Self-Focusing in Adolescence

It's all about them

What is Self Focusing?

The terms self-focusing and self-consciousness tend to go hand in hand. It's the ability to reflect on your own thoughts and actions. The transition from elderly children to adolescents brings with it the development of complex and effective thinking, also known as abstract thought. This begins to develop around the same time as the many physical changes, which leads adolescents to think more about themselves. Because they are able to compare themselves to those around them, whether its through appearance, stature, athletic performance etc.., they can notice differences whether they are perceived as good or bad. At this stage of life we begin to see two patterns of thought arise: Imaginary Audience and Personal Fable.

Teenage girl freaks out over haircut

Imaginary Audience

"...youth assume that other people are as concerned about their behaviors and appearance as they are, themselves (Higa, 2008)" This explains why teens put such a considerable amount of effort into their appearance. Say for instance your teen does not get invited to a friends house, they will take it offensively, this is due to the fact they believe they are "in the spot-light". Also, if there is something wrong with their appearance they will believe that it is easily noticed by everyone. A critical comment or remark holds a much greater burden because teenagers believe everyone is monitoring their lives.

Personal Fable

"Certain that others are observing and thinking about them, teenagers develop an inflated opinion of their own importance - a feeling that they are special and unique (Berk, 2010)." Much like imaginary audience, this way of thinking leads teenagers to believe that their experiences are unique and set apart from every other teenager. Each accomplishment will feel as though they have set the standard, likewise, during times of hardships they will be worse than anyone has every experienced. A teenager's personal fable also explains why teenagers have a feeling of invincibility, because they are "unique" and set apart from everyone else, there is no way anything could go wrong.

Is there anything good about Self-Focusing???

Yes! These ways of thinking can serve as a protective function, "when asked why they worry about opinions of others, adolescents responded that others' evaluations have important real consequences - for self-esteem, peer acceptance and social support (Berk, 387)." All of which are necessary for everyday functioning. So just because your teen is having the "worst day of their life" rest assured, this is a normal part of their development as an adolescent.


Berk, Laura. E., (2010). Development through the lifespan. Boston, Massachusetts. Allen & Bacon.

Higa, C. K., Phillips, L. K., Chorpita, B. F., & Daleiden, E. L. (2008). The structure of self-consciousness in children and young adolescents and relations to social anxiety. Journal Of Psychopathology And Behavioral Assessment, 30(4), 261-271. doi:10.1007/s10862-008-9079-z