can also turn to your parents and friends for support during this tough time.

Try to have patience with the process and give it your all, and before long, you’ll likely find that you’re feeling better about your appearance among other things in your life in general.

Where Can You Find Help with Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Many times, a quick Google search for “counselors near me” is an easy way to find local mental health professionals. But if it’s hard for your parents to coordinate transportation to the counselor’s office, or if you’d prefer to get help from home, then BetterHelp (18+) or TeenCounseling (13-19) are both excellent options. They’re online counseling platforms that connect you with a certified therapist from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a stable internet connection! Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or to let your parents know what you’re going through. Your mental health is important, and you deserve to be happy!

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