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CHAPTER 4. Seeking Selfhood. Chapter Overview. The Self-Concept and Personal Growth The Self You’d Like to Be Our Social Selves Learning from Criticism Greater Self-Direction. Seeking Selfhood. Core Characteristics of Self-Concept Self-Consistency Self-Esteem

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Seeking Selfhood

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Chapter Overview

  • The Self-Concept and Personal Growth

  • The Self You’d Like to Be

  • Our Social Selves

  • Learning from Criticism

  • Greater Self-Direction



  • Core Characteristics of Self-Concept

  • Self-Consistency

  • Self-Esteem

  • Self-Enhancement and Self    Verification

  • What Is Self-Concept?

  • Self-Image

  • Ideal Self

  • Multiple Selves

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CHAPTER SUMMARYWhat Is the Self-Concept?


Ideal Self

Multiple Selves

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Chapter Summary cont’dCore Characteristics of the Self-Concept



Self-Enhancement and Self Verification

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Chapter Summary cont’dThe Self-Concept and Personal Growth

The Self You’d Like to Be

Our Social Selves

Learning from Criticism

Greater Self-Direction

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What Is the Self-Concept?


  • Self-concept: the overall image or awareness we have of ourselves. It includes all those perceptions of “I” and “me,” together with the feelings, beliefs, and values associated with them.

  • …provides a personal identity or sense of who you are.

  • Most people actively manage their self-concepts so as to maintain a positive view of themselves.

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Introduction cont’d

  • Most people adopt self-serving biases--positive attributions about themselves.

  • Attribution--the process of ascribing the cause of some event.

  • Self-serving attribution--glorifying the self or conceiving of the self as causing the good outcomes that come to us.

  • Self-concept is comprised of many components: body image, ideal self, self-image, social self

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  • Self-image--the self “I see myself as”… the self you think you are.

  • …acquired through many self-perceptions over the years that combine.

  • … shaped by significant others.

  • People with a sturdy self-image cope better than those without one.

  • We continually revise our self-image because of experiences.

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Ideal Self

  • Ideal self--the self you would like to be, including your aspirations, moral ideals, and personal values.

  • … derived from the “shoulds” and “oughts” we learned as children.

  • When it differs from the way we believe others see us, the result may be social anxiety--extreme shyness that interferes with daily life.

  • If ideals seem unattainable, it is wise to revise!

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Multiple Selves

  • Self-complexity--the extent to which one’s self-concept is comprised of many differentiated self-aspects.

  • Many different experiences, interactions, successes, failures can lead to a high level of self-complexity.

  • Culture affects self-concept; cultural variations in self, self-complexity exist.

  • People with highly fragmented/incoherent self-concepts have difficulty adjusting.

  • In extreme cases, people may develop mental disorders.

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Core Characteristics of the Self-Concept


  • …our tendency to perceive our experiences in a manner consistent with our self-concept.

  • Self-concept is not always consistent with all of our experiences…, as Carl Rogers stated, we have had conditions of worth placed on us.

  • Conditions of worth--conditions placed on us such that we only feel loved IF we meet the conditions.

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Self-Consistency cont’d

  • …we may selectively allow only certain experiences into our reality.

  • Experiences that do not mesh might be distorted to fit our reality.

  • …comparable to what Freud called denial.

  • Another tactic for coping : Self-immunization--trivializing threatening information by making the behavior seem less important. And…

  • Mnemonic neglect--poor recall (or forgetting) of negative feedback that is inconsistent with core aspects of the self-concept.

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  • …our evaluation of ourselves and the resulting feelings of worth associated with self-concept.

  • …may be the most important component of self in terms of our mental health, coping abilities, and personal growth.

  • Influences on self-esteem: our achievements, rejection by others, estimations of our intelligence, personal appearance, and other attributes.

  • Overall self-esteem is a complex combination of factors.

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Self-Esteem cont’d

  • Most people enjoy moderately high levels of self-esteem.

  • …it is powerful influence on expectations we have for ourselves.

