Learning ObjectivesDefine self-concept and discuss just how we construct our self-concept.Define self-esteem and also discuss how we develop self-esteem.Explain exactly how social compare theory and also self-discrepancy theory affect self-perception.Discuss how social norms, family, culture, and also media affect self-perception.Define self-presentation and also discuss common self-presentation strategies.

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Just together our tardy of rather affects how we communicate, so does our perception of ourselves. Yet what impacts our self-perception? just how much that our self is a product that our very own making and how lot of that is constructed based upon how others react to us? how do we present ourselves to others in methods that preserve our feeling of me or an obstacle how others watch us? we will start to answer these inquiries in this section as we explore self-concept, self-esteem, and self-presentation.


Self-concept refers to the overall idea of who a human being thinks the or she is. If ns said, “Tell me that you are,” her answers would be clues as to how you check out yourself, your self-concept. Each person has an as whole self-concept that could be encapsulated in a quick list that overarching characteristics that that or she find important. However each person’s self-concept is likewise influenced through context, definition we think differently about ourselves depending upon the instance we are in. In part situations, personal characteristics, such as our abilities, personality, and also other differentiating features, will finest describe who we are. Friend might think about yourself to adjust back, traditional, funny, open minded, or driven, or you might label you yourself a leader or a thrill seeker. In various other situations, our self-concept might be bound to group or cultural membership. Because that example, girlfriend might consider yourself a member the the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, a Southerner, or a member the the monitor team.

Our self-concept is likewise formed v our interactions through others and their reaction to us. The principle of the spring glass self explains that we view ourselves reflect in other people’s reaction to us and also then form our self-concept based on how we think other people see us.<1> This reflective procedure of structure our self-concept is based on what other civilization have in reality said, such together “You’re a great listener,” and also other people’s actions, such as coming to you because that advice. These thoughts evoke emotionally responses that feed right into our self-concept. For example, you may think, “I’m happy that people can count on me to listen to your problems.”

We additionally develop ours self-concept v comparisons to various other people. Society comparison theory claims that us describe and also evaluate ourself in state of how we to compare to various other people. Society comparisons are based upon two dimensions: superiority/inferiority and similarity/difference.<2> In regards to superiority and also inferiority, we evaluate qualities like attractiveness, intelligence, strong ability, and so on. Because that example, you might judge yourself to be an ext intelligent 보다 your brothers or much less athletic 보다 your finest friend, and also these judgments are integrated into your self-concept. This procedure of comparison and also evaluation no necessarily a poor thing, but it have the right to have negative consequences if our reference team isn’t appropriate. Reference teams are the groups we usage for society comparison, and they typically change based ~ above what we are evaluating. In regards to athletic ability, countless people select unreasonable reference teams with i m sorry to engage in society comparison. If a male wants to acquire into better shape and also starts an exercise routine, he might be discouraged by his difficulty keeping up v the aerobics instructor or to run partner and also judge himself as inferior, which can negatively influence his self-concept. Making use of as a recommendation group civilization who have only freshly started a fitness program however have presented progress could help maintain a much more accurate and also hopefully confident self-concept.

We additionally engage in society comparison based on similarity and also difference. Because self-concept is paper definition specific, similarity may be desirable in part situations and also difference much more desirable in others. Determinants like age and also personality may influence whether or no we desire to fit in or stand out. Although we compare ourselves to others throughout our lives, adolescent and also teen years typically bring new pressure to be comparable to or different from details reference groups. Think of all the cliques in high school and also how people voluntarily and involuntarily damaged off right into groups based on popularity, interest, culture, or great level. Some children in your high school probably wanted to fit in with and also be comparable to other civilization in the marching band but be different from the football players. Vice versa, athletes to be probably much more apt to compare themselves, in state of comparable athletic ability, to other athletes rather than children in present choir. But social comparison can be complex by perceptual influences. As we learned earlier, us organize information based on similarity and also difference, however these trends don’t constantly hold true. Even though students affiliated in athletics and also students involved in arts may seem an extremely different, a dancer or singer may likewise be very athletic, possibly even more so than a member the the football team. As with other elements of perception, there are optimistic and an adverse consequences of social comparison.

