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Self Concept and Self Esteem

Written by Karl Perera BA, MA, DipLC
December 16th, 2013 | Updated: January 8th, 2020

What is self concept?

Self concept is what you understand about yourself. Therefore, ‘t is not the same as self image or self consciousness.

It includes:

  • Your social character or abilities
  • Your physical appearance and your body image
  • Your thinking

Self concept is a combination of self-image, self esteem and your ideal self. In other words, your self image is how you see yourself, while your self esteem is how much you value yourself. On the other hand, your ideal self is the vision you have for yourself, in other words how you wish you could be. In this way, you form your own self concept. You have to remember that your self concept does not always coincide with reality. In fact, more often than not, the way we view ourselves is distorted and unrealistic. As a result, we are often overly critical of ourselves and our abilities, and you have to watch out for that.

Your Childhood

Humanist psychologist Carl Rogers believed that while we all happen to distort reality somewhat in our own mind, the earliest roots for the misalignment between the way we see ourselves and reality stem from our childhood. Particularly those who as children are brought up with the idea that they have to earn affection from their parents are susceptible to this. So when parents only express love under certain conditions, children then begin to associate memories which make them feel unloved with not being good enough, and this problem can often carry on into adulthood.

self concept is a vital element of your self esteem Your self concept can change regularly because interpret things differently depending on your feelings, beliefs and attitude. Self awareness is a two-way process as your feelings and beliefs affect your self concept and the opposite is also true. Awareness means becoming aware of what is true about yourself and this is important because you probably believe you see yourself as you really are, but others may see you quite differently. Therefore, awareness is the process of moving your own view closer to reality.

Can you tell me more?

Your self concept is your understanding of characteristics you have, examples of these could include:



  • Are you tall?
  • Are you fat?
  • Are you handsome?


The best definition I could think of for the term “self concept” is the idea you have of who you are and what makes you different from everyone else, in other words – what makes you “you”? You should clearly see that all the things that are “you” including your personality, characteristics, appearance, social persona and psychological personality create a complex person and understanding who you are is not easy. In terms of self esteem, the idea you have and your attitude towards your idea of who and what you are is the most important. Remember we are talking about the characteristics of you that are unchanging but your idea or concept of these can change with time.

Can you change your self concept?

Yes, by changing:

  • Your attitudes
  • Your moods
  • Your values
  • Your beliefs

Look at the items above, they are all things that are possible for you to change. Despite the fact that you may believe that some of these are beyond your control or are automatic, you can change any belief you want. If you change a belief by challenging it and looking for evidence against your belief you can also change your attitude and your thinking and improve your self concept and your self esteem as well.

If you can accept that you can change your beliefs, values, moods and attitudes then you accept that you can change how you feel about you. As a result, the idea of who you are can change also. You do not need to worry too much about the truth of every part of you but through gradual self improvement you can learn to understand more about the best parts of your character and appreciate who you are more. This will increase your confidence and self esteem for sure.

Your self concept is just one factor among many that have an impact on your self esteem and self confidence.

Test yourself

The Twenty Statements Test (TST) is a popular method used by psychologists to get an idea of one’s self concept. It was devised in 1954 by Manfred Kuhn & Thomas McPartland with the goal of helping to identify assumptions and attitudes people had about themselves. It’s an extremely simple “fill in the blank” test. Using the following format, fill in at least five lines (or twenty if you’re up for it) – be honest, and let’s see what you come up with!

  • I am (please fill in the blank) __________________________________
  • I am (please fill in the blank) __________________________________
  • I am (please fill in the blank) __________________________________
  • I am (please fill in the blank) __________________________________
  • I am (please fill in the blank) __________________________________

Although everyone has their own self-concept, it’s possible to identify some common characteristics from the responses given. Statements can often be grouped into the following categories:

– Social groups and classifications
– Interests
– Beliefs (ideological or self-based)
– Goals/Ambitions
– Self-evaluation

Try to categorise your statements, and assess in an unbiased way, as if you were giving advice to a friend or family member. Determine whether these statements are your reality or whether you are distorting certain truths. Let me know what you think of the test and whether you found it useful in the comments section – let’s get a discussion going!

Want to learn more?

Then read how to end negative thoughts

How to improve your esteem and confidence

Want to increase your self confidence at work, in your daily life and improve your relationships?

Build Your Self Confidence – Check out these awesome self hypnosis downloads! I’ve used them for years and I guarantee they will help you! These were all prepared by experienced psychologists and are extremely easy to follow.

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