Back To CourseAP Psychology: Exam Prep
16 chapters | 161 lessons
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 70,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.Free 5-day trial
Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.
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.
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.
Jean, on the other hand, has no time for philosophy and the meaning of life. She's too busy running a household. But she does have an inner self, too. Hers is based around her religious faith and love of her family. She sees herself as someone who is faithful and loving to God and her family.
As you can see, a person's self-concept is made up of many aspects of themselves, and different people can have very different self-concepts.
As we've seen, self-concept is about knowing who you are. But self-understanding is about knowing what motivates your actions. Remember that Louisa gets cranky and restless when she can't be outside for a while. Knowing that she's arguing with her best friend because she had to spend all day inside is part of self-understanding.
There are two elements to a person's self: the 'I' and the 'Me.' The I is the person deep inside. This is the part of a person that is antisocial and just about how you feel. For example, when Louisa sees someone else being rude, she wants to shove them and knock them down. This is her 'I' at work: she's feeling something deeply and wants to react to it.
Fortunately, a person's 'I' isn't always in charge. The Me is the part of a person that is about being in society. This is the part of a person that is about understanding and obeying the rules of society. For example, even though Louisa might want to push a rude person, she understands that that's probably not the best idea. So, instead, she talks to the person and tries to make them understand that others have feelings, too. Her 'Me' is figuring out the best way to act.
A person's actions can be controlled by either their 'I' or their 'Me'. When Louisa is rude because she's feeling cooped up inside, her 'I' is taking over and controlling her actions. When she's able to control her impulses, her 'Me' is in charge. Knowledge of which one (the 'I' or the 'Me') is motivating actions is a big part of self-understanding.
A person's self-concept is their understanding of who they are and what makes them unique. This can include the physical self, the social self, the competent self and the inner, or psychological, self. Meanwhile, a person's self-understanding is about knowing what motivates his or her actions. Knowledge of the I and the Me and knowing which one is in charge of a person's actions at any given time are a big part of self-understanding.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.
Back To CourseAP Psychology: Exam Prep
16 chapters | 161 lessons