Sense Of Self in Psychology: Definition & Development

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  • 0:01 Definition of Sense of Self
  • 1:20 Development of the…
  • 2:03 Self-Image
  • 2:43 Self-Esteem
  • 3:28 Ideal Self
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Deborah Teasley

Deborah has 4 years of teaching experience and a master's degree in program development & management.

How do you define who you are? In this lesson, we will explore the different aspects that form our sense of self and examine how it develops. Then, you can test your knowledge with a quiz!

Definition of Sense of Self

How do you define who you are? Do you rely on the different roles and relationships you have, such as being a mother, a teacher, a soldier, or a son? Or, would you say your identity is more based on your thoughts, emotions, and knowledge of the world around you? Some people believe it is neither of those, and that the sense of self is your self-esteem. Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? What do you think you're capable of accomplishing? All of these questions pertain to the idea of the sense of self.

In psychology, the sense of self is defined as the way a person thinks about and views his or her traits, beliefs, and purpose within the world. It's a truly dynamic and complicated concept because it covers both the 'inner' and 'outer' self. This idea can be a little bit confusing, so let's break it down further. You are living and interacting with the outside world all the time. Whether you are sitting in class, talking with a friend, or walking your dog, you're doing things that help you define your role in this world.

Why are you interested in a particular class? Why is this person considered your friend? These questions come from your mind, and it's always chatting away trying to help you form opinions and make decisions about your life. When these two come together, your sense of self begins.

Development of the Sense of Self

One of the greatest aspects of the self is that it is constantly changing. Think back to when you were five years old. Are you the same person now? Perhaps in some ways you are; maybe you have the same hobbies or interests that have followed you through life. However, you probably can't consider yourself entirely the same. The reason being: as you grow so does your sense of self.

So, what helps with this development of the self? Humanist psychologist Carl Rogers contributed a great deal to this aspect of psychology. He believed that there were three contributing components to the development of the sense of self: self-image, self-esteem, and the ideal self.

Components of Sense of Self: Self-Image

A person's self-image typically relates to how one views oneself. This includes personality traits and physical descriptions. Are you tall or short? Are you impulsive, loyal, confident, or maybe all three? It also includes your social roles. Perhaps you are a housewife or maybe you are a top-tier executive. No matter how many or how few positions you have, they all contribute to your self-image. Unfortunately, a person's self-image is not always representative of reality. A person suffering from bulimia may have the self-image that they are extremely overweight, even though that is not the truth.

Components of Sense of Self: Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is how you view and value yourself. Do you believe in yourself and love who you are? Or, do you wish that you were someone else? How you answer these questions is a good measure of how much you value who you are. Perhaps you want to be prettier or smarter. If you firmly believe that your glass is half empty or that the grass is greener in everybody else's yard, you may have a low self-esteem. If you are happy with who you are and believe that you are contributing something positive to the world, you most likely have high self-esteem. A person with high self-esteem feels confident and worthy, while a person with low self-esteem often experiences feelings of uncertainty and insufficiency.

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