Self-concept is described in a few ways. No matter the description, it is essentially the view of one's self – how you see yourself.
Depending on what you read, this can be a view solely of your own devising or a view that is also based on the views of others.
What Is Self-Concept?
The self-concept definition is that the compound word is a general “blanket” term referring to how you perceive yourself. You're aware that you exist, so you have self-concept.
This is also referred to as self-schema. Your identity, under this blanket term, comes from a culmination of the self – if that makes any sense. Breaking things down to the minor details will help you get a better sense of self.
1. Your Existential Self
This is your initial realization that you are not connected to another, but you are yourself. It's the beginning of discovering your self-identity. People have this realization in childhood.
You exist. When you touch things, they move. When you do something, people react.
2. Your Categorical Self
It's after you realize that you exist, and you are a single self, that you also realize you are only a small part of something bigger. You understand that as a person you are also part of the world, though still an individual.
Looking at Your Self-Identity
Who are you? Your self-concept, self-identity, your self-image, stems from who you see yourself as.
While you will be the main determining factor in your opinion of who you are, other people can also affect your opinion. If someone tells you you're worthless, you may begin to feel worthless even if you hadn't prior to them saying it.
There's actually a theory about how people grow into their self-identity. It is referred to as sociocultural psychology or social-cultural perspective. This perspective on the self was brought about by the genius mind of a Russian psychologist named Lev Vygotsky. The theory looks at how children develop their own behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs.
When it comes to self-identity, there are a few things that will help you describe yourself, or answer the question of who you are.
1. Look at Physical Things
These are the basic things about you, the ones you learn at a young age – such as age, eye color, height, weight, etc. Even though there are facts behind these traits, you may see yourself as “too skinny” even at an average weight.
2. Look at Your Personal Traits
This is the part of you that is based on what you're like, as opposed to what you “look” like. Are you friendly or reserved? Do you go with the flow or are you always worried?
3. What are Your Roles in Society?
These are things that mold who you are, but may also be the ways other people see you. Maybe you're a parent or a grandparent. You could be a spouse, a fiancé, or a significant other of some other type. You may be the member of a sports team, a coach, or a mentor.
4. Determining Your Existential Self
These are the less “specific” aspects you see within yourself. This can be as basic as understanding that you're a human being, or as complex as accepting that you're a spiritual being.
Who Is Your Ideal Self?
There is an ideal self and a real self in each person. All people strive to be someone, which is their ideal self. The real self is who you actually are.
The ideal self isn't necessarily even remotely close to your real self, although it can be. It is the people whose real self and ideal self are far apart from each other that tend to live unsatisfied lives.
People base their ideal self-image on the things they've experienced in life, the people that they look up to, and the requirements of society.
Self-Concept – The Difference Between You and What Other People See
When it comes to self-concept, how you see yourself can sometimes get screwed because you allow the opinions other make of you affect your outlook.
A lesson that is difficult to learn comes from the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The fourth agreement tells you not to take things personally – as in not letting the opinions of others affect you personally.
This lesson makes sense when it comes to self-image because you need to learn that the image of you others perceive is more of a reflection of themselves than it is a description of you.
Embrace Your Self-Identity
Improving your self-image begins with finding a way to be happy with yourself. If you can't accept your flaws, you will never be able to grow as a person.