Take care how you speak to yourself because you are listening ~ Unknown

Many books have been written on the subject, many things have been said, many arguments won and many arguments lost.  This article is by no means the dispensing of advice; it is merely a guide as to what the influences are that causes a positive or negative self-concept.

What are the factors that determine self-concept? 

Family Influences

It is by no means a coincidence that family influences are first on the list.  That is where it starts and often where it ends.  Parents and family have a definite influence on the development of the child’s self-concept. If children are seen and not heard, it is a recipe for an adult disaster because family members become role-models for children from an early age.  Children are like sponges, they absorb everything – good and bad the like.  If a child is told something often enough, he or she will believe it.

The Social Environment

As children grow, they are influenced by their environment.  Peer groups and teachers begin to take on an increasingly important role in shaping the self-concept.  Negative feedback will have negative consequences, resulting in a bad self-image. On the contrary, constructive criticism will result in a feeling of confidence with regard to his or her abilities.

Personal Experience

While we cannot control (most) things happening to us in our lives, on most occasions, we can determine our own reactions to these events.  Everyone makes mistakes and we should learn from it.  Learn from others’ mistakes – you will never grow old enough to make them all yourself ~ Eleanor Roosevelt. Successful patterns are just as easily repeated, as negative thought patterns. Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t – you’re right ~ Henry Ford

Building a Positive Self-Concept for Yourself

  • Surround yourself with positive people; positivity is contagious – fortunately the right kind!
  • When you are confronted with self-doubt, remember what you have already achieved;
  • Set achievable, yet challenging goals;
  • Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks;
  • See failure as an opportunity to learn and grow;
  • Use your own achievements to reinforce your image of yourself;
  • Do not at yourself as a failure if you are unsuccessful in one particular task.  We all different talents, try to recognise your own expertise, talents and direction;
  • Work out your own personal strengths in your particular field. Are you an analyser, an organiser or a doer?
  • Ensure that there is a provision made to cover your weaknesses;
  • Keep out of situations in which your weaknesses are likely to be exposed;
  • Seek help if you have been given a task that you know you will be unable to perform successfully;
  • Remember that you cannot always avoid those situations that expose your particular weaknesses. Be flexible;
  • Make the necessary fundamental changes to your situation so you can meet your individual requirements;
  • Seek advice and reflect carefully before making the drastic decision of changing jobs.

Building a Self-Concept Of Your Employees

A motivated and positive employee is a happy employee.  As a manager, you are often expected to create a work atmosphere that is conducive to developing a favourable and positive self-image in the employee.  These factors are:

  • Challenge the employee
  • Giving them Freedom of choice
  • Showing them Respect
  • Be Warm in your demeanour
  • Be in Control as a manager
  • Celebrating employee’s Success

Wait for an opportune time but make sure that the challenge is relevant to the employees’ world of experience.


If an employee is to develop fully, he/she must have the freedom of choice to make meaningful decisions for him- herself.  This will also mean the freedom to make certain mistakes. If he has this freedom he will gradually begin to have faith in his own judgement and ideas.  This will in time lead to fewer mistakes.

When you consider the factors of freedom and challenge in relation to your employees, the following questions may prove useful:

  • Do I encourage employees to try something new and to join in new activities?
  • Do I allow employees to have a say in planning certain courses of action?
  • Do I permit my staff to help to make the rules they follow?
  • Do I distinguish between the work-related mistakes made by the employees and occasions when they have failed personally?
  • Do I avoid unfair and ruthless competition in the workplace?

Remember, a failure is an event – not a person.


Respect the employees’ dignity and consider him to be a worthwhile person. If an employee is treated with respect, his sense of self-respect is increased.  On the other hand, if he is embarrassed and humiliated by the treatment he receives, he will probably lose respect for himself and develop poor regard for others.


People who feel safe within and supported by their working environments feel secure and worthwhile.  A warm and supportive working environment makes the employee feel that he truly belongs to the organisation and is necessary for its effective operation. A manager who is warm and encouraging will use courtesy in preference to sarcasm and will consult with his employees in preference to dictating to them.

Ask yourself the following questions to see how you rate regarding showing respect and warmth to the members of your staff:

  • Do I learn the name of every employee as soon as possible?
  • Do I use the name whenever I can?
  • Do I share my feelings with my employees?
  • Do I practice courtesy with my employees?
  • Do I arrange some time when I can talk quietly alone with each employee?
  • Do I spread my attention around and include each employee in discussions and projects?
  • Do I notice and comment favourably upon those things that are important to employees?

Obstacles are those frightful things we see when we take our eyes off the goal.


A manager that is in control of the operation keeps on top of what he is doing, avoids the appearance of confusion, explains why certain tasks have to be performed and strive to be consistent, polite and fair at all times.

The following questions will help you maintain control in your working environment:

  • Do I remember not to look upon small disciplinary problems as insults?
  • Do I avoid having favourites and ‘victims’ in the work situation?
  • Do I have and do I make sure that my employees have a clear understanding of what is and what is not acceptable?
  • Do I leave a certain amount of room for employees to be active and natural?

Space is a dangerous place – especially if it is between your ears!


Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.  Everyone enjoys the feeling of triumph after successfully completing a project. 

The approval by management results in an increase in enthusiasm and greater self-respect of an employee.

Consider the following questions you could ask yourself about success:

  • Do I permit my employees some opportunity to make mistakes without being penalised for this? Success is not forever, and failure is not fatal.
  • Do I make positive comments on successfully completed tasks?
  • Do I give extra support and encouragement to slower employees?
  • Do I make the most of those opportunities to praise employees for their successes? Remember:  Praise in public, criticize in private.
  • Do I set tasks that are, and that appear to the employee to be within his or her capabilities?

Success hinges on a passion for excellence – John F Kennedy