Your Inner World Self Concept

The term self-concept is a general term used to refer to how someone thinks about or perceives themselves.

SelfConcept300586fThe self concept is how we think about and evaluate ourselves. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself.

Self concept is a composite of ideas, feelings, and attitudes that a person has about his or her own identity, worth, capabilities, and limitations. Such factors as the values and opinions of others, especially in the formative years of early childhood, play an important part in the development of the self-concept.

Lewis (1990) suggests that development of a concept of self has two aspects:

(1) The Existential Self

The child realizes that they exist as a separate entity from others and that they continue to exist over time and space. According to Lewis awareness of the existential self begins as young as two to three months old and arises in part due to the relation the child has with the world. For example, the child smiles and someone smiles back, or the child touches a mobile and sees it move.

(2) The Categorical Self

Having realized that he or she exists as a separate experiencing being, the child next becomes aware that he or she is also an object in the world. Just as other objects including people have properties that can be experienced (big, small, red, smooth and so on) so the child is becoming aware of him or her self as an object which can be experienced and which has properties. The self too can be put into categories such as age, gender, size or skill. Two of the first categories to be applied are age (“I am 3”) and gender (“I am a girl”).

In early childhood the categories children apply to themselves are very concrete (e.g. hair color, height and favorite things). Later, self-description also begins to include reference to internal psychological traits, comparative evaluations and to how others see them.