When we refer to “the self,” all sorts of terms may come up, words like self-identity, self-concept, self-image, self-esteem, and self-love. What’s the difference and how can we move towards becoming our best selves?
Let’s start with self-identity- this is who you are. Self-identity is the awareness of and identification with oneself as a separate individual, how you identify and define yourself. You would describe your identity with specific and selective traits, qualities, abilities, and characteristics that represent you.
An example of a self-identity is perhaps a role that you play, such as mother or doctor, or perhaps a certain trait that encompasses who you are, such as reliable or lazy. You can identify as a particular sexual orientation like as bisexual or pansexual or as a gender like or unlike the one given to you at birth.
A person’s self-identity is not formed from birth but rather it is shaped through life. Family, culture, friends, personal interests and surrounding environments are all factors that tend to help shape a person’s identity. Who you are today is likely very different from who you were when you were five.
Just as there are a gazillion people in this world, there are an infinite number of ways to distinguish one person from another and it is in these differences that we find the self-identity of each individual.
Self-concept involves how you see yourself, how you think about yourself, and how you feel about yourself. It consists of an organized collection of feelings and beliefs about ourselves. Some scholars define it as a reflection of the reactions of others towards the individual.
The ability to know yourself; to be able to assess your strengths, weaknesses, talents and potential all fall under self-concept. It also includes the ability to be honest with yourself and be true to who you are and what you value. A healthy self-concept means that you take responsibility for your choices and actions.
Self-image is a construct that falls within self-concept but deals more with how you perceive yourself and not who you actually are. Self-image is the internalized mental picture or idea you have about yourself. It’s the conceptualization about the kind of person you are.
Self-image influences how we view ourselves, how we interact with others, and even how we feel about our surroundings. As you can imagine, it has a pretty major influence over our lives. A positive self-image has the ability and potential to boost your physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
We know that having high self-esteem is healthy, but what does self-esteem actually mean? In its simplest definition, It’s how you feel about yourself. Self-esteem is something that we can work on improving throughout our lifetime. It is the overall evaluation of one's worth or value.
Self-esteem is a way of thinking, feeling, and acting that implies that you accept, respect, and believe in yourself. When you have high self-esteem, you think your ideas, feelings, and opinions have worth and ultimately that you are worthy of love and acceptance.
It is important to note that having high self-esteem doesn’t mean that you love everything about yourself or that you consider yourself to be perfect. It means that you hold yourself in positive regard and that you accept both your strengths and your weaknesses and feel good about yourself and your life.
Finally, we come to self-love. Its definition is in its name- the love you give yourself. Self-love is the unconditional love and respect you have for yourself. It’s regarding yourself as a priority and treating yourself with compassion and kindness, just as you would treat others whom you love, perhaps even better than.
All of these concepts are important and they are all part of the journey to becoming your best self. There are definitely obstacles that stand in the way of all of these and through engagement in therapy, coaching, self-discovery exercises, journaling, and mindfulness work, you can move towards where you want to go.
How do you know where you stand? Is your self-image on the more positive side or can it use some work? How about self-esteem- is it as healthy as it can be or do you need to work on feeling better about yourself? What needs to happen in order for you to love yourself more? Will it take practicing self-care more, changing the self-talk, or both?
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