When you see yourself in a positive and healthy light, your life experiences will always be positive and healthy.
Your self-concept (also known as self-construction, self-identity, self-perspective or self-structure), is a collection of beliefs you hold about yourself.
It’s the intelligent and creative use of your potentialities, talents, capabilities, and virtues – and includes your self-identity, lifestyle choices and performance.
It answers the question to ‘Who am I?’
The concept you have of yourself is made up of self-schemas, (long lasting memories that summarize your beliefs, experiences and generalizations in specific behavioral domains). A collection of self-schemas make up your overall self-concept.
Self-concept interacts with self-esteem, self-knowledge, and the social self. It includes your past, present, and future selves, where future selves (or possible selves) represent your ideas of what you want to become.
The perception you have about your past or future selves is related to the perception of your current self.
Self-assessment is the process of getting to know yourself, looking deeply at yourself to determine aspects important to your identity.
Personal identity is not the same as personality. Your self-identity, is defined as the totality of your self-construal (how you construe yourself in the present, based on past conceptions).
According to American psychologist and co-founder of the humanistic approach to psychology, Carl Rogers, self-concept has three different components:
- The view you have of yourself (Self image)
- How much value you place on yourself (Self esteem or self-worth)
- What you wish you were really like (Ideal self)
Your self-concept is therefore important as it influences your behaviors and cognitive and emotional outcomes, including achievement, levels of happiness, anxiety, social integration, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction.
Defining and staying true to who you are
Defining who you are is the vital step in defining your purpose in life, your mission, your goals, and your message. It is what differentiates you from others and what makes you unique.
The first logical step is to determine your identity – who you really are (your personal brand so to speak). Create a profile of yourself, a reflection of your beliefs, values and goals, your characteristics, abilities, talents and character.
Character is what you owe to yourself; your dignity, integrity, effort and self-respect. Character means you take pride in being the absolute best that you can be, living true to your values and with integrity.
Integrity is about doing what you say you’re going to do, being congruent and consistent. It’s adherence to moral and ethical principles – the state of being whole.
Your identity, character and integrity should be integrated into every aspect of your life, and you should stick to it in order for others to see you are consistent and true to yourself and the message you convey.
Investigate your self image
In answering the question of ‘who am I’, you can determine answers in four types:
- Physical description – your gender, body and facial composition
- Your social roles – the roles you play in society, at home and in your career
- Personal traits – your distinguishing qualities or characteristics
- Existential statements (abstract ones) – such as: I’m a spiritual being…
Self esteem and self-worth
Self esteem refers to the extent in which you accept or approve of yourself, or how much you value yourself. There are five major factors that influence self esteem:
The way you grew up – what your parents said about you, and what you believed about what they said is true.
The reaction of others – If people admire, flatter you or seek out your company, listen attentively and agree with you – you tend to develop a positive self-image. If they avoid and neglect you, or say bad things about you – you develop a negative self-image.
Comparing yourself to others – If the people you compare yourself with (your reference group) appear to be more successful, happier, richer, better looking than you, you tend to develop a negative self image – but if they’re less successful than you – your image will be positive.
The social roles you play – Some social roles carry prestige, for instance being a doctor, pilot, professor or sports star, and thus in itself promote self-esteem. Other roles carry stigma for instance, ex-prisoner, mental patient, chronic illness or being unemployed.
Identifying – These roles become part of your personality – as you identity with the positions you occupy, and the groups you belong to.
Through these ,you may have developed either a positive or a negative view of yourself which you need to regulate:
- Self acceptance
- Confidence in your abilities
- Not care what others think
Low self esteem:
- Don’t love or respect yourself
- Lack of confidence
- Want to be or look like someone else
- Always worrying what others may think
Self-concept and ego
The ego is an identity of your own construction – all the beliefs of what you are – your personality, talents, and abilities – a mental construct of yourself, but which is sometimes artificially inflated by ego.
The negative beliefs about yourself make up your negative self-esteem, while your positive thoughts comprise positive self-esteem. Together, the negative and positive esteem forms your ego.
Ego is an active and dynamic part of your personality, that can play out as emotional drama. When you have certain thoughts, and agree with conviction that these ideas define you, then you are building, or reinforcing an ego.
For instance, a person who’s hard on himself with much inner critic and feelings of worthlessness, may want to mask the pain with bravado, but struggling internally with feelings of insecurity, worthlessness and inadequacy.
Confidence without arrogance, humility without insecurity, are manners of personality without the self-image dynamics of the ego.
Your ideal self
If there is a mismatch between how you see yourself (your current self image) and what you’d like to be (your ideal self ) – it may affect how much you value yourself.
This is called incongruence, as opposed to congruence where your ideal self and actual self experiences are consistent or very similar. For you to achieve self-actualization you must be in a state of congruence.
Inside you and everyone else, exists the desire for purpose and meaning. And you can only live your purpose, or create more meaning in your life, through self-actualization – meaning, when you maximize your potential, and doing the best you are capable of doing.
Abraham Maslow proposed that self-actualization is the final level of psychological development, which could only be achieved once all other basic needs were met, allowing you to focus on reaching your full potential.
He saw self-actualization as the highest degree of intellectual human development. As he quoted: “What a man can be, he must be.”
Self-actualization is the realization of your full potential, finally reaching the apex of human existence. In other words, becoming everything you’re capable of becoming.
So you can – no… you must – reach inside and pull yourself to a level where what you do, is truly filled with purpose, taking full advantage of your talents and abilities.
The theory put forward by psychology, holds that you self-actualize in a way that’s congruent with your conditions of self-worth. Meaning you may ignore or distort messages and experiences that don’t support your self-worth or self-concept, as you try to self-actualize.
It’s therefore critical to form a worthy self-concept, congruent with your natural abilities and talents in so to successfully self-actualize.
Ways to pursue self-actualization
Have a purpose, a path charged with meaning – have a mission in life, some task to fulfill, some problem outside yourself to solve for the greater good.
Know your core strengths – this will help you save time and focus on what comes naturally to you.
Accept your own human nature – with all its shortcomings, with all its discrepancies from the ideal image without demanding that it be otherwise.
Craft a vision for the person you’re becoming – The clarity this brings is undeniable – and by making a full hearted commitment to achieve it, you can truly self-actualize.
Draft a personal development plan – A clear step by step plan will help you cut through distraction and focus on what’s most important.
Follow what you love – all those things that light your fire and ignite your curiosity. See where it will take you. It’s an awesome adventure of discovery and growth.
Follow a focused path toward self-mastery – Know how to overcome resistance is critical if you want to actualize your potential. Learn and master everything needed.
Embrace the unknown – accept it, become comfortable with it and be attracted by it.
Learn how to stay centered – become mentally and emotionally confident, focused, and well-balanced.
Do not seek to shock or disturb – go through the ceremonies and rituals of convention with a good-humored shrug and with the best possible grace.
Be motivated by growth, not by the satisfaction of needs – attempt to grow to perfection and to develop more and more fully in your own style.
Feel identification, affection and compassion – towards the entire human race. Become capable of more fusion and greater love.
Always be grateful – never take your blessings for granted, and maintain a fresh sense of wonder towards the universe.
Resist enculturation – don’t be passively molded by culture – deliberate and make your own decisions.
Have a code of ethics and live it with integrity – ethics that are individualized and autonomous rather than being dictated by society. Integrity is sticking to your guns.
Do only what you highly value – for complete fulfillment, your daily life should be consistently filled with only the what you highly value. It’s only then that you can live intentionally and congruently with momentum and balance – totally being who you truly want to be.
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