Everyone has a concept of what they are and who they are. Some people are more aware of this than others, because there are individuals who go through a day of work or social interaction without considering who they really are or how they fit into the world around them.
It’s not as easy as knowing the person we see in the mirror, because self concept is much more an internal factor in our lives, separate from how we look to others. Certainly, what we see of our face and body is part of the concept, but it is, according to psychologists, psychologists and counselors, only a part.
This is also different from being self conscious, a term that means we are aware we exist. The concept is also a much more wide-ranging term than self esteem because we can have a view of ourselves without holding ourselves in esteem.
Self concept is made up of how we assess ourselves, how we see our personality and how we rate our skills and abilities. When we have self esteem, our assessment is more positive, sometimes falsely as we give ourselves more credit than is due.
Those who focus on the subject of self concept also note that a concept of who we are is more permanent than how we feel at the moment, or even how we feel for a day or two. A consistent concept will put us in a state of mind, and will be an understanding that does not change dramatically over time.
A concept of the self actually reaches both into the past and into the future, as we know who we were and who we are. Included in this picture are all the memories, fears, goals and possibilities that remain in our minds. For example, a concept of self from our early life might involve how we looked physically and how we associated with friends and playmates. What we remember of this is part of our personal concept.
In the present, our concept might also involve how we work, what success we achieve and, most importantly, if those things are important to whom we think we are. Studies of personality and behavior have shown that as we grow older, our concept of self becomes more abstract and more idea oriented. We begin to make connections between social ideas and political issues, for instance, and judge ourselves on how we fit with these. Deciding if this is good or bad can be part of the self concept, because how we judge our place is part of self. On the other hand, hether our actions or associations are good or bad is a judgment by society.
Self concept is distinct from self esteem, and may be more akin to self worth. Esteem means that we think something is important or has a particular value. While this idea can be a small part of our concept of self, they are not necessarily one and the same. In short, self concept is a lifelong and often complex view of the person we are.