Self-Understanding & Self-Concept: How We Perceive Ourselves

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  • 0:02 Who Am I?
  • 1:23 Self-Concept
  • 4:18 Self-Understanding
  • 5:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Answering the question 'Who am I?' can lead to a solid self-concept and self-understanding. Watch this lesson to find out more about the difference in these two things, as well as the factors that go into each of them.

Who Am I?

Louisa is coming into her own. She's starting to understand who she is and what she's like compared with others. She knows, for example, that when people are rude to other people, she gets angry. She understands that nature is more important to her than to many other people.

Louisa is starting to answer the question, 'Who am I?' For many people, answering this question isn't very easy. For others, a solid understanding of who they are is a big part of their lives.

Self-concept is an understanding of who you are as a person. When Louisa recognizes that she loves nature and hates rudeness, this is part of her self-concept. She knows who she is and what makes her different from other people.

But that's not all there is to the question of 'Who am I?' Understanding what your motives are when you act is called self-understanding. It is often linked to self-concept.

For example, Louisa's love of nature and being outdoors is closely linked to her self-concept. When she is stuck indoors all day, she gets restless and annoyed. Sometimes, she says and does things to the people around her that she's not proud of. Understanding that she's acting out because she's been stuck indoors and she really wants to be outdoors is part of her self-understanding. Let's look closer at the elements of self-concept and self-understanding.

Self-Concept

So, Louisa has a pretty good idea of who she is. She loves nature and hates when people are rude. She's noticing differences between herself and the people around her, which all contribute to her self-concept.

But what exactly goes into a person's self-concept? There are many aspects of yourself that can make up who you are and who you believe yourself to be. Among them are:

1. The physical self

Who you are physically is important to many people. For example, Louisa is very active. She loves hiking and rock climbing, and being physically fit and strong is a big part of how she defines herself.

For Louisa's friend, Jean, though, the physical self is different. She is overweight and gets out of breath when she has to walk more than a few minutes. The physical self is still part of her self-concept, but in the reverse way that it is for Louisa: Jean's physical self is out of shape and overweight.

2. The social self

Louisa doesn't have a lot of friends, but those she does have are very close to her. She likes to spend time with her friends and get to know them deeply. This is part of her social self; that is, how a person relates to others.

Jean is different from Louisa here, too. Jean has lots and lots of friends and is always surrounded by a bunch of people. She likes to spend time in the midst of a party crowd. Her social self is still part of her self-concept, but it is different from Louisa's.

3. The competent self

Competence is the ability of a person to provide for their basic needs. For example, Louisa is a hard worker and is able to make enough money to pay for her rent, food and other necessities. She feels like she is competent, which is a big part of her self-concept.

Jean, too, is competent but in a different way. She prides herself on taking care of her husband and kids, cooking and keeping the house organized. She doesn't work at a job that she gets paid for, but she still feels competent because she is providing for her needs (and those of her family) through her work as a stay-at-home mom. Again, this is part of her self-concept, even though it is different from Louisa's competent self.

4. The inner self, also sometimes called the psychological self, is made up of the feelings and thoughts that a person has deep inside them.

For example, Louisa worries a lot about the future and what it will bring. She likes to ponder deep thoughts and read philosophers that try to get at the meaning of life.

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