Building a Positive Self-Concept
Purpose: To help individuals understand the importance and influence of self-concept on communication.
Scripture: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).
Thought: “The dignity of self is greatly enhanced by looking upward in the search for holiness. Like the giant trees, we should reach up for the light. The most important source of light we can come to know is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is the source of inner strength and peace” (James E. Faust).
Key Term: Self-concept – Idea or mental image one has of their own strengths, weaknesses, characteristics, and personality.
Lesson: Heavenly Father wants us to understand we are His children; it is one of the most fundamental doctrines of His gospel. The scriptures teach, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; . . . For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). A true understanding of our heavenly heritage is not only essential to our eternal salvation, but it also helps us to develop an accurate, healthy self-concept.
The self-concept is built during our younger, formative years and is relatively stable thereafter. It is influenced by a number of factors, including:
· Other’s opinions of you (as expressed verbally and non-verbally).
· Comparisons we make with others (including what is seen in media).
· Cultural teachings.
· Self-evaluations of our own behavior.
Jesus said that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), implying the need for a healthy self-image. When we feel positive about ourselves, it is reflected in our communication with others; we are more upbeat, encouraging, and helpful. We are better able to love and serve those around us. Conversely, those with a negative self-concept are not only critical of their own actions, but often exhibit pessimistic, off-putting behavior toward others.
The self-concept can be strengthened by: 1.) Get to know yourself better; understand your strengths, weaknesses, talents, and potential; 2.) Set and work toward realistic goals to track progression and growth; 3.) Make home a warm, comfortable environment where love, appreciation, and affirmation take priority; and 4.) Take time to learn and study gospel principles related to our divine nature. President James E. Faust stated, “May we all have a feeling of personal worth and dignity born of the knowledge that each of us is a child of God, and be strengthened by looking upwards in the pursuit of holiness.”
Activity: Use scratch paper or note cards to write down a wide variety of words often used to describe personalities (about five per person; this website has a list of over 600). Before giving the lesson, spread the note cards out for everyone to see. Have each family member choose and share three they feel best describes themselves. Explain that this image we each have of ourselves is called the self-concept.
For Little Ones: Every child loves to hear the story of how they were born or came into the family. Take time to retell each child’s birth/adoption story, including how their name was chosen. Look at a few photographs of each newborn. Emphasize the positive feelings of love and excitement of welcoming a new member of the family, as well as the eternal nature of their existence.
Challenge: Emory University researchers have found family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help individuals understand who they are in the world. As a result, learning more about family history can strengthen self-concept and increase our ability to achieve desired goals. Take time this week to tell favorite family stories. Be sure to include both those from current and past family members. You may also choose to browse through family photographs or other mementos as a way to share family history and values.
Suggested Music: “O My Father” (Hymns no. 292) or “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns no. 301).
 McCornack and Ortiz, Choices and Connections: An Introduction to Communication, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014.
 James E. Faust, “The Dignity of Self,” Ensign, May 1981, 10.
 Robyn Fivush et al, “Do You Know? The power of family history in adolescent identity and well-being,” Journal of Family Life, 23 Feb. 2010.