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Self-Concept and Self-Esteem in Human
After studying this chapter, students will be able to:
- Define self-concept.
- Identify the four areas of the self-concept.
- Describe the real and ideal selves.
- Explain the importance of pleasing yourself and others.
- Define self-esteem.
- Discuss the relationship between self-esteem and work performance.
- Distinguish among different types of self-esteem.
- Explain the origins of your self-esteem.
Compensating: The use of a strength to make up for a real or perceived weakness.
Conditional positive regard: Acceptance of individuals as worthy only when they behave in a certain way.
External locus of control: This occurs in people who feel they have no control of the events in their lives.
Higher self–esteem: Occurs when people have healthy feelings about themselves and are therefore more likely to succeed in personal goals and career goals.
Ideal self: The way one would like to be or plans to become.
Internal locus of control: Occurs in people who feel they are in control of the events in their own lives.
Locus of control: The name given to the amount of control one feels one has over events that happen to him or her.
Looking–glass self: The self one assumes others see when they look at him or her.
Lower self–esteem: Occurs when individuals are unable to see themselves as capable, sufficient, or worthy.
Lower self–worth: Occurs when an individual believes himself or herself to have little value to offer the world.
Mentor: A person who acts as a guide or teacher for another, leading that person through experiences.
Pathological critic: A negative inner voice that attacks people and judges their worth negatively.
Positive self–talk: A popular method of building self-esteem by thinking and speaking positively about oneself.
Real self: The way one really is when nobody is around to approve or disapprove.
Role model: A person to whom an individual can look to for guidance by example, but who isn’t necessarily actively interacting with the individual.
Self–concept: The way one pictures oneself to be.
Self–efficacy: The confidence an individual has in his or her ability to deal with problems when they occur.
Self–esteem: The regard in which an individual holds himself or herself.
Self–fulfilling prophecy: Tendency for a prediction to actually occur once it is believed; for example, a victim believes that prejudice against him or her is true, and then fulfills it.
Self–image: The way one honestly feels about oneself.
Self–respect: Positive self-image with high self-esteem.
Unconditional positive regard: The acceptance of individuals as worthy and valuable regardless of their behavior.
- What Is Self-Concept?
Self-concept is the way one conceives of (or see) himself or herself; this view of oneself is the foundation of all his or her thoughts about himself or herself, including his or her self-esteem. Self-concept and self-esteem affect people’s relationships, work, and nearly every part of their lives.
Everyday actions also tend to affect one’s self-concept; in turn, one’s self-concept affects the things that one does. Once this cycle gets started, it is difficult to stop. One needs to examine ways of stopping it, or at least minimizing the effects of the vicious cycle.
- The Four Parts of the Self-Concept
A. Ideal Self
Everyone has some notion of what he or she would like to become. For some people, the image of the ideal self is sharp and clear; they know the changes they need in their lives and what they must do to make them happen. Many people, though, have a less clear picture of their ideal self, and still others have an unrealistic idea of what they want to become. One common mistake is to think that you have already reached your ideal, when actually you still have a long way to go. Another is to create an ideal self that is unrealistic and unattainable.
B. Looking-Glass Self
The looking-glass self is the self that a person assumes others see when they look at him or her. It is also affected by one’s view of reality. Some people assume that others think well of them much more than is true, while many more tend to assume the opposite. For most people, the looking-glass self is much more negative than it deserves to be.
One’s self-image is the way he or she truly feel about himself or herself. It can be programmed by one’s day-to-day behavior and by the things one says to oneself or others.
D. Real Self
The real self is a person as he or she really is, when nobody is around to approve or disapprove of his or her actions. Just as with the ideal self, what one thinks of oneself or what one presents to others is not necessarily what is real.
III. Focusing on the Real and Ideal Selves
Carl Rogers, a well-known psychologist, developed ideas about the self-concept in the mid to late 1900s that are still in use today. He believed that people get little bits of information all the time about their real selves from their experiences in the world. Rogers believed that in order to have a healthy self-concept, people need to work on making the ideal and real selves much closer. This can be done by paying more attention to messages about one’s real self, adjusting one’s ideal self to fit the reality, and working up to a more realistic and attainable ideal.
