Self-concept is the global understanding and perception you have of yourself and your relationship to others. It is based on the opinions you have of your social identities and personal qualities. It originates from what you believe about yourself and your views towards your personal existence. Simply put, self-concept is your perception of who you are and how you believe you fit into the world around you.
Your self-concept affects how you think, behave, and act in your various roles throughout life. Taking the time to reflect and focus inward on who you are can help you develop a strong self-concept.
Formation of Self-Concept
As you become aware of yourself as a unique individual, you begin to develop a concept of yourself. That concept is a mental image of how you perceive yourself and who you believe you are. It is formed based not only on how you see yourself, but also how you think others perceive you.
The concept you develop is basically an organized structure of thoughts about your personal existence. This organized mental structure is the totality of your beliefs, values, preferences, attitudes, and attributes.
Aspects of Self-Concept
Self-concept is the way you organize and interpret your inner world of personal existence. It is learned, influenced, organized, multidimensional, and dynamic.
No one is born with a self-concept. It is develop as you grow and make connections with the world around you. It is through interaction with the environment and reflecting on that interaction that you create your concept. It is basically a product of socialization and personal development. The concept of yourself is developed through self-awareness. Mainly, by taking the time to reflect on past and current experiences.
If something is learned, it can be influenced by different factors. Your concept is no different. Your mental concept is formed in a number of ways, but is predominantly influenced by your interactions with other people in your life. Your perceptions can be shaped and can be altered has you have life experiences and interact with others.
You have numerous perceptions regarding yourself and your personal existence, and each perception is arranged along with all the others. You may think that you are intelligent, funny, compassionate, selfish, patient, stubborn, and loving. However, no matter how many different perceptions you have of yourself, there is one perception that supersedes all of these assessments, creating one organized concept of oneself.
Self-concept is multi-dimensional. You have separate beliefs and perceptions about the physical, emotional, and social aspects of yourself. Those various beliefs combine to form one concept.
The concept you have of yourself is a continuous process. It is shaped and reshaped through life experiences. You gain a constant assimilation of new ideas from life experiences. As your life experiences expand, your insight towards yourself may constantly change depending on the way you respond to such changes. You tend to let go of thoughts and ideas that are not congruent with the way you view yourself. You hold on to those that you think are helpful in building a more favorable perception of our personal existence. Although it is dynamic, it is composed of relatively permanent self-assessments. Therefore, it is relatively consistent, stable, and tends to resist change. If self-concept did changed easily, you would lack a consistent personality.
Self-identity is how you identify and define yourself. It is your perception of specific and selective traits, qualities, abilities, and characteristics that represent you. As an individual, you have numerous physical attributes, internal characteristics, social roles, and external connections which make up your personal identity.
Your self-identity is a combination of personality traits, abilities, physical attributes, interests, hobbies, and/or social roles from your personal identity that you specifically selected to identify yourself.
Your personal identity is a composite of all your personality traits, beliefs, values, physical attributes, abilities, aspirations, and other identifiers that make you who you are. It is larger and more encompassing than your self-identity. Your self-identity is just your perspective of your personal identity. You may not perceive or value some of the traits that make up your personal identity, so you do not incorporate them as part of your self-identity. Simply put, personal identity is who you are, while self-identity is who you see or define yourself to be.
Based on Self-Concept
As individuals, we identify ourselves based on our self-concept. Self-concept is how we perceive ourselves. It is this perception of ourselves that leads to the way we define or identify ourselves. Basically, we take our perceptions of ourselves and create our self identity.
Since self identity is based on self-concepts, you will distort your self-identity due to self-image or self-esteem. If you have a low self-image or low self-esteem, you may not perceive yourself as valuable, in turn you will not define yourself as valuable. Therefore, it is important to have a positive self-image and high self-esteem when creating your self-identity. If you have low self-esteem, you should work on increasing that before you focus on creating your self-identity.
Focus of Self-Identity
As earlier indicated, your self-identity is created by combining selective attributes, traits, or social roles from your personal identity. What aspects you chose, how many you chose, and the weight you give those individual aspects is up to you. You may chose to focus your identity on your occupation, or you may choose to keep a broad perspective of your characteristics and attributes. It is up to you.
