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Your Self-Concept: Who You Believe You Are

Your Self-concept
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You will never see the good in the world if you cannot see the good in yourself, first.

Low self-esteem and a poor self-concept can become serious issues for creative individuals. As creatives and artists, whether you write, paint, sing, dance, tell stories, design, bake, or identify and solve problems, you are constantly facing judgment and criticism about your work. 

Oftentimes, it can seem as if the criticism and judgments are personal. And well, sometimes it is. But what is so frustrating is the wear and tear it can have on your self-concept.

Here, I’d like to explore with you our self-concept and its significance in our lives, particularly for creative individuals. We will explore how self-concept is influenced by various internal and external factors shaping our understanding of who we are and how we perceive ourselves. 

Just as importantly, we will examine the stages of self-discovery and self-recovery, offering insights into how they impact our personal growth and development.

So, let’s dive in.

Imagine You: What Is Your Self-Concept

Our self-concept, the image we have of ourselves, is influenced by many forces, including our interaction with important people in our lives. It is how we perceive our behaviors, abilities, and unique characteristics.

The Self-Concept and Your Collection of Beliefs

For example, beliefs such as “I am a good friend” or “I am a kind person” are part of an overall self-concept.

At its most basic, self-concept is a collection of beliefs we hold about ourselves and how others respond to us in life. It doesn’t necessarily embody the answer to the question: “Who am I?”

Instead, it embodies the question, “Who do I believe I am based on how others interact with me and how do I feel about it?” I know that’s a lot right?

But knowing this is important because it affects our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors. It also affects how we feel about the person we believe we are, including whether we are competent or valuable as a person–yes, a question of self-worth. 

Self-Concept and Age

Self-concept tends to be more malleable when we’re younger and still going through self-discovery and identity formation. But that doesn’t always mean that as we age we automatically learn who we are and what we value. 

While these self-perceptions become much more detailed and organized as we age, it doesn’t always mean we become more aware or conscious of who we are as we get older.  Perceptions can get distorted and we can lose our way on our self-awareness and personal growth journey.  

For this reason, we say at Blue Lotus Living, “Your self-recovery process is just as crucial as your self-discovery process. Accordingly, let’s take a look at, the forces that influence our self-concept.

The Forces That Influence Our Self-Concept

And yes, it is shaped by many forces that influence our sense of identity. These forces encompass various internal and external factors, including social, cultural, psychological, and biological influences. 

Understanding the forces that contribute to the formation and development of our self-concept can provide valuable insights into the complexities of human identity and behavior. And here we explore 5 highly impacting forces that play a significant role in shaping our self-concept.

Social Interactions and Relationships Influence Our Self-Concept

One of the most influential forces on our self-concept is our social environment, including our interactions with family, friends, peers, co-workers, neighbors, and society at large. 

Of course, it would be fantastic to believe that our self-concept isn’t influenced by others, but it is.  And until we reach a higher level of self-actualization and tap into the authentic self, others’ judgments and perceptions do influence how we feel about who we perceive we are.

To this degree, it’s as if we are on a feedback loop. Positive feedback tends to enhance our self-esteem and reinforce a positive self-concept, while negative feedback may lead to self-doubt and a more negative self-concept.

Subsequently, this reciprocal link between self-esteem and social relationships implies that the effects of a positive feedback loop accumulate over time and could be substantial as people go through life.

The Looking Glass Self

Hence, the notion of the looking-glass self explains that we see ourselves reflected in other people’s reactions to us and then form our self-concept based on how we believe other people see us.

The looking-glass self was first introduced by American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley in 1902. According to Cooley, the process of discovering the looking-glass self occurs in three steps: 

  1. An individual in a social situation imagines how they appear to others. 
  2. That individual pictures others’ judgment of that appearance. 
  3. The individual develops feelings about and responds to those perceived judgments.

This process is further complicated by the context of each interaction and the nature of the people involved (family, friends, co-workers, spiritual leaders, etc.). Not all feedback carries the same weight, for instance. People may take the responses from those they trust more seriously than strangers. 

Ultimately, the process of the looking-glass self is one of alignment. People seek consistency between their internal and external worlds.

As a result, we continue to perceive, adjust, and strive for equilibrium throughout our lives.