IV. Pleasing Yourself and Pleasing Others
Many people derive purpose from pleasing others. Having a healthy self-concept means not allowing oneself to give in to other people’s opinions. A crucial factor to a healthy self-concept and self-esteem is balancing one’s needs with others. When one’s selfconcept is set and stable at a comfortable level, one will find that knowing and taking care of the “real you” will be quite possible without threatening others.
- What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-concept is closely tied to self-esteem. Self-esteem can be defined as the extent to which an individual believes him- or herself to be capable, sufficient, and worthy. Selfesteem is usually described as high or low. But the reality is that one’s self-esteem falls along a scale, from high to moderate to low. Higher self-esteem is healthy self-esteem.
Most people who always need to tell about their accomplishments are actually compensating in some way for low self-esteem. Another form of compensating is when people focus on a single strength (such as good looks, mental ability, or athletic skills) to make up for their overall bad feelings about themselves. These feelings are also called lower self-worth. No matter how hard most people work at exercising those special abilities, many find that after months and years of trying, they still have lower self-worth. These people are motivated by their own lower self-esteem. They excel in one or more areas of their lives in an unsuccessful attempt to overcome their low self-worth and find happiness. People who have healthy feelings about themselves, or higher self-esteem, are more likely to succeed at their personal goals, career goals, and even more important, at life. People with higher self-esteem believe in themselves and believe they can reach these goals.
VI. Self-Esteem and Work Performance
Business success depends greatly on one’s level of self-esteem. Psychological research finds that people with lower self-esteem are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, irritability, aggression, feelings of resentment and alienation, unhappiness, insomnia, and other problems. Lower self-esteem is also associated with low job satisfaction and has even been linked to a higher likelihood of unemployment. People with lower self-esteem often work with little enthusiasm or commitment. In contrast, when an employee feels positive about his or her ability to compete and make a worthwhile contribution, work performance is usually higher. A person with healthy selfesteem will be open and ready for new experiences. When such people tackle problems, they tend to be more objective and constructive because they do not fear that their ideas will be rejected.
VII. Types of Self-Esteem
Currently, researchers describe two different types of self-esteem:
- Feelings, either positive or negative, about self-worth.
- Confidence in the ability to deal with problems when they happen, often called selfefficacy.
The first type has to do with how one feels about oneself when he or she is alone. The second type has to do with actions, problem solving, and the ability to succeed at particular tasks.
VIII. Origins of Self-Esteem
Self-esteem starts to develop in early childhood from messages one receives from parents and others around. According to psychologist Carl Rogers, the sense of self is a guiding principle that structures the personality. Though inborn, the sense of self is shaped by many outside forces. In young children, self-esteem is just a reflection of the esteem that parents and others have for the child; it develops as children react to the ways that important people treat them. During childhood, parents are the most important people among those shaping self-esteem.
When parents and other important people show a person unconditional positive regard, or accept him or her no matter what his or her behavior may be at the moment, then he or she is likely to develop a healthy self-esteem. When parents show conditional positive regard, accepting their children only when they behave the way they want, then children may not develop a healthy self-esteem.
Psychologist Alfred Adler, another pioneer in the area of self and personality, believed that the main motivation for everything people do, including efforts toward a successful career, is to get away from a deep childhood-based feeling that they are not as good as they should be—that they are not perfect. He also coined the term inferiority complex. With a healthy self-concept and high self-esteem, one can become an effective manager of other people. Most important, one can become a happy, contented person who is able to reduce harmful stress and solve problems.
- What are the differences among self-concept, self-respect, and self-efficacy? Provide an example of each.
Answer: Self-concept is the way one pictures of oneself to be. Self-respect is positive self-image with high self-esteem. Self-efficacy is the confidence an individual has in his or her ability to deal with problems when they occur. Students’ answers will vary.
- You are certain that your co-workers see you as a cranky, reclusive hermit. Actually, they think of you as a shy person who is quiet but nice to be around. How can this difference between self-concept and others’ opinions exist side by side regarding the same person? Explain, using concepts from this chapter.
Answer: Self-concept is the way an individual pictures him- or herself to be; this view of the individual is the foundation of all his or her thoughts about him- or herself, including his or her self-esteem. Self-concept can be divided into four parts, one of which is looking-glass self. It is the self an individual assumes others see when they look at him or her. It is also affected by his or her view of reality. Some people assume that others think well of them much more than is true, while many more tend to assume the opposite. For most people, the looking-glass self is much more negative than it deserves to be.
