What Is Self-concept In Psychology And Why Is It Important?

Psychology has taught us many things about ourselves and others. But have you heard about self-concept in psychology? In this post, we’ll explore the definition of self-concept and why it is important.

Self-concept in psychology is the belief in who we are. It answers the question, “Who am I?” Although it is more about ourselves, it is still influenced by different factors. Self-concept is important, especially in identity development and interaction with others.

Let’s explore more about self-concept and see how it forms and how it can affect our lives.

What is self-concept?

What Is Self-concept In Psychology And Why Is It Important_

According to psychology, your self-concept is your perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes about yourself.

It’s how you think of yourself as a person. It can be influenced by many things, including upbringing, relationships with others, and experiences.

Self-concept can also affect how you view yourself in different situations.

For example:

  • If you have low self-esteem because you believe that everyone hates you, then you might think that no one will want to hang out with you or say hi when they see you in public. This could lead to feeling lonely or depressed because the world seems to be against you.
  • If you have high self-esteem and believe that everyone loves and adores you no matter what happens, then nothing will seem too bad for your character, even if someone does say something mean about your haircut!

Self-image vs. self-concept

Self-image and self-concept are two very important terms that are often used interchangeably. They are related to how you think about yourself, but they are not the same.


Self-image is how you see yourself, such as

  • Appearance
  • Personality traits
  • Abilities
  • Accomplishments

In short, it’s what you see in the mirror.


Self-concept is how you think about yourself. It’s your personality, values, and beliefs about who you are. It’s what you think of when someone asks, “Who are you?” It’s also how you see yourself as a person with questions like:

  • How kind or selfish are you?
  • How honest or deceitful are you?
  • How forgiving or unforgiving are you?
  • How helpful or unhelpful are you?

How do we develop self-concept?

Self-concept begins to develop during childhood and then continues as you grow older. And as you grow, you’ll have interactions and experiences. Those interactions will contribute to your self-concept.

In other words, you develop your self-concept by combining what you think and what others tell you about yourself.

Here are some important years where self-concepts develop the most.

  • 2 years old: This is where you start to differentiate yourself from others.
  • 3 to 4 years old: This is where you start to understand that you are different and unique from others. This is also where the self-image is a lot more active.
  • 7 to 11 years old: This is where you start to create social comparisons and care about how others perceive you.
  • Adolescence: This is the key period for self-concept and where the self-image starts to fade.

Adolescents base their self-concept on their success in some areas and other people’s feedback about them.

Why is self-concept important?

There are many reasons why self-concept is important, and here are some of them.

It helps you in your decision-making process.

Your self-concept helps you determine the kind of person you are and what you can do. To make good decisions, you need to be able to take into account your own self-concept.

If you don’t know how you perceive yourself, how can you make decisions based on that?

People who have a strong sense of self-concept are: 

  • More successful because they know what they want and how to get it.
  • Happier in their lives because they know who they are and what makes them happy or unhappy.

You might not realize it, but the way you think about yourself affects the decisions you make and the outcomes of those decisions. 

It gives you confidence.

Your self-concept is what you think about yourself and your abilities. It’s how you see yourself about others and can affect how you interact with the world around you. A strong and positive self-concept helps you feel confident in your abilities and more secure about who you are.

A strong self-concept isn’t just about having high self-esteem. It’s also about being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to succeed in whatever field or endeavor interests you.

It promotes healthy relationships with others.

When you have a good self-concept, you are more likely to get along with others because you are secure in yourself and your identity.

  • You don’t get jealous when your friends have more money than you do.
  • You don’t get angry when someone else knows more about something than you do.
  • You feel comfortable around others and can talk openly about yourself without worrying about what they’ll think of you.

However, when you have a poor self-concept, it’s easy to feel inferior to others or worry that they’ll judge you negatively. 

This can lead to anger and resentment toward your peers, which could cause problems in your relationships and make it hard for you to form meaningful connections with others.

It helps you pursue goals.

To achieve something, you have to have a strong sense of what you want out of life and who you are. That’s because the clear your vision of yourself as an achiever is, the easier it will be for you to see where you need to go to get there.

For example:

You want to be a businessperson but don’t know what success means for you, such as thinking: “This is how I want my business to look.” Then, how can you know what steps will take you there?

Remember that how we see ourselves plays a big role in what we can accomplish and how quickly we accomplish it. This is why it’s important to have a positive self-concept!

Why do people have a negative self-concept?

Believe it or not, some people have negative self-concepts, and here are the possible reasons why.

Negative self-concepts are often a response to past experiences.

How you think and feel about yourself has a lot to do with how other people have treated you in the past.

For example, a person who grew up in a family that constantly told them they were worthless and would never amount to anything will likely have a negative self-concept.

They may feel like they have no control over their lives and that the future is bleak.

People may be responding to other people’s negativity.

We are all influenced by the culture around us, and that includes our culture of self-concept. If you’re surrounded by people who have low opinions of themselves, chances are you will too.

