Self-concept is defined as the image a person has of themselves, the perception of our abilities and uniqueness, and as the collection of our beliefs concerning our nature (Oyserman, 2012). Self-concept can be very general and dynamic as one grows up but as one gets older, it becomes more precise, detailed, and organized. There are various ways in which people develop their sense of self, but most often, self-Concept is influenced by one's interactions with their immediate environment (Oyserman, 2012). How then does one develop a sense of self? What concepts enable one to develop a self-concept?
Concept of Self as a Soul
Understanding of self-concept as a soul appeals to the view of the soul as a constant entity that never changes (Hutchison, 2012). The soul is seen to exist in a realm different from its material environment. It exceeds the life of the fleshly body. If the self is constant and unchanging as the soul, then it means that it is not affected or influenced by its interaction with its environment. Thus, this self can be conceived to exist apart from its immediate surroundings.
Cognitive Structure Self Concept
As a cognitive structure, the self is understood as the thinker and as what defines a person's reality through a process of conscious activities (Hutchison, 2012). Everyone is said to be in contact with their thoughts and accepts these ideas as a representation of themselves, and their essence as people. Thus, the self as a cognitive process means that an individual view of themselves originates or is a result of their thought process. The sense of self, in this case, develops as one participates in thought processes and stimuli that define their realities in line with their perceptions (Hutchison, 2012). What one thinks about themselves, is their sense of self.
The Self as a Flow of Experience
The concept of the self is understood as an ongoing process when viewed as a flow of experience. It refers to the changing self (Hutchison, 2012). Here the general view is that there is not a single right or standard human nature. People are unique, and cannot be categorized. Thus, the self as a flow of experience means that it is not one thing at any single point in time, it has no definite endpoint. A person's essence is thus described by their choices and decisions and their need to create and discover a new meaning for themselves (Hutchison, 2012). The self changes and rebuilds as people continue making commitments to ideals that are around them. As a flow of experience, the sense of self-gives people the opportunity to define themselves, individually.
Comparison of Self Concepts
All three thoughts bring a different understanding of the sense of self. Like a soul, the self is understood as constant and unchanging and cannot be influenced by the immediate environment. On the other hand, as a cognitive structure, the sense of self is purely based on one's thoughts process. Meaning, a person can create their realities about themselves based on what they think. Finally, as a continuous flow of experience, the sense of self is considered an ongoing process. Here, the sense of self cannot be described as one thing at any one point, and neither does it have a definite endpoint.
My Sense of Self
I would define my sense of self as very dynamic and ongoing. There are certain aspects of me that almost always change now and then. As much as I do know what I would want in life, somehow, I think am not certain about what I will think of myself tomorrow. Therefore, my sense of self cannot be understood as a soul, regarding constancy, but as a flow of experience and cognitive structure. I make my realities every day; I make my commitments depending on the ideals of the time. As much as I have my bearing in life, I like being open-minded, and, therefore, my sense of self is never constant but a process with indefinite endpoints.
My Sense of Self Effects on my Future Behavior
My sense of self reminds me of my uniqueness and the fact that I can always make choices about the direction I want my life to take. In spite of how positively or negatively I view myself now, it reminds me that I can always change my self-concept at any point. I can always make choices that will change my sense of self, define myself the way I want. And that, I believe, is freedom.
Hutchison, E. D. (2012). Essentials of human behavior: Integrating person, environment, and the life course. SAGE Publications.
Oyserman, D., Elmore, K., & Smith, G. (2012). Self, self-concept, and identity. Handbook of self and identity, 2, 69-104.
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