We generally want to understand where we loss in state of capacity and performance as contrasted to others, but what civilization do through this information and how it affects self-concept varies. No all people feel they must be in ~ the peak of the list, yet some won’t avoid until they acquire the high score top top the video clip game or collection a new school record in a track-and-field event. Some human being strive come be first chair in the clarinet section of the orchestra, while an additional person may be contents to be 2nd chair. The education system promotes society comparison through grades and rewards such together honor rolls and also dean’s lists. Return education and privacy regulations prevent me indigenous displaying every student’s grade on a test or paper for the whole course to see, ns do generally report the aggregate grades, meaning the total variety of As, Bs, Cs, and also so on. This doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy rights, but it permits students to view where they dropped in the distribution. This type of social comparison have the right to be supplied as motivation. The student who was among only three out the twenty-three to gain a D on the test knows that most of her classmates room performing much better than she is, which might lead she to think, “If they can do it, I deserve to do it.” however social comparison the isn’t reasoned have the right to have an unfavorable effects and result in negative thoughts favor “Look at how poor I did. Man, i’m stupid!” These negative thoughts have the right to lead to negative behaviors, since we shot to maintain inner consistency, definition we action in ways that enhance up through our self-concept. Therefore if the student begins to inquiry her scholastic abilities and then incorporates an evaluate of herself together a “bad student” into her self-concept, she may then act in ways regular with that, i beg your pardon is only going to worsen her academic performance. Additionally, a student can be comforted to learn that he no the only human who got a D and then no feel the require to shot to improve, due to the fact that he has actually company. You have the right to see in this example that evaluations we ar on ours self-concept have the right to lead come cycles of thinking and acting. These cycles relate to self-esteem and also self-efficacy, i beg your pardon are contents of our self-concept.


Self-esteem describes the judgments and also evaluations we make around our self-concept. If self-concept is a broad description of the self, self-esteem is a much more specifically an review of the self.<3> If ns again prompted you come “Tell me who you are,” and also then asked you to evaluate (label as good/bad, positive/negative, desirable/undesirable) every of the things you detailed about yourself, i would obtain clues around your self-esteem. Prefer self-concept, self-esteem has basic and specific elements. Generally, some civilization are an ext likely to evaluate themselves positively while rather are much more likely to evaluate themselves negatively.<4> much more specifically, our self-esteem varies across our life expectations and throughout contexts.

How us judge oneself affects our communication and also our behaviors, however not every an unfavorable or optimistic judgment dead the same weight. The an adverse evaluation of a trait that isn’t really important because that our self-concept will most likely not result in a lose of self-esteem. Because that example, ns am not very good at drawing. While ns appreciate drawing as an arts form, ns don’t think about drawing capacity to it is in a very large part of mine self-concept. If someone critiqued my drawing ability, my self-esteem wouldn’t take it a large hit. Ns do consider myself a great teacher, however, and I have spent and also continue come spend significant time and also effort on boosting my expertise of teaching and also my teaching skills. If someone critiqued mine teaching expertise and/or abilities, mine self-esteem would definitely be hurt. This doesn’t average that we can’t be evaluate on something we uncover important. Even though teaching is really important to mine self-concept, ns am regularly evaluated top top it. Every semester, i am evaluated by my students, and every year, ns am evaluate by my dean, room chair, and colleagues. Many of the feedback is in the type of constructive criticism, which deserve to still be an overwhelming to receive, however when taken in the soul of self-improvement, that is valuable and may even enhance our self-concept and self-esteem. In fact, in skilled contexts, world with greater self-esteem are much more likely to occupational harder based on an adverse feedback, are much less negatively affected by work-related stress, room able to handle workplace conflict better, and also are better able to job-related independently and also solve problems.<5> Self-esteem isn’t the only variable that contributes to our self-concept; perceptions around our competence also play a duty in developing our sense of self.