- Imagine yourself back in the third grade. Your teacher is yelling at you for breaking the chalk while writing on the chalkboard: “Look at what you’ve done! You’re such a bad student! Go back to your seat!” If you could explain the work of Carl Rogers to your teacher using this example, what would you say?
Answer: Carl Rogers had developed the idea that a person’s ideal self comes from the messages he or she receives from his or her parents and people around about what he or she should be like. The ideal self may be quite far apart from the real self, or the two may overlap to some extent. Rogers believed that people get little bits of information all the time about their real selves from their experiences in the world.
According to Rogers, the sense of self is a guiding principle that structures the personality. Though inborn, the sense of self is shaped by many outside forces. In young children, self-esteem is just a reflection of the esteem that parents and others have for the child; it develops as children react to the ways that important people treat them. During childhood, parents are the most important people among those shaping self-esteem. Older children and adolescents are also influenced by teachers, coaches, friends, classmates, siblings, neighbors, and others who build up (or damage) their self-esteem.
Students may provide different answers emphasizing on self-esteem.
- Do you ever find yourself compensating for a weakness you feel you have? For what behaviors are you compensating? Do you notice when other people compensate? Describe.
Answer: Students’ answers will vary. Compensating is a psychological defense mechanism people may use to reduce embarrassment, shame, anxiety, guilt, or other negative emotions that arise internally when facing unpleasant truths.
Most people who always need to tell about their accomplishments are actually compensating in some way for low self-esteem. Another form of compensating is when people focus on a single strength (such as good looks, mental ability, or athletic skills) to make up for their overall bad feelings about themselves. These feelings are also called lower self-worth.
- What specific skill or area of your self-concept needs work? Think of some examples of positive self-talk you could use to boost your self-esteem in this area.
Answer: Students’ answers will vary. Positive self-talk is a popular method of building self-esteem by thinking and speaking positively about oneself.
- Which would you rather have in your current job or profession, a mentor or a role model? Why? If you were mentoring a new employee in your field, what kinds of things would you say and do?
Answer: Students’ answers will vary. A mentor is a person who acts as a guide or teacher for another, leading that person through experiences. A role model is a person to whom an individual can look to for guidance, but who isn’t necessarily actively interacting with the individual.
True mentoring involves two people communicating well, one mostly teaching and the other mostly learning. If one finds someone who will work with him or her in this way, he or she has discovered an excellent method of building self-esteem.
- Two employees who are learning a new accounting system are talking about it. “It’s no use,” says the first. “Management is always dumping these new things on me that I can’t learn.” The second one replies, “We can learn this; it will just take a little practice. Come on, let’s try it.” According to Rotter, which employee has an internal locus of control, and which employee has an external locus of control? How will this likely affect each one’s ability to learn the new system?
Answer: Julian Rotter, an influential psychologist, describes the locus of control as the perceived center of control over the events in people’s lives. People with an internal locus of control feel that they are in control of events in their own lives and have more of a take-charge attitude. Rotter and others also believe that an internal locus of control is related to both higher self-esteem and better physical health. On the other hand, people with an external locus of control feel that the world is happening to them, and that they have no control over the events in their lives. Therefore, the second employee seems to have an internal locus of control, and will learn faster while the first one having external locus of control will be a slow learner.
- You are waiting for your appointment for an important job interview. A voice inside you shouts, “You’re so stupid, lazy, and ugly! You’ll never get this job!” Who is this voice? Why is it sending you these messages? What will you do to stop it?
Answer: Students’ answers will vary. According to Adler the main motivation for everything people do, including efforts toward a successful career, is to get away from a deep childhood-based feeling that they are not as good as they should be— that they are not perfect.
Thus, the feelings that have arisen (as stated in the case above) are a result of conditional positive regard which has led to a low self-esteem. This can possibly be overcome by using positive self-talk and self-fulfilling prophecy. Positive self-talk is a popular method of building self-esteem by thinking and speaking positively about oneself. Self-fulfilling prophecy is tendency for a prediction to actually occur once it is believed; for example, a victim believes that prejudice against him or her is true, and then fulfills it.
Critical Thinking Questions
- Is an internal locus of control good to have in all situations? Can you think of a situation in which it would not be helpful to feel in complete control of your life? For example, when something truly terrible happens, such as a natural disaster or other tragedy, are you really in control of events? If you are not in control of events, what are you in control of in such a situation?
