- AuthorPatrice De La Ossa
Dr. Patrice De La Ossa has taught high school psychology, sociology, and humanities for twenty years. She has also been an adjunct professor in a teacher graduate program for ten years. Dr. De La Ossa has a Ph. D. in educational psychology, a M.A. in psychology and B.A. in sociology. Her experience in teaching includes International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.View bio
- InstructorAlicia Trotman
Alicia teaches psychology in areas of culture, society and disability, and she has a doctoral degree in Learning, Technology & Culture.View bio
Learn about self-concept in psychology. Explore the definitions of self-concept and self-image, understand the main theories of self-concept and its development, and read self-concept examples.Updated: 09/29/2021
Table of Contents
- What Is Self-Concept in Psychology?
- Tenets of Self-Concept
- Theories of Self-Concept
- Development of Self-Concept
- Self-Concept Examples
- Lesson Summary
What Is Self-Concept in Psychology?
When people meet other people for the first time they usually introduce themselves by providing information about themselves. People usually provide statements such as "I'm a student" or "I'm a doctor" or "I'm a hiker" to describe who they are. How we view ourselves and the statements we make about ourselves are all part of our self-concept. Self-concept in psychology explores the difference between our actual self and our ideal or imagined self. Our self-concept influences our moods, how we view our physical selves, and who we are as a person. Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist, believed that humans have one basic motive and that is the tendency to self-actualize or reach self-actualization.
To achieve self-actualization, Rogers states that individuals need to have congruence between their ideal self (who they want to be like) and their self-image (actual behavior and who they are). The self-concept according to Rogers has three different components that interact together as our self-concept, they include the view we have of ourselves (self-image), what we wish we were like (ideal-self), and how much value we place on ourselves often defined as (self-esteem/worth). The self-concept psychology definition includes the three main components of self-concept and the interaction of those components as humans strive for self-actualization.
There are three main components of self-concept:
- Self-image- How we see ourselves including physical and cognitive evaluations
- Ideal-self- The person we would like to be or become.
- Self-worth- This is also known as self-esteem which is formed by social interactions and feedback from others.
Self-Image in Psychology
Psychologists are interested in our formation of self-image and the influence it has on our decisions and relationships with others. Self-image is our personal view of how we are and look, or the mental images we have about ourselves. Self-image is the internal inventory that describes us as ugly, beautiful, funny, talented, selfish, or kind. Self-image is not the same as self-concept. Self-knowledge includes knowledge about our character, values, abilities, and emotions. Self-concept is a broad view of who we are physically, mentally, socially, and even spiritually. Self-concept is developed over time and we learn to form and regulate our self-concept based on the knowledge we gain about ourselves and through other's input and feedback.
For example, Ashton believes she is a great musician and looks amazing on stage in her specially designed dresses. Her self-image is positive and she welcomes being on stage and the center of attention. She believes her beauty adds to her performances as a violinist and that everyone loves seeing her perform. As Ashton grows older and performs more she starts to form self-knowledge about her abilities based on her peers and watching other musicians at a higher level. She starts to question her family's assessment and what they have told her about her musical abilities and stage performance. Ashton's self-concept is being developed over time with feedback from others and her own observations.
Our self-concept is a broad view but has some basic tenets, or basic principles believed to be true.
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Tenets of Self-Concept
Self-concept is the combination of self-esteem, self-knowledge, and social self. The ideal image of the self and the actual self negotiate to form a self-concept that changes according to feedback and the outcomes of social interactions. There are five basic tenets of self-concept:
- Change- Self-concept is affected by change that takes place with new social interactions. Individuals gather feedback and observations from social settings and interactions that inform the self-concept.
- Stability- Self-concept is affected by stable and predictable processes of social interaction through which individuals can become more aware of their abilities, feelings, and personality differences. The more opportunities to meet new people in one setting are repeated, the more predictable it is and the more likely it is that it may lead to more opportunities to form a realistic self-concept.