Self-Efficacy describes the judgments world make around their capability to execute a task within a particular context.<6> as you can see in number 2.2 “Relationship in between Self-Efficacy, Self-Esteem, and Self-Concept”, judgments around our self-efficacy affect our self-esteem, which influences our self-concept. The following example additionally illustrates this interconnections.

Figure 2.2 Relationship between Self-Efficacy, Self-Esteem, and Self-Concept

Pedro walk a good job on his first college speech. Throughout a meeting v his professor, Pedro suggests that the is confident going into the next speech and thinks that will carry out well. This skill-based assessment is one indication the Pedro has a high level the self-efficacy related to public speaking. If that does fine on the speech, the worship from his classmates and also professor will reinforce his self-efficacy and also lead him to positively evaluate his speaking skills, i m sorry will contribute to his self-esteem. By the end of the class, Pedro likely thinks that himself together a good public speaker, which might then become an essential part the his self-concept. Throughout this points the connection, it’s essential to remember the self-perception affects just how we communicate, behave, and perceive other things. Pedro’s raised feeling that self-efficacy may offer him an ext confidence in his delivery, which will certainly likely an outcome in positive feedback that reinforces his self-perception. He might start to perceive his professor much more positively due to the fact that they re-publishing an interest in public speaking, and also he may begin to notification other people’s speaking skills much more during class presentations and also public lectures. End time, the may also start come think about changing his significant to communication or pursuing career options that combine public speaking, which would certainly further integrate being “a an excellent public speaker” right into his self-concept. You can hopefully view that these interconnections have the right to create an effective positive or negative cycles. While several of this process is under our control, much of it is additionally shaped by the people in our lives.

The verbal and also nonverbal feedback we obtain from people influence our feelings of self-efficacy and also our self-esteem. As we experienced in Pedro’s example, being provided positive feedback deserve to increase our self-efficacy, which might make us more likely to engage in a comparable task in the future.<7> Obviously, an adverse feedback deserve to lead to lessened self-efficacy and also a declining interest in engaging v the task again. In general, people readjust their expectations around their abilities based on feedback they get from others. Hopeful feedback often tends to make world raise their expectations for themselves and negative feedback does the opposite, which at some point affects behaviors and creates the cycle. As soon as feedback from others is various from exactly how we see ourselves, extr cycles may develop that impact self-esteem and also self-concept.

Self-discrepancy theory claims that people have beliefs around and expectation for their actual and potential selves that execute not always match up with what they in reality experience.<8> To understand this theory, we need to understand the various “selves” that consist of our self-concept, which room the actual, ideal, and ought selves. The actual self consists of the characteristics that girlfriend or someone else believes you in reality possess. The right self is composed of the qualities that friend or someone else would like you to possess. The chandelier self is composed of the characteristics you or someone else believes you must possess.

These different selves can problem with each various other in miscellaneous combinations. Discrepancies between the actual and ideal/ought selves deserve to be inspiring in part ways and also prompt people to act because that self-improvement. For example, if your ought self should volunteer much more for the local pet shelter, then her actual self may be more inclined to do so. Discrepancies in between the ideal and ought selves have the right to be particularly stressful. Because that example, many professional women that are also mothers have an ideal view of me that includes professional success and advancement. They may also have one ought me that consists of a sense of duty and also obligation to it is in a full-time mother. The actual self might be someone who does OK in ~ both yet doesn’t rather live as much as the expectations of either. These inequalities do not just produce cognitive unease—they likewise lead to emotional, behavioral, and communicative changes.

When we compare the actual self to the expectations of ourselves and others, we have the right to see specific patterns of emotional and also behavioral effects. As soon as our actual self doesn’t complement up through our own ideals that self, we are not obtaining our very own desires and also hopes, which have the right to lead come feelings that dejection consisting of disappointment, dissatisfaction, and frustration. Because that example, if your right self has actually no credit transaction card debt and your actual self does, you may be frustrated through your absence of financial discipline and be motivated to rod to your budget and pay off your credit transaction card bills.

