Self Concept - Simply Psychology (2023)

Self Concept

By Dr. Saul McLeod, published 2008

The self-concept is a general term used to refer to how someone thinks about, evaluates or perceives themselves. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself.

Baumeister (1999) provides the following self-concept definition:

"The individual's belief about himself or herself, including the person's attributes and who and what the self is".

The self-concept is an important term for both social and humanistic psychology. Lewis (1990) suggests that the development of a concept of self has two aspects:

(1) The Existential Self

(1) The Existential Self

This is 'the most basic part of the self-scheme or self-concept; the sense of being separate and distinct from others and the awareness of the constancy of the self' (Bee, 1992).

The child realizes that they exist as a separate entity from others and that they continue to exist over time and space.

According to Lewis awareness of the existential self begins as young as two to three months old and arises in part due to the relation the child has with the world. For example, the child smiles and someone smiles back, or the child touches a mobile and sees it move.

(2) The Categorical Self

(2) The Categorical Self

Having realized that he or she exists as a separate experiencing being, the child next becomes aware that he or she is also an object in the world.

Just as other objects including people have properties that can be experienced (big, small, red, smooth and so on) so the child is becoming aware of himself or herself as an object which can be experienced and which has properties.

The self too can be put into categories such as age, gender, size or skill. Two of the first categories to be applied are age (“I am 3”) and gender (“I am a girl”).

In early childhood. the categories children apply to themselves are very concrete (e.g., hair color, height and favorite things). Later, self-description also begins to include reference to internal psychological traits, comparative evaluations and to how others see them.

Carl Rogers (1959) believes that the self-concept has three different components:

• The view you have of yourself (self-image)

• How much value you place on yourself (self-esteem or self-worth)

• What you wish you were really like (ideal-self)

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Self-image (how you see yourself)

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This does not necessarily have to reflect reality. Indeed a person with anorexia who is thin may have a self-image in which the person believes they are fat. A person's self-image is affected by many factors, such as parental influences, friends, the media etc.

Kuhn (1960) investigated the self-image by using The Twenty Statements Test.He asked people to answer the question 'Who am I?' in 20 different ways.

He found that the responses could be divided into two major groups. These were social roles (external or objective aspects of oneself such as son, teacher, friend) and personality traits (internal or affective aspects of oneself such as gregarious, impatient, humorous).

The list of answers to the question “Who Am I?” probably include examples of each of the following four types of responses:

1) Physical Description: I’m tall, have blue eyes...etc.

2) Social Roles: We are all social beings whose behavior is shaped to some extent by the roles we play. Such roles as student, housewife, or member of the football team not only help others to recognize us but also help us to know what is expected of us in various situations.

3) Personal Traits: These are the third dimension of our self-descriptions. “I’m impulsive...I’m generous...I tend to worry a lot”...etc.

4) Existential Statements (abstract ones): These can range from "I’m a child of the universe" to "I’m a human being" to "I’m a spiritual being"...etc.

Typically young people describe themselves more in terms of personal traits, whereas older people feel defined to a greater extent by their social roles.

Self-esteem (the extent to which you value yourself)

Self-esteem (the extent to which you value yourself)

Self-esteem (also known as self-worth) refers to the extent to which we like, accept or approve of ourselves, or how much we value ourselves.

Self-esteem always involves a degree of evaluation and we may have either a positive or a negative view of ourselves.

High self-esteem (we have a positive view of ourselves)

This tends to lead to

  • Confidence in our own abilities
  • Self-acceptance
  • Not worrying about what others think
  • Optimism

Low self-esteem (we have a negative view of ourselves)

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This tends to lead to

  • Lack of confidence
  • Want to be/look like someone else
  • Always worrying what others might think
  • Pessimism

There are several ways of measuring self-esteem. For example, Harrill Self Esteem Inventory is a questionnaire comprising 15 statements about a range of interests. Another example is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), which is a neutral cartoon given to the participant who then has to devise a story about what's going on.

Morse and Gergen (1970) showed that in uncertain or anxiety-arousing situations our self-esteem may change rapidly. Participants were waiting for a job interview in a waiting room. They were sat with another candidate (a confederate of the experimenter) in one of two conditions:

A) Mr. Clean - dressed in a smart suit, carrying a briefcase opened to reveal a slide rule and books.

B) Mr. Dirty - dressed in an old T-shirt and jeans, slouched over a cheap sex novel.

Self-esteem of participants with Mr. Dirty increased whilst those with Mr. Clean decreased! No mention made of how this affected subjects’ performance in interview.

Level of self-esteem affects performance at numerous tasks though (Coopersmith, 1967) so could expect Mr. Dirty subjects to perform better than Mr. Clean.

Even though self-esteem might fluctuate, there are times when we continue to believe good things about ourselves even when evidence to the contrary exists. This is known as the perseverance effect.

Miller and Ross (1975) showed that people who believed they had socially desirable characteristics continued in this belief even when the experimenters tried to get them to believe the opposite.

Does the same thing happen with bad things if we have low self-esteem? Maybe not, perhaps with very low self-esteem, all we believe about ourselves might be bad.