    People with high self-esteem:

    • Like what they see in the mirror

    • Feel comfortable with themselves

    • Regard failures as opportunities

    • Give credit to others when it is due

    • Make realistic demands of themselves

    • Accept compliments graciously

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Self-Esteem cont’d

People with low self-esteem:

  • Feel discontented most of the time

  • Brag about or apologize for their achievements

  • Make excuses for failures

  • Try to convert others to their viewpoints

  • Envy others or “put them down” with sarcasm

  • Expect too much or too little of themselves

  • Reject compliments or “qualify” them

  • Withhold affection out of fear of being hurt

    Fortunately, self-esteem is an acquired trait: it can be modified or improved!

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Self-Enhancement and Self-VerificationTwo competing theories:

Self-enhancement theory

People will try to get positive feedback that affirms their own ideas about their positive qualities.

Self-verification theory

People want to preserve their own images (positive and negative) and therefore elicit feedback from others that verifies or confirms their own self-perceptions.

In summary, people generally prefer positive personal feedback that also confirms self-perceptions.

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Self-Enhancement and Self-Verificationcont’d


Gender role--

a social and cultural expectation about what is appropriate for males or females.

  • Masculinity/femininity? Neither necessarily contributes more to self-esteem.

  • If the attribute being judged is associated with one’s sex role, it is more crucial to self-worth.

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Self-Enhancement and Self-Verificationcont’d

For Example:

  • The feminine sex role promotes social relationships: feminine women with many friends probably have higher esteem.

  • The masculine sex role is more task-oriented; masculine men who accomplish many tasks may have higher esteem than men who don’t.

  • …women possess self-clarity--the extent to which one’s individual self-beliefs are clearly defined, internally consistent, and stable.

  • Overall, men’s and women’s self-esteem levels are similar….

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Self-Enhancement and Self-Verificationcont’d

Minority groups--relatively small or have less power as compared to the majority group.

  • Overall, no differences in self-esteem compared to majority.

  • Minorities use the same self-protections for maintaining self-esteem as do Whites.

  • For example, minorities sometimes attribute their failures to prejudice or discrimination…

  • …or minorities compare themselves to each other rather than to the White majority.

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The Self-Concept and Personal Growth

The Self You’d Like to Be

  • Self concept is ever-evolving; self-image changes based on our experiences.

  • New friends, a different job, changes in family circumstances or finances can impact self-concept.

  • Americans spend billions of dollars trying to improve themselves.

  • One “free” method: visualization or guided imagery–a procedure that helps a person shut off the outside world and bypass the censor we call the brain, enabling the person to see, experience, and learn from an intuitive, feeling, unconscious nature.

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Our Social Selves

Social self--the impressions we think others have of us.

  • We have as many social selves as there are groups of people we know.

  • Errors in social self-perception can occur because of the spotlight effect--we overestimate the salience of our behaviors and our effects on others.

  • Others shape our self-perceptions and our own self-perceptions shape what others think of us!

  • We can change our self-perceptions by changing who we choose to be with!

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Learning from Criticism

  • Most people don’t like to be criticized.

  • We waste energy and feel anxiety when we worry about criticism.

  • Accepting and managing criticism may provide opportunities for growth.

  • Criticism can also provide new and needed information.

  • Criticisms that are repeated may have some kernel of truth to them and merit our attention.

  • If the criticism is worthy of consideration, take positive steps toward self-change.

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Greater Self-Direction

  • We also need to listen to ourselves. Underneath it all, we may be asking “Who am I, really?”

  • As we become more comfortable with ourselves, we proceed from “other-directedness” (letting others guide us) to “self-directedness” (creating our own future).

  • For example, as other-directed children become self-directed adolescents, they search for a self-identity. The search may be what adults perceive as negativity!

  • Later stages of self-fulfillment (or self-actualization), are filled with self-directedness.

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Greater Self-Directioncont’d

Individuals who are actualizing or are self-directed are MORE:

  • Open to their own experiences

  • Trusting of themselves

  • Accepting of others

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Greater Self-Directioncont’d

Individuals who are NOT self-directed are:

  • More dependent on others and feel more obligated to them

  • Likely to seek approval from others rather than seek self-satisfaction

  • Unlikely to self-correct harmful behaviors and attitudes

  • Apt to feel a sense of self-alienation

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Personal growth:

  • May be unsettling at times

  • Involves moving away from the familiar and comfortable

  • Means seeing yourself as a different and evolving person

  • Is a never-ending journey!