When ours actual self doesn’t enhance up with various other people’s ideals for us, we might not be obtaining significant others’ desires and also hopes, which can lead come feelings of dejection consisting of shame, embarrassment, and concern for losing the affection or approval the others. For example, if a far-reaching other look at you as an “A” student and also you get a 2.8 GPA your very first year that college, climate you may be embarrassed come share your grades with that person.

When ours actual me doesn’t match up with what we think other civilization think we should obtain, we room not living as much as the ought me that us think rather have constructed for us, which deserve to lead come feelings that agitation, emotion threatened, and fearing potential punishment. Because that example, if your parents think you have to follow in your footsteps and take end the family business, yet your actual self desires to get in the military, climate you might be unsure of what to do and fear being isolated from the family.

Finally, as soon as our actual self doesn’t complement up v what we think we should obtain, we room not meeting what we check out as our duties or obligations, which have the right to lead come feelings the agitation consisting of guilt, weakness, and also a emotion that we have fallen quick of our ethical standard.<9> for example, if her ought self have to volunteer more for the local animal shelter, then your actual self might be much more inclined to do so because of the guilt that reading about the increasing variety of animals being housed at the facility. The following is a testimonial of the four potential discrepancies in between selves:

Actual vs. Own ideals. We have actually an all at once feeling the we room not obtaining our desires and hopes, which leader to feel of disappointment, dissatisfaction, and frustration.Actual vs. Others’ ideals. We have an all at once feeling that we room not obtaining far-reaching others’ desires and hopes because that us, which leads to feeling of shame and also embarrassment.Actual vs. Others’ ought. We have actually an in its entirety feeling that we room not meeting what others watch as our duties and obligations, which leader to feel of agitation including are afraid of potential punishment.Actual vs. Very own ought. We have an as whole feeling the we are not meeting our duties and obligations, which deserve to lead to a emotion that we have fallen short of ours own moral standards.

Influences on Self-Concept

We have already learned that other human being influence ours self-concept and also self-esteem. While interaction we have with individuals and groups are definitely important come consider, we must also note the influence that larger, much more systemic forces have on our self-perception. Social and also family influences, culture, and the media all play a function in shaping who we think us are and also how us feel about ourselves. Although this are powerful socializing forces, there are ways to preserve some manage over our self-perception.

Social and also Family Influences

Various forces aid socialize us into our respective social and social groups and also play a powerful role in presenting us with options about who we have the right to be. While we may like come think the our self-perception starts through a blank canvas, ours perceptions are limited by our experiences and also various society and social contexts.

Parents and also peers form our self-perceptions in positive and an unfavorable ways. Feedback that we gain from far-ranging others, which includes close family, deserve to lead to positive views the self.<10> In the past couple of years, however, there has actually been a public discussion and debate around how much positive reinforcement people should provide to others, particularly children. The complying with questions have actually been raised: perform we have current and also upcoming generations that have been overpraised? Is the praise given warranted? What room the confident and an adverse effects the praise? What is the finish goal of the praise? stop briefly look in ~ this discussion and its connection to self-perception.

Whether praise is warranted or not is really subjective and certain to every person and context, but in basic there have been concerns raised about the potential an unfavorable effects of too lot praise. An ideas is the underlying force that drives united state to perform things. Sometimes we are intrinsically motivated, meaning we desire to carry out something for the love of doing the or the resulting interior satisfaction. Various other times we room extrinsically motivated, an interpretation we do something to receive a prize or prevent punishment. If girlfriend put effort into completing a brief documentary for a class since you love filmmaking and also editing, you have actually been largely motivated by intrinsic forces. If you finish the documentary due to the fact that you desire an “A” and also know the if girlfriend fail her parents will not offer you money for her spring rest trip, climate you are urged by extrinsic factors. Both can, the course, properly motivate us. Worship is a kind of extrinsic reward, and also if over there is an really reward connected with the praise, like money or one-of-a-kind recognition, some people speculate that intrinsic an ideas will suffer. But what’s so good about intrinsic motivation? Intrinsic an inspiration is much more substantial and also long-lasting 보다 extrinsic motivation and can lead to the breakthrough of a work-related ethic and also sense of pride in one’s abilities. Intrinsic an inspiration can move human being to accomplish good things over lengthy periods that time and be happy regardless of the effort and also sacrifices made. Extrinsic motivation dies once the prize stops. Additionally, too lot praise deserve to lead human being to have actually a misguided sense of your abilities. College professors who space reluctant to fail students who develop failing work might be setting those students up to be shocked when their supervisor critiques their abilities or output as soon as they gain into a professional context.<11>