Many people base their self identity in relation to social context or social roles (e.g. occupation, coach, leader, basketball player, father, mother, etc.). While it is easier for the mind to identify or picture a social role such as a doctor than a personal characteristic like empathic, you want to try to include as many aspects as you can when forming you identity.
Unfortunately, some people create their self-identity in a narrow view. They strongly tie it to just a single or a few parts of your personal identity. However, self identity should encompass much more. Some people firmly tie their self identity to their occupation, and if they lose their job, they often will struggle with finding their self-identity.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. – Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Creating your self-identity
- Do you typically identify yourself by what you do (e.g. architect, software technician, doctor, teacher, interior designer, engineer, etc…)?
- Do you identify yourself with your societal position (e.g. father, sister, friend, leader, etc…)?
- Do you use physical characteristics (e.g. short, tall, balding, blue eyes, curly hair, etc…)?
- Do you tend to identify yourself with your characteristics (e.g. I am a confident, I am smart, I am optimist, I have a positive attitude, etc…)?
Self-esteem is a person‘s opinion or judgment of his or her own worth. It is an emotional evaluation of oneself as to how he or she perceives his or her value to the world and how valuable they feel they are to others. It can also be termed self-worth or self-value. It is often categorized as either positive (high) or negative (low). Positive or high self-esteem is a good opinion of yourself, while a negative or low self-esteem is a poor opinion of yourself.
Self-esteem is based on self-image; how we see ourselves. If we see ourselves in a positive way with good qualities, characteristics, and abilities, we usually have high esteem or self-worth. However, if we see ourselves in a negative way, having few good qualities, traits, or abilities, we most often will have low esteem.
Positive or high esteem gives us the self-confidence to take charge of our life and grow from our experiences and mistakes without the fear of failure or ridicule.
If we have high esteem, we tend to be self-confident, optimistic, aware of our strengths, and accepting of our mistakes. In contrast, negative or low self-worth can cause us to struggle with self-doubt and not grow as individuals to our fullest potential. It can create anxiety, stress, and a sense of loneliness, as well as an increased likelihood of suffering from depression. There are, however, ways to improve esteem so that we can confidently take on the inherent challenges of life.
Role in Self-Development
Positive self-esteem is an essential human need that is vital for personal growth and self-development. The need for positive self-esteem is illustrated as a key component in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow lists esteem as one of the basic human motivations along with other needs including physiological, security, social, cognitive, and aesthetic that a person must satisfy before they can reach his or her fullest potential. Maslow believed that people need both esteem from other people as well as inner esteem (self-esteem). He believed that the need for esteem must be fulfilled in order for an individual to grow as a person and achieve self-actualization.
Self-esteem is often viewed as a personality trait, which means it is likely to be fairly set and consistent throughout a person’s life. A person’s thoughts and feelings about themselves may fluctuate based on their daily interactions and experiences, but a person’s self-worth is more deep-rooted than the ebbs and flows associated with daily life. After the temporary thoughts and feelings dissipate, a person’s normal self-esteem level will return. For example, a test grade can have a temporary impact on how you feel about yourself and your abilities, but after a while those thoughts will dissipate and you will be brought back to your normal level of esteem.
Although self-esteem becomes relatively set and consistent throughout our life, it slowly evolves as we develop an image of ourselves through our experiences and interactions with others. Experiences during childhood play a significant role in the shaping our self-worth.
How we were treated by others when we are growing up contributes to the creation of our self-worth. If we were praised when we did well and supported when we experienced failure, we tended to feel good about ourselves and our abilities. In the contrast, if we did not get recognition when we did well or ridiculed when we made a mistake, we often took it personally and questioned our worth.
Continuous thoughts and feeling of inadequacy, can play a significant role in lowering a person’s esteem. These feelings often build up over time, and letting go of ingrained feelings and beliefs is not easy. It takes time and hard work, but with positive self-imaging and support from others, your esteem can be gradually raised even after years of having low self-esteem. There are some mental conditioning techniques that can be used to help improve self-esteem including positive thinking, visualization, and affirmation.