If you think about it, we all do this in different ways! We pick up on things from the media, our families, or our friends!

Sometimes we’ll even pick up on things from ourselves. We might say something negative about ourselves out loud or in our heads and then find ourselves acting that way later on down the road.

Negative self-concepts can be reinforced by social media.

Many people get their self-concept from what they see on social media. If you’ve ever been on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen pictures of other people having fun in exotic locations or wearing the latest fashions. 

These images can cause us to feel bad about ourselves and our lives, leading to more negative thoughts about ourselves and our situations.

In addition, social media often displays information about others’ achievements, such as promotions at work or weddings. 

This can make us feel like we don’t measure up to our peers’ accomplishments and successes and might make us feel even worse about ourselves in the process! Many people get their self-image from what they see on social media.

People may assume that others judge them the way they do.

People with a negative self-concept are often afraid of being judged negatively by others. This fear can lead to an even more negative self-concept.

When we think about our self-judgment, we don’t usually look for evidence of kindness or understanding in ourselves. Instead, we tend to focus on our flaws and weaknesses. The same is true for how we imagine other people see us: we imagine others judging us negatively. 

This can bring us to a vicious cycle where we perceive others as critical and unloving, leading us to criticize ourselves more harshly and feel unloved by others.

People may not want to fail, so they lower their expectations of themselves.

People who are afraid of failing tend to lower their expectations of themselves. They think, “If I set my expectations low enough, then I won’t be disappointed when I don’t meet them.”

By lowering their expectations, it is easier for them to succeed. However, the problem with this is that their self-concepts are not built on their strengths and overcoming challenges.

Instead, their self-concepts are built on how well they perform in specific situations that are easy for them. When they face challenges that require more from them, they may not be able to cope with them because they don’t know how capable they really are.

How can you improve your self-concept?

As I said earlier, one good thing about self-concept is that you can develop and strengthen it. Here’s how you can do it.

Positive self-talk and positive self-feelings.

Talking yourself through a tough time is like talking through a tough workout.

If you say things like

“I’m not sure I can do this,” or

“I can’t do this” over and over again. It will only make things worse.

Instead, try saying something like 

“I can do this,” or 

“I am strong enough to survive this” instead!

The more positive feedback you give yourself, the more positive feelings will follow!

Staying physically fit and active.

Physical activity helps keep your body healthy and strong. And feeling good about your body, metabolism, and energy levels is part of feeling good about yourself.

So when you focus on being physically active, it positively affects all aspects of your self-concept!

  • Your mood will improve because you will feel more energetic.
  • Your confidence will increase because you will feel like taking on new challenges.
  • Your relationships will benefit because people tend to respect those committed to healthy lifestyles.

So get out there! Get moving! You’ll be surprised at how much better it feels for everyone involved!

Find activities you feel good at and pursue them with vigor.

It simply means finding what makes you happy and excited about life and then doing those things as often as possible.

  • If you’re an athlete, join a sports team or participate in a competitive league.
  • If you’re an artist, start painting or writing every day.
  • If you fancy cooking, learn new recipes and try them out on friends and family members!

The more time we spend doing the things that make us feel good about ourselves, the better our self-concept will be and the happier we’ll feel overall.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

When you’re feeling down about yourself, it can be tempting to isolate yourself. But if you’re trying to improve your self-concept, this is one of the worst decisions.

If you’re looking to improve your self-concept, then it’s important to be with the right and supportive people. 

This can be as simple as having a group of friends who are always there for you or as involved as taking a class on self-esteem. The more positive support you have around you, the better your self-concept will be!

Take time for yourself to reflect on your feelings about yourself.

Taking time for yourself is really important. It’s the best way to get to know yourself better and a great chance to get some space from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

If you want to improve your self-concept, I recommend taking time daily to reflect on your feelings about yourself. You can write them down or just keep track of your thoughts in your head such as:

  • What do you like about yourself?
  • What makes you special?
  • What do other people think of you?
  • How do you feel when people praise or compliment you?
  • Are there any aspects of yourself that you wish were different?
  • Do you think other people would like those things about themselves if they had them too?
  • In what ways could you make those things happen for yourself without hurting anyone else?

This reflection can help us better understand ourselves and feel more connected with others. This is because we can see how much they share with us and how much we don’t know yet!

The way that you see yourself has a big impact on your life!

Self-concept is a critical part of who you are. It’s your personal perception of yourself and how you see yourself in the world. It plays a huge part in how you interact with others, how you feel about yourself, and what kind of person you want to be.

So knowing what your self-concept is can help you understand yourself better. And that understanding can help you become a better version of yourself.

I hope you’ve gained some insight into the importance of self-concept in psychology. You can see how it can help us learn more about ourselves and others. I also hope that you will continue exploring this topic and find ways to improve your life by understanding yourself and those around you better.

Garo Kotchounian

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