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Study Notes

Self-Concept, Self-Image and Self-Esteem

BTEC National

Last updated 6 Sept 2022

In this study note we explain the three related ideas of self-concept, self-image and self-esteem and how emotional development changes through the life stages.


Self-concept is how someone sees themselves and the perception that they hold about their abilities. There are various factors that can affect self-concept, these include: age, sexual orientation, gender and religion. The self-concept is also made up of a combination of self-esteem and self-image.

Self-esteem refers to a person’s feelings of self-worth or the value that they place on themselves.

There are a number of characteristics of high and low self-esteem.

Characteristics of high self-esteem

  • Willing to try new things in their life
  • Can cope well under pressure
  • Emotionally stable and confident
  • Happy to share their ideas and experiences

Characteristics of low self-esteem

  • Feels worthless
  • Reluctant to try new things
  • Struggles in new or challenging circumstances
  • Do not value their own opinions and sensitive to the opinions of others

Factors affecting self esteem

  • Parents/carers teaching problem solving skills from a young age (so that a child feels a sense of achievement) can lead to a positive self-esteem.
  • Learning difficulties at school can lead to a child struggling to complete work or maintain friendships, which can lead to negative self-esteem.


Self-image refers to the way an individual sees themselves, both physically and mentally. An individual’s self-image is developed over time and influenced by the experiences they have encountered.

There are a number of characteristics of a positive and negative self-image.

Characteristics of a positive self-image

  • Feels confident
  • Compares themselves positively with peers
  • Content with how they look and has belief in their own ability
  • Positive feedback received from friends and family on looks and abilities

Characteristics of a negative self-image

  • Doubts own ability
  • Compares themselves negatively with peers and images on social media/TV/magazines
  • Received negative comments from friends and family on physical appearance or mental ability

Factors affecting self-image

  • Early childhood experiences and social interactions eg parents who pass positive comments to a child can help contribute to a positive self-image.
  • Life events or roles eg a child who is captain of the rugby team is more likely to have a positive self-image that a child who is bullied at school

Emotional Development through the life stages


During this stage, infants develop a sense of self and positive self-esteem through secure attachments with their caregivers. This starts with their basic needs being met as a baby.

Early Childhood

By the age of four, the child’s self-esteem develops further through the support they receive outside of the family. Being able to solve problems through puzzles will enhance self-esteem, as will involving the children in scenarios where their opinion is sought. Children who do not receive these experiences may develop low self-esteem.


Several factors affect self-esteem during adolescence. These can include stress within the home, or at school, or a combination of the two. Coupled with the changes that occur during puberty, these can all have an impact on self-image too.

Being bullied or not being accepted by your peers can have detrimental effects on a young person’s self-esteem and can feed into way they feel about themselves. This can lead to anxiety and depression and a sense of not belonging, all characteristics of having low self-worth. This can be intensified by peer pressure, the use of images in the media, social media and the increase in cyberbullying.


Self-esteem continues to develop through adulthood and an individual’s self-esteem may increase through the achievements they have made which, in turn, increases self-worth. During adulthood a person develops a real understanding of who they are and how to deal with situations more effectively and with more confidence.

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