Answer: Students’ answers will vary. People with internal locus of control feel they are in control of the events in their own lives and have a high self-esteem.
- Some people say that when they were children, their parents lacked confidence in them and treated them with conditional (instead of unconditional) positive regard— and this treatment, rather than reducing their self-esteem, challenged them to work harder and succeed. Do you agree that such treatment, then, might be good instead of damaging to people’s developing self-esteem? Explain.
Answer: Students’ answers may vary. Some may say that there may be instances when even conditional positive regard helps to boost up the self-esteem of children by developing a spirit of competition and instilling a desire to excel.
- As you might already be aware, some educators, politicians, and others in leadership positions have carried the self-esteem issue to extremes—far beyond what this chapter teaches. Some examples are removing any real competition from children so their self-esteem won’t be threatened, praising people when they deserve anything but praise, and withholding discipline because any discipline might damage the child’s fragile ego. Comment on this aspect of self-esteem awareness.
Answer: Students’ opinions may vary. However, possibly the discussion would be around unconditional positive regard, which leads to the development of a healthy self-esteem.
Case Study 2.1: Stage Fright
Julio Garcia experiences mortifying fear on the thought of being asked to give an oral presentation. When he was told to give two 15-minute long presentations, Julio’s apprehension aggravates, resulting in sleepless nights and horrifying images of insult and defamation. When Julio finally meets the company counselor, she offers helpful suggestions and tips to help Julio tide over his fear. Acting upon these, Julio delivers a positive presentation which increases his confidence.
- Let’s say that you were Julio’s counselor. What additional advice would you give him? Why?
Suggested Answer: Students’ opinions may vary. The counselor may suggest the following steps towards developing a higher self-esteem to help Julio overcome his problem:
- Learn to accept yourself.
- Develop an internal locus of control.
- Develop a winning skill.
- Study confident people.
- Read biographies of people you admire.
- Make a list of your greatest talents.
- Stop procrastinating.
- Find a mentor.
- Avoid surface analysis of yourself and others. Use positive self-talk.
- Don’t forget the needs of others.
- Explain the role self-esteem played in this case.
Suggested Answer: Students’ opinions may vary. Julio had a low self-esteem, lacked self efficacy, and had external locus of control. Hence, his low self-esteem was responsible for his stage fright.
- If you get stage fright, what steps do you take to minimize its effects?
Suggested Answer: Students’ opinions may vary. Some steps that may be taken to overcome stage fright include consulting a counselor, studying confident people or people who had similar traits and yet overcame them to become successful speakers on stage.
Case Study 2.2: Jill, Self-Esteem, and the Job Search
Jill’s dissatisfaction with her job as a customer service representative was affecting her self-esteem. Although encouraged by friends, she never took up a career in advertising despite her keen interest as she had negative thoughts about her abilities. When Anita, one of Jill’s best friends, warns her against redundancy in her job and strongly suggests her to use her creative talents in advertising, Jill experiences a new optimism. Within a month, Jill lands a job in an agency with a higher pay, but more importantly, a strong motivation to succeed.
- Discuss the relationship of Anita’s little “pep talk” and the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Suggested Answer: Students’ opinions may vary. Some may say that Anita’s little pep talk helped Jill overcome her low self esteem, and rejuvenated her to search for a new job that fulfilled her desires. With the help of self-fulfilling prophecy, also referred to as the power of self-suggestion, she was able to overcome her despair and found the work she desired. Self-fulfilling prophecy is the tendency for a prediction to actually occur once it is believed; for example, a victim believes that prejudice against him or her is true, and then fulfills it. It can lead to both positive and negative outcomes.
- What was the source of the negative thoughts Jill had been fighting?
Suggested Answer: Students’ opinions may vary. Some may say that Jill was suffering from low self-esteem due to lack of job satisfaction. Some may also cite reasons like conditional positive response to be the cause of her negative thoughts. Pathological critic, which is a negative inner voice that attacks people and judges their worth negatively, may also be the source of the negative thoughts Jill had been fighting.
- What steps does Jill need to take to make this new reality a permanent part of her life?
Suggested Answer: Students’ opinions may vary. Some may say that in order to make this new reality a permanent part of her life, Jill may develop her internal locus of control to strengthen her positive self-esteem, avoid procrastination, and use positive self-talk.