Your self concept is your views of yourself and your role in life. It is how you think about and evaluate yourself. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself.
Carl Rogers (1959) believes that self concept has three different components: (a) the view you have of yourself (self image) (b) how much value you place on yourself (self esteem or self worth) (c) what you wish you were really like (ideal self)
This doesn’t necessarily have to reflect reality. A person’s self image is affected by many factors such as parental influences, friends, the media, etc.
The list of answers to the question ‘who am I?’ probably includes examples of each of the following four types of responses
1. Physical description : I am tall, I have brown eyes, etc
2. Social roles: we are all social beings whose behaviour is shaped to some extent by the roles we play. Such role as students, housewives, or member of the football team not only help others to recognize us but also helps us to know what is expected of us in various situations.
3. Personal traits: these are a 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 such personal traits whereas older people feel defined to a greater extent by their social roles.
SELF ESTEEM AND SELF WORTH
Self esteem refers to the extent to which we accept or approve of ourselves or how much we value ourselves. Self esteem always involves a degree of evaluation and we may either have a positive or 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 and optimism.
LOW SELF ESTEEM
We have a negative view of ourselves. This tends to lead to lack of confidence, wanting to look or to be like someone else, always worrying what others might think and pessimism.
Some psychologists believe that there are four 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 you, we tend to develop a positive self image. If they avoid us, neglect us; tell us things about ourselves 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 self image will be positive.
3. Social roles: some social roles carry prestige e.g. doctor, pilot, TV presenter, footballer and this promotes self esteem. Other roles carry stigma e.g. prisoner, mental hospital patients, refuse collector or unemployed people.
4. Identification: roles aren’t just ‘out there’. They also become part of our personality i.e. we identify 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.
If there is a mismatch between how you see yourself (your self image) and what you’d like to be (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.
A person’s ideal self may not be consistent with what actually happens in life and experiences of the person. Hence a difference may exist between a person’s ideal self and actual experience. This is called incongruence.
Where a person’s ideal self and actual experience are consistent or very similar, a state of congruence exists.
When you have a realistic self concept, you can see both your good points and your weaknesses. Having a positive self concept or feeling good about you may be as important as having a realistic self concept.
Enjoying your good characteristics and being willing to work or accept your faults means that you accept yourself the way you are.