There are social differences in the quantity of praise and positive feedback that teachers and parents offer their children. For example, teachers offer less confident reinforcement in Japanese and Taiwanese classrooms than carry out teachers in us classrooms. Chinese and Kenyan parents do not frequently praise their children because they fear it might make them too individualistic, rude, or arrogant.<12> therefore the phenomenon the overpraising isn’t universal, and also the conflict over the potential results is no resolved.

Research has likewise found that communication patterns develop between parents and children the are typical to numerous verbally and also physically abusive relationships. Such patterns have negative effects top top a children self-efficacy and self-esteem.<13> together you’ll recall indigenous our earlier discussion, attributions are web links we make to identify the reason of a behavior. In the case of wild or abusive parents, they space not together able come distinguish in between mistakes and also intentional behaviors, frequently seeing honest mistakes together intended and reacting negative to the child. Such parents also communicate generally negative evaluations to their child by saying, because that example, “You can’t carry out anything right!” or “You’re a negative girl.” When children do exhibit confident behaviors, abusive parental are an ext likely to use outside attributions that diminish the achievement of the kid by saying, for example, “You just won since the other team was off your game.” In general, abusive parents have actually unpredictable reactions to their children’s positive and an unfavorable behavior, which create an uncertain and often scary climate because that a boy that have the right to lead to lower self-esteem and erratic or aggressive behavior. The cycles the praise and blame are just two examples of how the family members as a socializing pressure can influence our self-perceptions. Society also influences exactly how we see ourselves.


How people perceive themselves varies across cultures. For example, plenty of cultures exhibition a phenomenon well-known as the self-enhancement bias, definition that we have tendency to emphasize our desirable attributes relative to other people.<14> but the level to which human being engage in self-enhancement varies. A review of many studies in this area discovered that world in Western countries such as the United says were significantly an ext likely come self-enhance than people in countries such together Japan. Plenty of scholars explain this variation using a usual measure of social variation that claims civilization in individualistic societies are much more likely to interact in competition and also openly praise achievements than human being in collectivistic cultures. The distinction in self-enhancement has additionally been tied to economics, with scholars saying that world in countries with higher income inequality are more likely to view themselves as premium to rather or desire to be perceived as exceptional to others (even if they don’t have economic wealth) in order come conform to the country’s values and norms. This holds true due to the fact that countries through high level of economic inequality, favor the unified States, generally value competition and the right to boast about winning or succeeding, while countries with an ext economic equality, prefer Japan, have a social norm the modesty.<15>

Race also plays a function in self-perception. Because that example, optimistic self-esteem and self-efficacy have tendency to be greater in african American adolescent girls than Caucasian girls.<16> In fact, an ext recent studies have discounted lot of the early on research top top race and self-esteem that purported that African american of all periods have lower self-esteem than whites. Self-perception becomes more complex when we consider biracial individuals—more specifically those born to couples consisting of an afri American and a white parent.<17> In such cases, it is difficult for biracial people to take on both of your heritages, and social comparison i do not care more an overwhelming due to diverse and sometimes conflicting referral groups. Due to the fact that many biracial individuals recognize as and also are considered African American through society, living and also working within a black community can assist foster much more positive self-perceptions in this biracial individuals. Such a ar offers a much more nurturing environment and also a buffer zone native racist mindsets but simultaneously ranges biracial individuals from your white identity. Vice versa, immersion into a predominantly white community and also separation native a black ar can command biracial people to internalize an unfavorable views of world of color and perhaps build a feeling of inferiority. Sex intersects with culture and biracial identity to produce different experiences and challenges because that biracial men and women. Biracial men have more difficulty accepting their potential work-related limits, particularly if they have white fathers, and also biracial ladies have an obstacle accepting their black color features, such as hair and also facial features. All these challenges lead to a sense of being marginalized from both ethnic groups and also interfere in the breakthrough of confident self-esteem and also a stable self-concept.

