Interventions to Boost Self-esteem, Social Competence, and Social Skills (page 2)
We will focus on how a person's self-concept changes over time and the importance of social competence in the formation of a healthy self-concept. Our self-concept is a complex system of beliefs about ourselves. We develop our self-concepts based on judgments or evaluations of how we are doing when we compare ourselves with others or our own ideal self. It is possible to have a good self-concept in one area (such as sports) and a poor self-concept in another area (such as mathematics).
The self-concept (also known as self-esteem, self-image, or self-worth) is formed from three major sources of information that we obtain from others: words, feelings, and behaviors. What I think about myself is often based on others' comments about me; what I feel about myself often comes from others' emotional reactions to me; and how I behave is often in response to others' reactions to me.
Another source of information that helps build or reduce self-concept is the set of internal standards used to judge one's performance. If these standards of ideal performance are too high, a person may feel that he or she does not measure up. Consequently, the person develops feelings that devalue a sense of worth, resulting in a low self-concept or self-image in that area. Children often learn these internal standards from watching how their parents, teachers, and peers judge their performance at school and at home.
Changes in Self-Concept at Different Ages
Very young children (three to five years of age) think in all-or-nothing terms. Therefore, a young child's self-concept often fluctuates between extremes such as happy and sad or good and bad. The child often over-generalizes and reasons, If I'm good at coloring, then I'm good at everything. If I'm bad because I spilled the milk, then I'm bad, period!
By the time a child enters the first grade (approximately six years of age), reasoning allows the child to sequence emotions and behaviors. At this stage of development, the child begins to develop a greater understanding that a person can be happy and then sad, thereby allowing some flexibility and continuity in the emotional repertoire. However, it is not until approximately the third grade (eight years of age) that children can begin to accept and understand the concept of experiencing two coexisting emotions such as being both happy and sad. However, at this stage, a child can only attach the two emotions to two separate people. A child might reason, Johnny and Stuart may have two separate feelings about me. Johnny may describe me as good, but Stuart may say I'm bad. The child is not yet capable of understanding how both feelings could come from the same person. At this stage, children are also capable of understanding that they can be good in one area (math), but poor in another (art).
It is not until approximately ten years of age that a child begins to understand the concept of ambivalent feelings (one person having conflicting emotions). At this point, children are capable of understanding how someone can continue to love them despite being very angry with their behavior. It is also at this stage that the self-concept becomes further influenced by how children evaluate themselves and their achievements compared with their peers. Self-descriptions and comparisons also shift from the more absolute terms used earlier (for example, good or bad, nice or mean) toward descriptors that emphasize the social or more interactive aspects of this developmental period (for example, shy or friendly).
Young adolescents often maintain an idealistic and naïve view of what should be that has not yet been tempered by experience. Adolescents' awareness that others are capable of thinking about other people results from the self-conscious fear that others are often thinking about and evaluating them. It is through the process of comparisons with peers and peer acceptance that an adolescent's fears are alleviated and he or she begins once again to grow in self-confidence.
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