The Self-Concept is a complicated process of gaining self-awareness. It consists of mental images an individual has of oneself: physical appearance, health, accomplishments, skills, social talents, roles, intellectual traits, and emotional states and more -all make up our self-concept.
The development process begins at about six or seven months of age. The child begins to recognize “self” as distinct from surroundings. They stare at anything they see, including their own body parts; hands, feet, toes, and fingers. As they grow, their sense of identity expands through interactions with others -creating self-esteem levels that become the “booster” for the ability to interact.
There are two theories that describe how interactions shape our self-views. One defines perceptions of the judgments of others called Reflected Appraisal. It is the notion of receiving supportive and nonsupportive messages. It states that positive appreciation and a high level of self-value is gain when supportive messages are received. In contrast, receiving nonsupportive messages leads to feeling less valuable, lovable, and capable. Everyone that you and I interact with influences these self-evaluations. Either from your past or from present -all shapes how you view yourself, especially from our significant others. The strength of messages from significant others become stronger and eventually affect the health, when they are nonsupportive; depression, for instance, leads to less physical activities that are necessary for a healthy body. However, the foremost important influences are our parents. Supportive parents raise children with healthy self-concepts. While nonsupportive parents raise an unhappy child who view his/her self in negative ways.
The other theory defines evaluation of ourselves in terms of how we compare with others, called Social Comparison. There are two types, superior or inferior comparison and same as or different from others. We compare by attractiveness, success or failures, intelligence, and it all depends on whom we are comparing ourselves with. For instance, an individual might feel inferior when compared with an inappropriate reference group. Therefore, he or she might feel inferior because she feels less of everything from the reference. Similarly, the opposite occurs when compared with an appropriate reference group.
In addition, we also compare ourselves through distinctions from others to shape our identity such as ethnicity, background, physical characteristics, and origin. Its transformation begins with support (recognition and acknowledgment) from reference groups or models (those who we compare ourselves with). Take a father and son for example; when the son wants to be just like his father, he mimics his attitude, appearance, and behaviors, which in turn, slowly develops his self-concept. Thus, it is important that we place ourselves along side a positive role model to improve our self-concept.
Self-Concept is characterized by its levels of self-esteem, its flexibility, and its resistance to change. Self-esteem has a powerful effect on the way we relate to others. Those who dislike themselves are likely to believe that others won’t like them. They imagine that others are viewing them critically, expect to be not accepted by others, and feel very uncomfortable around people who they view as superiors. Hence, creates hostility towards those individuals to gain likeableness. High levels of Self-Esteem on the other hand, are likely to think well of others, expect to be accepted by others, and feel comfortable with others they view as superior.
A healthy self-concept is flexible, in that it must adapt to the change of everyday interactions to stay realistic. Our personality stays constant, however, our physical appearance, intellect, emotions, and spirits change. It depends on how we manage our impressions in different situations. Change is a very difficult process for us; so, we express our resistance towards it. However, if the change is for the better, the attitude changes and eventually, overcomes that resistance. There are four requirements that must be met for the message to be regarded as important enough to change. First, the evaluator must be someone we see as competent to offer it. Secondly, the message must be perceived as highly personal. Thirdly, it must be similar or somewhat dissimilar to the one we give ourselves; otherwise, the idea will be rejected. Lastly, the message must be said more than once for it to be persuasive.
Another influence in the self-concept is Self-Fulfilling prophecies. The self-concept is so powerful that it can also affect the individuals’ future behavior and that of others through self-fulfilling prophecies. This occurs when expectations are influenced by behaviors that make them come true and there are two ways to make it possible; self-imposed and/or from others predictions. Self-Imposed occurs when your own expectations influence your behavior, or acted in ways that made it come true, which is influence by our attitudes. On the other hand, self-fulfilling prophecies sometimes are influence by an individual’s expectations to govern another’s actions. This notion is considered to be a powerful force that shapes the self-concept. Example: patients given placebos are persuaded by the doctor; they are persuaded that when taken, they will be cured of illnesses, which in turn, shapes their attitude and behavior.
Changing our self-concept is difficult to do, but absolutely not impossible. The first step is to not expect too much of yourself or you’ll drive yourself to the path of unhappiness. Next, have realistic perceptions of yourself. Avoid inaccurate perceptions and recognize your strengths. Gain the will to change, the effort to improve your self-concept. Do not say “can’t”; instead, say, “can”. Finally, have the skill to change -seek advice from books, Internet, or observe others to adapt their behavior to fit your own personal style.
In regards to integrating this concept into my life, I focused on improving my self-expression towards others by increasing my competence, disregarding irrational thoughts, increasing self-awareness, and at the same time, gain a higher level of self-esteem. I have the will, but I am working on the skill to change. The major influence is competency and my subjects are everyone that I interact with -all will help me determine my progress.
The first thing I found that I should improve on was feeling comfortable around those who I perceive as superior. I have this fear, which leads to disorganized thoughts, of communicating with someone of a higher rank than I. You seeI consider (only) Caucasians to be superior -adults, because of their logic and high-level use of English. To me, having the ability to speak “good or proper” English is a big advantage, and it is just one skill that I still need improvement on. I find myself lost of words when spoken to, and most of the time I end up stuttering them and leads to “not making sense”. Don’t get me wrong, I can write, but it is difficulty for me when it comes to a face-to-face conversation. In taking this class of Interpersonal Communication, I have discovered how to overcome this flaw of mine. First, I create a feeling of competence and decreased my level of nervousness. Secondly, I organize my thoughts and words as I listen. Then, I express those ideas slowly and articulately. That way, my ideas can come sensibly. Another solution is to think highly of myself, instead of thinking inferior.
Secondly, I realized that I am too hard on my self. I think too irrationally of my self and of others, “how people are going to react towards me?”. I constantly ask myself, “How will they react if I ask them wrongly? What will think and do? How will they feel?” So what I try to do is to think “rationally” of how I am going to react towards them instead, because in my opinion, my impression is what influences their reactions, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. This means that self-awareness must also come into play. I will have to be concerned about the way I present my ideas, as well as my behavior; otherwise, it will be perceived negatively.
So far, my self-concept has changed positively and in time, it will improve (optimists). The only difficulty that I have been facing is the ability to defend myself against negative comments from others. Because of my thinking process speed, it takes time for me to acquire comments and how to say them immediately. In addition, I found that it is not necessary to give a response back to negative comments in order to defend yourself, except in courtrooms. Nonverbal expressions are also as powerful. For example, ignoring critical comments create a serious climate between you and the speaker -sending a message that the comment was unnecessary and offensive. But in some cases, verbal messages are necessary, such as that in debates over issues.
In conclusion, I would have to say that what has been written are only a scratch on a big surface of interpersonal communication skills that I have learned from this class. This concept just happened to be the most important for improvement.