There room some general distinctions in regards to gender and self-perception the relate come self-concept, self-efficacy, and envisioning best selves. Similar to any cultural differences, these are generalizations that have actually been supported by research, yet they execute not stand for all individuals within a group. About self-concept, men are more likely to explain themselves in regards to their team membership, and women are much more likely to include references to relationships in your self-descriptions. Because that example, a male may note that that is a Tarheel fan, a watercraft enthusiast, or a member the the rotary Club, and a woman might note the she is a mommy of two or a loyal friend.

Regarding self-efficacy, guys tend come have greater perceptions of self-efficacy 보다 women.<18> In terms of actual and also ideal selves, men and also women in a selection of countries both defined their ideal self as more masculine.<19> together was detailed earlier, gender distinctions are amazing to study however are an extremely often exaggerated past the actual variations. Socialization and internalization the societal standards for gender differences accounts because that much much more of our perceived distinctions than do natural or organic differences between genders. These gender norms may be explicitly stated—for example, a mother may say to her son, “Boys nothing play v dolls”—or they may be more implicit, through girls being encouraged to seek historically feminine professions choose teaching or nursing without others actually stating the expectation.


The depictions we watch in the media impact our self-perception. The vast majority of media images incorporate idealized depictions of attractiveness. Despite the truth that the photos of world we view in glossy magazines and also on movie display screens are not commonly what we see as soon as we look in ~ the people approximately us in a classroom, at work, or at the grocery store store, numerous of us continue to hold ourselves to an unrealistic conventional of beauty and attractiveness. Movies, magazines, and television mirrors are filled with beautiful people, and less attractive actors, as soon as they are present in the media, are typically portrayed together the target of jokes, villains, or only as background extras.<20> beside from as whole attractiveness, the media also offers narrow representations of acceptable body weight.

Researchers have discovered that only 12 percent the prime-time characters are overweight, i m sorry is considerably less 보다 the national statistics for obesity among the actual us population.<21> Further, an evaluation of just how weight is debated on prime-time sitcoms found that heavier female personalities were regularly the targets of an adverse comments and jokes the audience members responded to v laughter. Conversely, optimistic comments about women’s bodies were concerned their thinness. In short, the more heavier the character, the more negative the comments, and the diluent the character, the more positive the comments. The same researchers analyzed sitcoms for content regarding male characters’ weight and found that although comments concerning their weight were made, they to be fewer in number and also not as negative, ultimately supporting the id that overweight male characters are an ext accepted in media than overweight mrs characters. Much more attention has actually been payment in current years come the potential an adverse effects the such narrow media representations. The adhering to “Getting Critical” box explores the duty of media in the building and construction of human body image.

In terms of self-concept, media depictions offer united state guidance on what is acceptable or unacceptable and also valued or no valued in ours society. Mediated messages, in general, reinforce cultural stereotypes concerned race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, and class. World from in the history marginalized groups must look much harder 보다 those in the leading groups to discover positive depictions of your identities in media. As a vital thinker, the is important to inquiry media messages and to study who is included and who is excluded.

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Advertising in specific encourages people to interact in society comparison, regularly communicating to us that we are inferior because we lack a details product or the we require to adjust some aspect of our life to save up with and also be comparable to others. Because that example, for countless years advertising targeted to ladies instilled in them a are afraid of having actually a dirty house, marketing them commodities that promised to store their house clean, do their household happy, and also impress their friends and also neighbors. Currently messages tell united state to fear becoming old or unattractive, selling assets to store our skin tight and clear, i m sorry will subsequently make us happy and popular.