Life is difficult as a teen. It’s harder if you feel different. Being the only deaf kid at school (or one of a few deaf kids at school) means you need to self-advocate a little harder than your peers. While deafness doesn’t define you, it does mean that you’ll face unique challenges. Building self-esteem and confidence isn’t something that’s easy for anyone, and it’s going to be a process.

Here’s what you need to know.

Everyone Stumbles at First

Everyone makes mistakes. When you look at your peers and friends, understand that everyone is fighting their own personal battle. They may feel that they look awkward, that they’re overweight, or that their acne is too severe. Everyone has an insecurity, and it can be liberating to know that you’re not the only one who is afraid or scared. You’re not the only one who may feel embarrassed or different.

Understanding what makes you special and embracing it is critical to your self-esteem and confidence. As you become a young adult, you’re going to develop these skills. But no one just starts with them. It does take work.

Embrace What Makes You Unique

Don’t feel like you need to fit in? Your self-identity can be whatever you want it to be. Whether you want to emphasize your deafness or not, you’re you. Take some time to think about what that means and don’t be afraid to be yourself. When you start to feel that you aren’t fitting in, take some time to think about the situation, how you reacted, and how other people reacted. If you face criticism from others, did it have merit? And if it didn’t, why should you care?

Of course, that’s easy to say and harder to do. Talking things out with friends, family members, and peer groups can help.

Manage Your Emotions

One of the hardest things about being a teen is managing your emotions. And it isn’t your fault. Hormones make it so that you’re constantly feeling different types of emotions. Some of them are directly related to your environment. Some of them come from absolutely nowhere. But they are all valid.

When you feel upset, angry, scared, and hurt, you don’t need a reason to feel that way and you don’t need to justify it. We aren’t responsible for our feelings, we are only responsible for our actions. With that in mind, there are things you can do in a healthy way to manage your emotions through actions:

  • Taking on a physical hobby – Running is a good way to blow off steam, especially if you’re angry or anxious.
  • Focusing on a creative pursuit – Art can help people release their emotions, whether it’s writing or drawing.
  • Talking about it – Talking out your emotions allows them to be aired and explored before they do damage.

Remember: you never need an excuse to feel the way you do, however you feel, and you should never feel ashamed of discussing it.

Ultimately, there are a lot of ways to build confidence and self-esteem, but remember that no one is really good at it from the beginning. It takes work and practice. You need to explore your emotions, reflect on your actions, and reach out to people when you need it. Over time, you will find that your confidence starts building itself.

Watch Dylan Talk About His Self Confidence as a Young Adult

Meet Dylan! Dylan was so self-conscious about his cochlear implant (as a teenager) that he grew his hair to cover it. In his early 20’s, he asked his friends what they thought of his device—and what they told him stunned him. Dylan’s story has a lot to do with self-acceptance and understanding: listen to Dylan’s story about how he grew to accept himself completely.