What is Self-Concept?

What is Self-Concept?

Exploring Your Sense of Self

Self-concept refers to how we see ourselves. It encompasses all our thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and evaluations about our skills, abilities, strengths, weaknesses and attributes. Our self-concept develops over time as we interact with the world around us.

Where Self-Concept Comes From

As children, our self-concept emerges from the way others treat us and the feedback we receive. If family, teachers, and peers value us, we tend to value ourselves. If we are dismissed or rejected, our self-perception often suffers.

The Importance of Self-Concept

Self-concept has a significant impact on our motivation and behavior. Those with a positive self-concept are more likely to pursue opportunities and challenges. They tend to have high self-esteem and believe they can accomplish their goals.

In contrast, people with a negative self-concept often doubt their abilities and shy away from risks or new activities out of fear of failure.

The Fluid Nature of Self-Concept

While established early, our self-concept continues to evolve based on our experiences and how we interpret them. The beliefs we developed as children may not hold true as adults. With effort and self-reflection, we can gradually shape a more positive, empowering self-concept.

Improving Your Self-Concept

Here are some tips for developing a healthier self-concept:

  • Identify negative self-talk and counter it with kinder, more rational messages
  • Make a list of your strengths and revisit it when you feel doubtful
  • Seek out new pursuits that allow you to discover latent talents
  • Surround yourself with people who appreciate and support you
  • Let go of the need to be perfect; talk to yourself as you would a dear friend


What are the key influences on self-concept?

The main influences on self-concept are the responses and feedback we get from parents, caregivers, teachers, peers, partners, and others around us. Both praise and criticism shape our self-perception from an early age.

Can your self-concept change over time?

Yes, your self-concept evolves throughout your life based on new experiences, information, and interpretations. While childhood plays a big role, you can override negative messages you internalized early on by challenging old assumptions and false beliefs.

What happens when you have low self-concept?

People with a negative self-concept often lack confidence, avoid taking risks, and feel helpless to improve their lives. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where they fail to pursue opportunities and continually confirm their negative self-perceptions.

What are signs of a healthy self-concept?

Signs of a positive self-concept include feeling capable of handling challenges, recognizing your strengths and accomplishments, having high self-esteem, taking healthy risks, feeling deserving of happiness, and believing you can accomplish your goals.

How can you help a child develop a positive self-concept?

To foster healthy self-concept in kids, give them unconditional love, set reasonable expectations, encourage their efforts, praise their character strengths, provide opportunities to discover their talents, limit criticisms to behaviors rather than character attacks, and model positive self-talk.