Cultural and ethnic identity has a strong influence

Thus, cultural and ethnic backgrounds strongly influence our self-concept. Our cultural heritage is values, beliefs, and traditions. Our cultural values, beliefs, and traditions provide a framework for understanding ourselves and our place in society. 

Subsequently, cultural norms and expectations influence our self-concept.  How? Our cultural norms and expectations shape our attitudes, behaviors, and self-perceptions. The extent to which we identify and internalize our cultural identity impacts how we view ourselves. Not only that, but it can impact our interactions with others. 

Cultural factors such as language, religion, customs, and societal expectations contribute significantly to the formation of our self-concept.

Psychological factors do influence our self-concept

Psychological experiences also play a critical role in shaping our self-concept. Our cognitive abilities, emotions, and personality traits influence how we perceive ourselves. For example, individuals with high self-efficacy, or belief in their capabilities, will have a more self-caring and positive self-concept. 

Furthermore, self-esteem, which reflects our overall self-worth and evaluation, is another crucial psychological factor influencing our self-concept. Early life experiences, including attachment patterns and childhood upbringing, can shape our self-concept. This happens because these factors have such an influence on our sense of security, worthiness, and confidence.

As such, unresolved and unhealed trauma wounds can have a significant impact on our self-concept.

Media and societal Influences can affect our self-concept

In today’s interconnected world, media plays a significant role in shaping our self-concept. Advertising, social media, and entertainment industries often portray idealized standards of beauty, success, and happiness.

We are constantly sold something. And media campaigns psychologically affect how we perceive ourselves. Thus, creating desire associated with our self-perceptions. In other words, we may believe, “I will look and feel successful if I have this car.” Similarly, we may think “I will be beautiful if I buy this make-up worn by this celebrity.”

Such influences can lead to social comparison. In this process, we evaluate our self-worth based on how we measure up to societal ideals.

And nowadays, to maintain our happiness and autonomy, developing media literacy and critical thinking skills is necessary. It is necessary because it mitigates the potentially negative impact media has on our self-concept.

Biological and genetic factors influence our self-concept

Biological and genetic factors contribute to our self-concept through their influence on our physical characteristics, temperament, and predispositions. 

Additionally, genetics, hormones, and neurological processes play a role in shaping our behavior, personality traits, and emotional responses. All of which in turn influence our self-concept.

For instance, genetic tendencies for personality traits, such as introversion or extroversion, can impact how we perceive and define ourselves.

The Self-Concept and Self-Esteem – How Do You Really Feel About Yourself? 

And with all these factors influencing our self-concept, the next question is a question of self-esteem.  How do we feel about ourselves? 

Once more, self-esteem refers to the overall evaluation and perception of our self-worth and value. It reflects how we feel about ourselves and plays a significant role in shaping our self-concept. 

High self-esteem is characterized by positive self-regard, self-image, self-acceptance, and confidence in our abilities. Individuals with high self-esteem are more likely to have a positive outlook on life, handle challenges more effectively, and have healthier relationships.

Low Self-Esteem and a Low Self-Perception

Conversely, low self-esteem is associated with negative self-perception, self-doubt, and a lack of confidence. People with low self-esteem often experience feelings of self-criticism, and self-consciousness, and may struggle with self-acceptance. 

They may be more prone to anxiety, depression, and difficulties in asserting themselves. Low self-esteem can be influenced by various factors such as negative life experiences, childhood upbringing, societal pressures, religious pressures, and internalized criticism.

In this manner, it is important to note that self-concept and self-esteem are interconnected and can mutually influence each other. A positive self-concept, characterized by a realistic and balanced view of ourselves, is often associated with higher self-esteem. 

On the other hand, a negative self-concept, shaped by self-doubt and negative self-perception, tends to lead to lower self-esteem.

Healthy Self-Esteem

Developing a healthy self-concept and positive self-esteem is a continual journey. It requires self-reflection, self-compassion, and self-acceptance. 

That being so, strengthening supportive relationships, setting realistic goals, and engaging in activities that bring a sense of accomplishment are effective ways to empower our self-esteem. 

Are You in the Stage of Self-Discovery or Self-Recovery

On the journey of developing a positive and productive self-perception, we are either in a self-discovery stage in our journey or a self-recovery. 