Argyle (2008) believes there are 4 major factors that influence self-esteem.

1. The Reaction of Others

If people admire us, flatter us, seek out our company, listen attentively and agree with us we tend to develop a positive self-image. If they avoid us, neglect us, tell us things about ourselves that we don’t want to hear we develop a negative self-image.

2. Comparison with Others

If the people we compare ourselves with (our reference group) appear to be more successful, happier, richer, better looking than ourselves we tend to develop a negative self-image BUT if they are less successful than us our image will be positive.

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3. Social Roles

Some social roles carry prestige e.g., doctor, airline pilot, TV. presenter, premiership footballer and this promotes self-esteem. Other roles carry a stigma. E.g., a prisoner, mental hospital patient, refuse collector or unemployed person.

4. Identification

Roles aren’t just “out there.” They also become part of our personality i.e. we identity with the positions we occupy, the roles we play and the groups we belong to.

But just as important as all these factors, are the influence of our parents! (See Coopersmith’s research.)

Ideal Self (what you'd like to be)

If there is a mismatch between how you see yourself (e.g., your self-image) and what you’d like to be (e.g., your ideal-self ) then this is likely to affect how much you value yourself.

Therefore, there is an intimate relationship between self-image, ego-ideal and self-esteem. Humanistic psychologists study this using the Q-Sort Method.

A person’s ideal self may not be consistent with what actually happens in the life and experiences of the person. Hence, a difference may exist between a person’s ideal self and actual experience. This is called incongruence.

Self Concept - Simply Psychology (2)

Where a person’s ideal self and actual experience are consistent or very similar, a state of congruence exists. Rarely, if ever does a total state of congruence exist; all people experience a certain amount of incongruence.

The development of congruence is dependent on unconditional positive regard. Roger’s believed that for a person to achieve self-actualization they must be in a state of congruence.

Michael Argyle (2008) says there are four major factors which influence its development:

  1. The ways in which others (particularly significant others) react to us.
  2. How we think we compare to others
  3. Our social roles
  4. The extent to which we identify with other people

How to reference this article:

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Self concept. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/self-concept.html

APA Style References

Argyle, M. (2008). Social encounters: Contributions to social interaction. Aldine Transaction

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Baumeister, R. F. (Ed.) (1999). The self in social psychology. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press (Taylor & Francis).

Bee, H. L. (1992). The developing child. London: HarperCollins.

Coopersmith, S. (1967). The antecedents of self-esteem. San Francisco: Freeman.

Kuhn, M. H. (1960). Self-attitudes by age, sex and professional training. Sociological Quarterly, 1, 39-56.

Lewis, M. (1990). Self-knowledge and social development in early life. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of personality (pp. 277-300). New York: Guilford.

Miller, D. T., & Ross, M. (1975). Self-serving biases in the attribution of causality: Fact or fiction? Psychological Bulletin, 82, 213–225

Morse, S. J. & Gergen, K. J. (1970). Social comparison, self-consistency and the concept of self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 148-156.

Rogers, C. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centered framework. In (ed.) S. Koch,Psychology: A study of a science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the person and the social context. New York: McGraw Hill.

Further Information

Self-EsteemCarl RogersHumanismSocial RolesPerson Centered TherapySelf-concept Self-concept Book Chapter The Harrill Self Esteem Inventory

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FAQs

What is self-concept in psychology? ›

The individual's belief about himself or herself, including the person's attributes and who and what the self is.” A similar definition comes from Rosenberg's 1979 book on the topic; he says self-concept is: “…the totality of an individual's thoughts and feelings having reference to himself as an object.”

What are the four 4 parts of self-concept? ›

There are 4 components that define the esteem you might feel for yourself: self-confidence, identity, feeling of belonging, and feeling of competence.

What is self-concept in your own words? ›

Self-concept is the image or the idea we have about ourselves. It can be thought of as our perception of our abilities, behaviors and characteristics. It helps us draw a mental picture of who we are—physically, socially and emotionally. We form and develop our self-concept over time.

Why is self-concept important in psychology? ›

A healthy self-concept also has a major influence on psychological and social outcomes—it encourages the healthy development of: Personal and social abilities. Coping skills. Social interaction.

What is self-concept and how does it develop? ›

Self-concept is an individual's knowledge of who he or she is. According to Carl Rogers, self-concept has three components: self-image, self-esteem, and the ideal self. Self-concept is active, dynamic, and malleable. It can be influenced by social situations and even one's own motivation for seeking self-knowledge.

What are the three C's of self-concept? ›

When it comes to achieving success, most research actually points towards pretty clear results: a woman needs confidence to believe in herself, competence to deliver results, and the right connections to create opportunities and lift her up.

What is self-concept in psychology quizlet? ›

Self-concept. An individual's view of self; subjective; mixture of unconscious and conscious thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions. Identity. The internal sense of individuality, wholeness, and consistency of a person over time and in different situations.

What are the 3 dimensions of self-concept? ›

namely biological, social and temporal: If this assumption is applied to the model of self, self can be approached through three dimensions, the biological dimension (biological self), the social dimension (social self) and the temporal dimension (temporal self).

