Self concept, confidence and resilience: emergent personal values

We have previously talked about the importance and the connection between confidence and resilience. Developing self-confidence – establishing a good self-concept, an understanding of our values, and believing in ourselves, as we navigate life’s challenges – is what manifests as resilience. With this as a basis, we can teach our children that they have the capacity to bounce back quickly from hardships, and to know with confidence and self-belief that it is always possible to overcome adversity.

Self Concept is the notion of knowing who we are

Self Concept is the notion of knowing who we are. Knowing oneself is usually the domain of adults and adolescents, and not something we normally expect from children. Until we specifically address the question with them, children will not tend to think about how they see themselves. If we speak with them, we can help them identify that they wish to be someone who cares about other people, someone who always does their best, someone who never gives up.

Developing a strong sense of what is important to them – their emerging personal values – is fundamental to children developing confidence through self belief, rather than through external validation. We can ask questions: What do you value? Who do you value? What do you want to stand for? We don’t want to impose our values onto them (for example, honesty, justice, respect, determination), but we do want to teach them about values, and help them understand what things are important in their communities, their families, and for themselves, as individuals. When children have this core understanding, they can stand more strongly in the face of difficulties, knowing who they are and that they are being true to themselves, even when being challenged by others (for example, with bullying behaviour).

Stand more strongly in the face of difficulties

Relevant also to self-concept is the idea of perception. Self concept is about how we see ourselves. But it is also necessary to teach children that others’ perceptions of them are not necessarily true, nor relevant. Each person interacting in the world carries their own issues, their own flaws. None of us are a clean slate. We all have only our own context through which we filter the information that makes up our experiences. We cannot change others’ perceptions of us; but we can stand true to our own image of ourselves, not change to please others. Many people spend their lives working to be well-regarded and ultimately it is irrelevant to almost everything in life. When we say to children “What others think of us does not matter,” we need to look closely at ourselves as adults, and ensure that is is true of us as well.

We are a school that strongly emphasises this concept of being who we are. Looking at the challenges children might face by being a little different, validating their uniqueness, and teaching them to be okay with being themselves despite pressure from others to conform to arbitrary social norms is fundamental to their developing confidence and resilience.

In the words of the inimitable Dr Seuss, “Today you are you – that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” The message is simple: Be unapologetically YOU.

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