- Protection- Self-concept can help when there are experiences that create a conflict between the actual and ideal self that lead to anxiety, depression, or even violence.
- Problem-solving- Self-concept looks at the bigger picture and can observe and take in information from previous social interactions to help inform future interactions. The self-concept will attempt to evaluate and assist in new interactions based on previous similar interactions.
- Improvement- Self-concept strives to improve for survival. Humans need social interaction and acceptance. The push and pull between the actual self and ideal self promote the development and psychological needs to help individuals to strive to be better in many areas of their lives, for example, a better parent, better student, or better friend.
Humanistic psychologists have studied the concept of self-esteem, self-knowledge, and self-concept. They have formulated theories of self-concept in psychology that are applied to individual behaviors and disorders.
Theories of Self-Concept
Psychological theorists generally agree on the following in terms of self-concept:
- Our self-concept is learned, not inherent.
- Self-concept is the overall idea we have about who we are and our judgments about ourselves.
- Self-concept is influenced by both biological and environmental factors, but social interaction is key to the development.
- Self-concept develops throughout our lifetime but in later years it is more difficult to change because people have established ideas about who they are.
Psychologists have different theories they have developed to explain the concept of self-concept and how they are developed.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow first introduced his theory of the Hierarchy of Needs based on human needs and desires rather than on the problematic behaviors his colleagues were studying in psychology. He believed all humans want to be the best that they can be and he used the term self-actualized to describe this desire. He proposed that people need to have their basic needs met before they can achieve self-actualization. At the bottom of the pyramid, or hierarchy, are physiological needs like food, water, and shelter. Once individuals have those needs met they can move up the hierarchy. The next level is safety, then the next level is love and belonging, and the next level is self-esteem (one of the factors in self-concept). Maslow and Carl Rogers, both humanistic psychologists, each agreed with the concept of self-actualization, where humans strive to reach their full potential.
Carl Rogers was a humanistic psychologist who believed that our personalities are driven by the need for self-actualization. He further argued that self-concept has three core aspects:
- Self-Image - The view we have of ourselves
- Ideal-Self - Who a person wishes they were
- Self-Worth - How much value a person has in themselves
He also proposed that when a person's self-image (how they see themselves) and their ideal image (what they would like to see) are not aligned a person will not see themselves as valued and this will affect their self-worth. When there is little overlap of the self-image and ideal image the self-concept is 'incongruent'. When a person's ideal self and actual experience are consistent or very similar, a state of 'congruence' exists. Very few people have a total state of congruence.
Psychologist Micheal Lewis theorized that the development of individual self-concept has two key components:
- The Existential Self - The realization that an individual exists as separate from others.
- The Categorical Self - The realization that individuals exist as individual objects in the world, with distinct properties, such as age, hair color, and gender. As we grow older, this component also begins to include psychological traits.
These psychologist's theories of self-concept share similarities and assert that self-concept is influenced by social interaction and learning, which happens at different stages of development.
Development of Self-Concept
Social interaction and learning are key to the developmental stages of the self-concept. Psychologists acknowledge that different stages within a lifetime inform the development of self-concept.
Early childhood includes the ages from birth to six years of age. There are different developments of the self-concept because children change so much during early childhood.
Birth to 2-year-olds - Babies need loving relationships to feel secure, which influences the formation of the self-concept. Toddlers start to form a sense of "me" and need firm guidance.
3 to 4-year-olds- Children at this age start to separate themselves and form an identity that is unique to them. They still operate on a prescriptive judgment of their actions and who they are at this stage.
5 to 6-year-olds- This is the age that children start school or are in social settings other than their family. This leads to a formation of "us" and their place in larger groups.
Middle childhood includes the ages of 7 to 11-year-olds. At this stage, children are seeking social acceptance and involvement in social groups. Their involvement in social groups informs their perceptions of themselves and they judge themselves based on feedback from the group and inclusion in the group. They may also be focused on accomplishments that inform their self-concept rather than on behaviors that are judged by social groups.
