I am a huge supporter of the On Course text and use it frequently when advising and giving workshops to freshmen and new transfers. I have an activity, used often by counseling psychologists, that I use quite often in one-on-one advising sessions but would also be applicable in groups as well. As we all well know, a student’s academic performance can often hampered by a lack of self-confidence or poor self-esteem. These forces, powerful enough to weaken even the most academically gifted student’s performance, are capable of distorting one’s core beliefs and self-image to the point that a permanent Victim role is created in the mind of the student. The following activity is helpful in making students aware that the creation of this negative self-image is often of their own doing, and, as such, must be overcome in order to develop academic and personal confidence. The exercise goes as follows:
1. Have students list their negative characteristics (5-10).
2. Have students list their positive characteristics (5-10).
3. On the list of negative characteristics, have students place a check next to those that they perceived themselves and did not hear attributed to them by someone else.
4. On the list of positive characteristics, have students place a check next to those that are attributed to them by other people (parents, teachers, friends).
For students with low self-esteem, it is most often the case that negative characteristics are their own perception and positive characteristics are those heard from someone else. Students now have a tangible accounting on paper of the fact they are quite often their own worst enemy, and, if so many other people have positive things to say about them, then there must be some credibility to it. The goal is then to have students re-evaluate their self perceptions and recognize the positive qualities that others see in them. This activity is often best used as a springboard to a discussion of the rationality of one’s core beliefs about themselves and to the process of reframing one’s own impressions to a more positive model. It works very well with discussions of the Inner Defender, Inner Critic, and Creator versus Victim language. As the old adage goes….some things have to be seen to be believed. Quite often though, things have to be believed to be seen.
–Bill Elliott, Academic Advisor, University of Maryland Baltimore County, MD