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What is Self-concept - Applied Positive Psychology

Home Articles What is Self-concept - Applied Positive Psychology

The self-concept is the sum of the set of beliefs that a person has about their personal qualities, which encompasses the image we have of ourselves about our appearance, our abilities and abilities.

It is a mental construction that allows us to define ourselves and place ourselves within any environment, interpreting our emotions, our behaviour and comparing it with that of other people around us.

Self- esteem is built on our self-concept, because it is about how we feel about ourselves. Balanced self-esteem allows us to be aware of the virtues that we possess, as well as the defects or weaknesses that are part of our being and thus relate better to others.

People can feel comfortable and at ease with ourselves when we respect and believe in our abilities, being a sign of high self-esteem; or on the contrary, we can feel uncomfortable when we do not value ourselves, and we shrink from the challenges and problems that arise in everyday life, giving way to low self-esteem.

Self- concept is formed by a good number of variables but is mainly influenced by our interactions with influential people in our lives. We can say that the self-concept has a descriptive value, which is "I am”. Understand the characteristics that conceive my being: my personality, my way of seeing life, my characteristics.

On the contrary, we attribute value to self-esteem. It is what we think and feel about the set of characteristics we possess. Self-esteem consists of the attitudes that the individual has towards himself, that is, we recreate an image of ourselves and ourselves. It is a judgment about our own competence and personal worth.

Thus, self-esteem is a set of perceptions, thoughts, evaluations, feelings and tendencies of behaviour directed towards our selves, towards our way of being and behaving, and towards the features of our body and our character.

Shavelson, Hubner and Stanton in 1976 (parents of the theory of multidimensional and hierarchical conception within which academic, physical, social and personal self-concept are distinguished) affirmed that there is no experimental basis to distinguish between self-concept and self-esteem. They understand it as the perceptions that a person has about themselves, which is formed through the interpretation of their own experience and environment, influenced by reinforcements and feedback from attributions.

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change” Carl Rogers.


For the humanist and psychologist Carl Rogers the concept of self is composed of three differentiated factors:

The image of self, or how you look at yourself. Here, it is very important to be aware of reality. To have a too negative concept of ourselves is equally harmful as thinking that we are better than we really are.


A number of factors can affect self-esteem, including how we compare ourselves with others and how others respond to us. In this aspect it is very important to be aware of the people we surround ourselves with and if we really are in the "social circle" that allows us to develop fully and according to our principles and values.


Shavelson, Hubner and Stanton highlight the following characteristics of self - concept:

  1. It is an organized reality in categories that have a personal meaning. The mode of organization is unique for each individual.
  2. It is multidimensional. At the beginning, self-concept is global, and little by little, with age and with the accumulation of experiences, different facets and dimensions are differentiated. The number of dimensions of self-concept depends on age, gender, the knowledge we possess as individuals.
  3. It is hierarchical. The different dimensions of self-concept are organized hierarchically according to their level of generality. In the lower part are the specific components corresponding to the specific situations, while at the top the general self-concept would be placed.
  4. It tends to be stable. Although that does not stop being modifiable. The stability of the perceptions will depend on the level to which they belong, the more general the dimension, the more stability it maintains. Within the organization of beliefs that has an individual not all have a same degree of significance: those located in the nuclear area of the self will be more resistant; those that belong to peripheral areas will be more unstable.
  5. It is a learned reality. It is learned and modified through the experiences that the individual has in the different environments in which he moves, and depends mainly on his experiences of success and failure in the tasks he faces.

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