What is your self-concept and how does it affect well-being?
The self-concept is the image we have of our bodies, capabilities, impressions, etc.... (Bailey, 2003). It includes:
Our self-concept also includes an awareness that we are part of categories—categories based on our age, gender, race, etc... Some people theorize the self-concept is like the glue that holds all the pieces of our personality together. And, at its most basic, self-concept is the answer we give when asked the question "Who am I?"
Why Does the Self-Concept Matter?
Each of us has parts of ourselves that we believe are the most important (Epstein, 1973). For example, an athlete might view their athleticism to be of central importance to their self-concept, even though they also enjoy cooking and are part of a big family. Some have even suggested that the self is arranged hierarchically, with relatively important parts above less important parts. But each of us decides which parts are important to us.
As we experience new things and gain additional information from others, the self-concept may determine which new aspects of personality are acceptable. If new parts don't jive with the old parts, they may not be allowed, thus ensuring that our sense of self remains reliable and intact (Epstein, 1973). As we grow older, contradictory evidence may have less of an impact on our self-concept. So, it can become harder to integrate external information, particularly if it disrupts important aspects of the self-concept.
How Does Self-Concept Relate to Well-Being?
Several aspects of the self-concept also play a role in well-being. These include:
The terms self-image and self-concept are sometimes used interchangeably, but more often, self-image is defined as how you see yourself. This may be literal, like when looking in the mirror. But it can also involve mental representations of yourself. These may or may not be consistent with what one sees in the mirror.
Self-Esteem or Self-Worth
Self-esteem is broadly defined as the extent to which we like or value ourselves. This generally includes evaluating two parts of ourselves (Tafarodi & Swann Jr, 2001).
The ideal self is defined as the self we would like to be—our best self. It appears to originate from the ideal selves that our parents hold for us and communicate to us through childhood Zentner & Renaud, 2007).
In positive psychology, the ideal self is thought to include three parts (Boyatzis, & Akrivou, 2006).
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.
Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.