SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-CONCEPT: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
People often confuse ‘self-esteem’ and ‘self concept.’
This Part 32 in a series of articles about the “self.”
The big difference between the self-concept and self-esteem is that the
Self-concept refers in general to the thinking aspect of self as it relates to our self-image (that is, how we see ourselves as related to others in a cognitive or thinking way) while
Self-esteem refers to the affective or emotional aspect, or the way we feel about ourselves.
(Some psychologists and other writers discuss the two terms almost interchangeably, which can be confusing, but the distinctions we make here should be helpful.)
The self-concept is “the totality of a complex, organized, and dynamic system of learned beliefs, attitudes and opinions that each person holds to be true about his or her personal existence.” (W. Purkey. 1998. An Overview of self-concept theory for counselors.)
That’s pretty clear–almost everything and anything we think or believe or have learned (from others and from our own actions and experiences.)
Franken says that a great deal of research indicates that the self-concept is the basis for all motivated behavior (R. Franken Human Motivation. 3rd ed. 1994)
“It is the self-concept that gives rise to our possible selves and it is our possible selves that create the motivation for behavior.”
Our view of ourselves and our possibilities in the world is centered here.
Franken says that “people who have good self-esteem have a clearly differentiated self-concept.”
This makes sense, doesn’t?
Self-esteem is the way we feel about ourselves.
We can be skilled at something yet feel inadequate.
We can be in a position of authority, influence or power and yet worry about whether we deserve or it can live up to it.
Sometimes we feel like frauds.
We think we’ve been getting away with a lie for years and someone is going to say ‘What the hell is he doing in that position? He’s doing a terrible job!”
We can feel like imposters or fakes.
Sometimes we luck into a job and muddle around until we actually learn how to do it quite well but we are stuck with the feeling we had when we first got it. That we’re unfit for it.
Conversely we can feel that we’re doing as terrific job and be screwing it up.
Think of the guy who ran the “clean up” of New Orleans after the floods, or Ron Ford, the ex-mayor of Toronto, or any of a dozen presidents of countries around the world.
Their self-esteem is high but misplaced.
They feel they are doing a good job but they are woefully out of touch.
So, in brief and generally-speaking, self-concept is what we think of ourselves and self-esteem (or lack thereof) is how we feel about ourselves.
We’ll examine this more cl,ousel soon.
People who know who they are can achieve more in life because they know what they can do and what they can’t do and they are more likely to be motivated to do what they can.
EVIDENCE THAT SELF-KNOWLEDGE IS THE KEY TO LIFE!
OK, that might be overstating it but not by much!
Certainly, Knowing Yourself is the key to greater achievement in life.
Well, that’s the kind of thing that prompted me to study this whole field and to write and teach about it. If he agree, say something about it b low!
And if you are getting ready to learn more about yourself, send me an email.