What Self-Concept Means for Tweens

An important indicator of your tween's worth

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Self-concept refers to the way a person thinks about their abilities in a variety of facets of life, including academics, athletics, and social interactions.

Self-Concept vs. Self-Esteem

Compared to earlier in childhood, tweens have a relatively rich self-view. Due to increasing experiences and improving cognitive skills, the self concept continues to grow as kids move into high school. Self-concept is related to self-esteem, but the terms are not synonymous. A person's concept of himself affects self-esteem. In other words, the self concept refers to a broader understanding of self than self-esteem. In addition, self-esteem is based on an evaluation of one's own abilities, while the self concept is less judgmental in nature.

Self-Concept and the Existential Self

As tweens grow into maturity, they become more aware of what sets them apart. Their view of their distinct self including their character and qualities develops into adolescence. This is an essential building block of self-concept. Without separating oneself separate and apart from others, tweens are unable to see the unique good that comes from themselves alone. As early as a few months old babies start to understand themselves as individuals, but tweens start to dig deeper and see themselves and how they fit into the world.

Self-Concept and the Categorical Self

As tweens develop and recognize their existential self, they are better able to categorize and compare themselves to others. Designations such as age, gender, and size are the starting categories for children as young as 4. In adolescence, however, the categorical self-manifests itself through designations of psychological traits such as patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion. Tweens use these to compare themselves to others. There's been a host of famous tweens of late who believe in not categorizing themselves along gender lines. Miley Cyrus and KeKe Palmer have both mentioned being pansexual, meaning they do not categorize their sexuality. Your tween may be familiar with this theme, but their self-concept should not be affected negatively even if they don't want to label certain aspects of themselves.

Image, Self-Esteem, and the Ideal Self

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  • The summation of the existential and categorical self-converges to form your tween's self-worth and self-esteem. If your tween has a positive view of their own abilities and themselves, they have a high level of self-worth. Negative feelings surrounding what others think of them, pessimism, or desiring to be like someone else are all signs of low self-worth. Talk to your tween about the importance of accepting themselves as they are, while also striving to become their ideal self. Help them set goals to improve the things they think need to change so that they can work toward better self-esteem and reinforce the positive aspects of themselves they enjoy.

  • Manning, Maureen A. Self-Concept, and Self-Esteem in Adolescents. Student Services. February 2007.