What are the 5 factors of self-concept? ›

The Five-Factor Self-Concept Questionnaire (AF5, García and Musitu, 2009) assesses five specific dimensions (i.e., academic, social, emotional, family, and physical).

What are the 6 factors that influence self-concept? ›

Factors that can influence an individuals self-concept are education, media, appearance, culture, abuse, relationships, gender, income and age.

What is self-concept and why is it important? ›

Our self-concept is an important guiding principle that helps us navigate the world and understand our role in it. Parts of our self-concept may be good or not-so-good for our well-being. That's why learning more about our own self-concept may be beneficial.

How does self-concept affect behavior? ›

A healthy self-concept impacts the questions you typically ask yourself each day, and it affects how you interact with people, how you think about yourself, others, and circumstances. Putting all this together, your self-concept effectively determines what you will do or choose not to do at any given moment in time.

What is the objective of self-concept? ›

To believe in ourselves and change our perceptions of the word around us.To built in our confidence.To keep self doubts away. How the child exhibits? Communicates positive feelings about himself/herself ,accept responsibility,approach new situations with confidence and possess an internal locus of control.

Why is self-concept called the core of personality? ›

Self, in fact, lies at the core of personality. The study of self and personality helps us understand not only who we are, but also our uniqueness as well as our similarities with others. By understanding self and personality, we can understand our own as well as others' behaviour in diverse settings.

What are characteristics of self-concept? ›

The self-concept is a knowledge representation that contains knowledge about us, including our beliefs about our personality traits, physical characteristics, abilities, values, goals, and roles, as well as the knowledge that we exist as individuals.

Where does self-concept begin? ›

Self-concept is first marked by a physical realization that children are separate from their primary caregivers. In the first few months of life, children see themselves as part of their primary caregiver, usually their mother.

How is self-concept learned? ›

It is learned early in life, it categories one's experiences and fits them in a way that makes sense to personal development, and it is actively shaped ongoingly by experiences. that evolves throughout their lives as a result of interacting with their social world, which may include parents, teachers, and peers.

Who proposed the three components of self-concept? ›

One of the founding pillars of psychology, Carl Rogers identified three significant components of self-concept, namely: self-image, self-esteem, and ideal self. Let us look at each of these components in detail.

What is self-concept in humanistic psychology? ›

Central to Rogers' personality theory is the notion of self or self-concept. This is defined as "the organized, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself." The self is the humanistic term for who we really are as a person.

What is Carl Rogers self-concept? ›

Rogers divided the self into two categories; ideal and real self. The ideal self is the person you would like to be and the real self is what you really are. In the real world, a person's ideal self is not consistent with what happens in life with a person.

What are the 4 basic dimensions of self? ›

As you consider your values, it can be useful to think of them in terms of the dimensions of self: physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional.

What is self-concept and self-esteem? ›

Self-esteem is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself, synonymous with self-respect; self-concept is the mental image one has of oneself (both, Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 1993). These terms are related to inferiority feeling, superiority striving, and community feeling.

What are the six types of self concepts? ›

So to facilitate for you, I will describe here six different types: actual-self, ideal-self, ideal social-self, social-self, situational-self and extended-self.

What are the 4 selves of the self concept model? ›

These are the public self, the self-concept, the actual or behavioral self, and the ideal self.

What are the 10 factors of self-concept? ›

Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how the following factors may affect self-concept – age; – appearance; – culture and ethnicity; – disability; – education; employment; gender; – relationships; – sexual orientation; and – unemployment; evaluate how these factors may influence an individual's self-concept.

What causes self-concept? ›

Some of the many causes of low self-esteem may include: Unhappy childhood where parents (or other significant people such as teachers) were extremely critical. Poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence. Ongoing stressful life event such as relationship breakdown or financial trouble.

How does self-concept affects one's identity? ›

The 'self' concept

In general, 'identity' is used to refer to one's social 'face' – how one perceives how one is perceived by others. 'Self' is generally used to refer to one's sense of 'who I am and what I am' and is the way the term is employed in this book. However, these are not dualistic constructs.

How does self-concept affect decision making? ›

Self-esteem impacts your decision-making process, your relationships, your emotional health, and your overall well-being. It also influences motivation, as people with a healthy, positive view of themselves understand their potential and may feel inspired to take on new challenges.

What are the 5 self-concept? ›

The questionnaire evaluates five self-concept dimensions (academic, social, emotional, family, and physical) that represent different qualities that are differentially related to distinct areas of human behavior (Shavelson et al., 1976; Marsh and O'Mara, 2008).

How does self-concept influence your behavior? ›

A healthy self-concept impacts the questions you typically ask yourself each day, and it affects how you interact with people, how you think about yourself, others, and circumstances. Putting all this together, your self-concept effectively determines what you will do or choose not to do at any given moment in time.

What affects self-concept? ›

Your self esteem can be influenced by your beliefs on the type of person you are, what you can do, your strengths, your weaknesses and your expectations of your future. There may be particular people in your life whose messages about you can also contribute to your self esteem.

What are the three factors of self-concept? ›

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.

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