Self Concept: Positive or Negative

A healthy self-concept is critical for junior high students. More emotional pain is inflicted and suffered during this time period perhaps than any other period in a student’s life. Cruel and thoughtless teasing along with a child’s growing awareness of "who they are and how they fit in" sometimes combine to make for some pretty negative emotional development. But there is something that can be done about it. We can help students understand what a healthy self-concept is, we can help them understand how they actually feel about themselves, and we can help them understand how they can help others feel better and become emotionally more comfortable. Here is an exercise that is intended to develop this awareness.

1. Write the following list of "I am..." characteristics on the chalkboard:

... fun to be with
... happy with myself
... a pleasant person
... left out of activities
... handy with things
... embarrassed by my appearance
... a failure
... a bully
... lovable
... boring
... talented
... unhappy
... thoughtful
... not much fun
Self concept helps to make one happy, or unhappy. How can you help those who have a negative self-concept?

2. Ask students to identify additional characteristics. Add the ones they suggest to the list in #1. 3. Request students to identify and copy five characteristics that they feel best describes themselves. Each student does this individually, and does not share this with anyone else.

4. Conduct a class discussion for each of the characteristics listed on the board. Label each characteristic with a (P) for positive or (N) for negative.

5. After each characteristic has been labeled, ask each student to match his/her five personal characteristics with a (P) or an (N).

6. Students with a personal list of three or more negatives have a predominantly negative self-concept. Persons with a personal list of three or more positives have a predominantly positive self-concept.

7. Discuss the unhappiness of people who generally think negatively about themselves and their world. Ask students for reasons that people generally grow up thinking negatively. Make a class list on the board under "Reasons." Suggestions may include family problems, cruel teasing, lack of ability, poverty, a particularly traumatic or bad experience, etc.

8. Next, review all the negative characteristics found in the list from #1. Discuss solutions or ways to prevent these negative characteristics from forming. Show that many negative situations can be avoided with care and forethought.

9. Ask students to make a list of three things they think they can do to make someone’s day more pleasant. Suggestions may include being helpful to someone, complimenting someone, being inclusive in games, sharing something. etc.

10. Finally, ask the class how they think they will feel while they are helping others be positive. The fringe benefit in being pleasant to others is "feeling pleasant being pleasant."