Why?  Because sometimes we are discovering who we are and at other times we may be recovering who we are. But how do you know what stage you are in?  And what’s the difference? 

Since, the self-concept is not a static entity but rather a dynamic and evolving process, understanding which stage we are in can provide valuable insights into our personal growth and development.

The State of Self-Discovery

The stage of self-discovery is often experienced during adolescence and young adulthood, but it can occur at any point in life when we embark on a journey of self-exploration. 

During this stage we:

  • actively seek to understand our values, beliefs, interests, and goals. 
  • may question societal expectations, 
  • challenge conventional norms, and explore different aspects of our identity. 
  • have frequent periods of introspection and self-reflection where we embrace curiosity, engage in new experiences, 
  • and develop a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals.

The State of Self-Recovery

Wherefore, the stage of self-recovery occurs when we 

  • have undergone significant life changes,
  • are facing challenging circumstances that have disrupted our sense of self. 
  • acknowledged and are ready to heal from trauma,
  • experienced a significant loss,
  • are going through a major life transition, or even a period of self-doubt and low self-esteem. 

In this stage, we strive to regain a sense of stability, rebuild our self-concept, and rediscover our strengths and values. It involves a process of healing, self-acceptance, and reclaiming our identity in the face of adversity.

What stage are you in?

So, how can we determine which stage we are in? The key lies in self-awareness and reflection. 

In the stage of self-discovery, we may find ourselves actively seeking new experiences, exploring different interests, and questioning established beliefs and values. We are open to self-exploration and excited about the possibilities of shaping our identity.

In contrast, the stage of self-recovery focuses on healing, rebuilding, and regaining a sense of self that may have been temporarily lost or shaken. We may engage in introspection, seek support from others, and work towards restoring our self-confidence and self-esteem.

While these stages may seem distinct, they are very much interconnected. For example, you may go through a self-recovery stage to rebuild your self-concept and restore your self-esteem after a divorce or break-up.  

However, when your self-esteem is restored, you may begin questioning how you perceive your gender role or discover a new spiritual practice (self-discovery stage).

For many reasons, it is possible to move back and forth between self-discovery and self-recovery throughout our lives. Life is filled with continuous growth, challenges, and transformations, and these experiences can trigger a need for self-reflection and adjustment.

Give yourself grace in each stage

So, regardless of the stage we are in, the journey toward a positive self-concept calls for self-compassion, patience, and an open mind. Both self-discovery and self-recovery offer opportunities for personal growth, increased self-awareness, and a deeper understanding of our authentic selves. 

Undergoing these stages with grace and self-acceptance allows us to build a stronger sense of identity, make choices aligned with our values, and live a more fulfilling, rich, and happy life.

And if you need help, get it

And hey, note to self, self-discovery, and self-recovery are deeply personal processes, and each individual’s journey will be unique.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help while in these stages of building or rebuilding your self-concept. While friends and family can provide support and encouragement,  professionals can provide guidance and perspective along the way. 

Therefore, regardless of the stage, it can be an opportunity for growth, resilience, and self-empowerment as we continue to shape and redefine our self-concept throughout our lives.

Stay on Purpose for Self-Actualization

Even as we develop our self-concept or restore our self-esteem, we must remember, the goal is self-actualization and self-realization.  Influences can have their impact and we can move through states of rebuilding and building, but it is knowing who we are and giving our life purpose that will lead to fulfillment.

As creative individuals, we may encounter heightened levels of judgment and criticism, adding an extra layer of complexity to our self-concept.

However, we possess the power to shape our self-perception in a way that brings joy to our souls and peace to our minds. By recognizing our unique abilities, talents, and qualities, we can cultivate a self-concept that is resilient and empowered.

Remember, self-actualization is a continuous process that requires deep introspection, self-awareness, and the alignment of our actions with our values and passions. By staying true to ourselves and aligning with our purpose, we can tap into our full potential and lead a fulfilling life.

By staying on the path of self-actualization and self-realization, we can transcend the influences that seek to define us and instead create a self-perception that reflects our authentic, creative, and empowered essence.

And finally, let’s continue to explore the power within us as we live a life that emits joy, peace, beauty, and inspiration.