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Getting to Know Yourself: Exploring Self-Concept and its Evolution



Your self-concept is essentially a mosaic of all the elements that define who you are. When you ponder the question, "Who am I?" the beliefs and characteristics that come to mind form the essence of your self-concept. It's a blend of how you perceive yourself, your grasp of your personality traits, and the significance you attach to certain activities and values in your life.


Examples of self-concept can range from how we view our personality traits (like whether we're outgoing or more reserved) to how we define our roles in life (such as being a parent, sibling, friend, or partner). It also encompasses our passions and interests, like being passionate about sports or identifying with a particular political affiliation. Additionally, it includes how we assess our contributions to society and our interactions with the world around us.


Understanding our self-concept is crucial because it shapes our motivations, attitudes, and behaviours. It influences how we perceive our competence and self-worth, profoundly impacting our emotional well-being.


As we talked about self-esteem three weeks ago, and self-belief a week ago, it is helpful to remind ourselves of the distinction among the concepts. While self-esteem involves a global evaluation of one's overall worth e.g., "I feel proud to be a good dancer", self-concept is a broader term encompassing beliefs about various aspects of oneself e.g., "I am a good dancer", and self-belief is task-specific confidence in one's abilities e.g., "I believe in my ability to win that dance competition". These concepts work together to shape an individual's perception and experience of themselves.


At its core, self-concept is a collection of beliefs about who we are and how others perceive us. If you want to grasp your self-concept better, it's helpful to reflect on what defines you as an individual. These reflections can offer valuable insights into your self-concept.

What are your traits? What activities or interests do you enjoy? How do you generally feel about yourself?



Rogers' Three Parts of Self-Concept

American psychologist Carl Rogers dissected the notion of self-concept into three distinct components: self-image, self-esteem, and ideal self:


  • Self-image represents how an individual perceives themselves or how others perceive them.

  • Self-esteem pertains to the value one places on their own sense of identity.

  • The ideal self embodies the image of who an individual aspires to be.


Rogers visualised these components as vertices of a triangle, with the ideal self positioned at its base, suggesting its fundamental role in shaping one's identity. According to Rogers, striving to bridge the gap between the real and ideal selves is a pivotal aspect of self-discovery. This pursuit aims to align one's actual identity with their envisioned ideal, leading to a state of congruence. Overcoming the disparity between these selves, known as incongruence, is seen as a pathway towards self-acceptance and fulfilment.



In simpler words, picture your mind as a house with three rooms: the "Me" room, the "Ideal Self" room, and the "Not Me" room.


The "Me" room is where you keep all the stuff you know about yourself. It's like a big file cabinet filled with facts—your name, your hobbies, your talents, and even your quirks. This room is all about self-awareness, knowing who you are at this moment in time.


Next, we have the "Ideal Self" room. This room holds your dreams and aspirations, the person you wish you could be. Maybe you imagine yourself as a rock star, a scientist, or a superhero. Whatever it is, this room represents your goals and ambitions, painting a picture of your ideal future self.


Finally, there's the "Not Me" room. This room is where you stash all the stuff that doesn't fit with your self-image. Maybe you're not athletic, or you're not good at math. Whatever it is, this room is filled with things you don't identify with, things that don't feel like "you."


But here's the cool part—your self-concept isn't set in stone. It's more like clay, something you can mould and shape over time. As you grow and learn, your self-concept can change and evolve.


For example, let's say you used to think you were terrible at art because you could never draw a straight line. But then, one day, you discover you're pretty good at sculpting. Suddenly, your "Not Me" room gets a little emptier, and your "Me" room expands to include "artist" as part of your identity.


Or maybe you've always dreamed of being a doctor, but you never thought you were smart enough. Then, after years of hard work and dedication, you finally get into medical school. Suddenly, your "Ideal Self" room starts to look a lot more like reality.



One of the key components of self-concept is self-awareness—the ability to introspectively examine and understand ourselves. Through self-awareness, we gain insight into our strengths, weaknesses, desires, and fears. It empowers us to navigate life with clarity and purpose, making informed decisions that align with our authentic selves.


Moreover, self-concept influences how we perceive and interact with others. It serves as the lens through which we interpret the world around us, shaping our relationships and social interactions. When our self-concept is positive and healthy, we're more likely to form meaningful connections and foster supportive environments.


So, how can we nurture a healthy self-concept amidst life's challenges? It begins with self-acceptance—the unconditional embrace of ourselves, flaws and all. By acknowledging and embracing our imperfections, we free ourselves from the shackles of self-doubt and insecurity. We learn to celebrate our uniqueness and recognise the beauty in our individuality.


Furthermore, self-reflection serves as a powerful tool for self-discovery. Taking the time to introspectively examine our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours allows us to uncover the underlying beliefs and assumptions that shape our self-concept. Through self-reflection, we gain insight into our motivations, aspirations, and values, empowering us to live authentically and purposefully.


In conclusion, your self-concept is fluid, not fixed. It can change and grow as you experience new things and learn more about yourself. These rooms shape how you see yourself and the world around you, but they're not set in stone. With time and effort, your self-concept can change and evolve, opening up new possibilities and opportunities for self-discovery. So go ahead, take a journey into the depths of your own mind—you never know what you might find.


For additional assistance and guidance, contact us at The Open Mind Institute, we're here to help!


Xin Yi Ng (Michelle)

Research & Development Lead

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