Adolescents include the ages of 12 to 18-year-olds. This stage is where the evaluation process and development of the self-concept are exploding. Their bodies are growing, they are experimenting with their sense of self, and enjoying greater freedom and independence. Success in areas that adolescents pursue, for example, academics or sports, along with approval from people in their life, has a significant impact on their formation of self-concept. These assessments of self-concept will continue into adulthood.
Psychologists propose that if children do not have supportive loving families and parental figures their self-worth may be impacted early in their childhood and, during developmental phases, the child may have incongruent self-concept where there is a mismatch between the self-image and the ideal self.
Self-concept includes the beliefs a person holds about themselves and often they are both positive and negative. For example, a college student may think of themselves as an intelligent person and works hard to get good grades but they are not athletic and they don't feel comfortable competing or being involved with others that are athletic. They even envy their younger brother who is an athlete, just like their father.
An adult may consider themselves a hard worker, very competent, and an excellent employee but others in their life evaluate them as a horrible spouse or friend because they don't spend time with those people because they work so much. The ideal and self-image may be struggling for congruence causing a different self-concept.
Everyone wants to be the best they can be in their relationships, school, and work. The self-concept definition is a construct that negotiates exchanges and struggles between the ideal self (what we wish we were really like) and the self-image (personal view of self and the mental images of the self). When the ideal self and the self-image are not aligned or there is a mismatch it will impact an individual's self-esteem or self-worth. Humanistic psychologists study self-concept and the impact on individual lives including dysfunctions such as anxiety and other self-esteem issues when the self-concept is threatened. The overall goal for individuals is to achieve self-actualization, which is the desire to be the best we can be in our lifetime. Maslow proposed the Hierarchy of Needs, a visual representation of the progression of needs individuals need to have met before they can reach self-actualization.
Carl Rogers proposed that when there is a healthy overlap of the self-image and the ideal self there is a more congruent and balanced self-concept. Individuals develop their self-concept at different stages throughout their life and each one is important to their self-concept. During developmental processes, individuals may influence the self-worth of their children which is the sense of value or worth perceived by the individual. The self-concept is attempting to create this balance by solving problems, evaluating feedback, seeking change based on social experiences, and improving.
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What is self-concept in psychology?
Self-concept is a broad view of who we are physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. Self-concept is developed over time and we learn to form and regulate our self-concept based on the knowledge we gain about ourselves including from other's input and feedback.
What is the self-concept theory?
The self-concept theory is how someone thinks about, evaluates, or perceives themselves. Theorists proposed that there are components that make up the self-concept and they include the actual self, the ideal self, and self-worth.
What are characteristics of self-concept?
There are several agreed-upon characteristics of the self-concept. They include self- image (how we see ourselves including physical and cognitive evaluations), ideal-self (the person we would like to be or become), and self-worth (this is also known as self-esteem and it is formed by interactions with others).
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Self-concept is how we perceive our behaviors, abilities, and unique characteristics. 1 For example, beliefs such as "I am a good friend" or "I am a kind person" are part of an overall self-concept. Our self-perception is important because it affects our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors.
These are the public self, the self-concept, the actual or behavioral self, and the ideal self.
Definition. Self-concept can be deﬁned as the totality of a. complex, organized, and yet dynamic system. of learned attitudes, beliefs, and evaluative. judgments that people hold about themselves.
Self-concept refers to how people "think about, evaluate, or perceive" themselves. Psychologist Carl Rogers splits the idea of self-concept into three different components, namely self-image, self-esteem, and ideal self.
The Self is a complex and core subject in many forms of spirituality. Two types of Self are commonly considered—the Self that is the ego, also called the learned, superficial Self of mind and body, egoic creation, and the Self which is sometimes called the "True Self", the "Observing Self", or the "Witness".
A person's self-image is based on how they see themselves, while self-concept is a more comprehensive evaluation of the self, largely based on how a person sees themselves, values themselves, thinks about themselves, and feels about themselves.