Understanding the Self-Concept: Its Sources and Origins

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The self-concept, a foundational aspect of human psychology, represents an individual’s perception and understanding of themselves.

Self-concept is a set of perceptions that a person has about him or herself. For the most part, the self-concept is relatively enduring, meaning it doesn’t change much over time.

And a lot of people may argue and say that our self-concept changes over time. because we feel we are not the person we were 15 years ago, and I will tell you that I am also not the person I was 15 years ago, but one question.

Is it so much that our self-concept has changed? Or have we just learned more about ourselves, through self-reflection, and through other origins of self-concept that I’m going to reveal in this article.

The truth is, we have only learned more about ourselves over time, to the point that our self-concept has maybe changed in that way.

But overall, who we are doesn’t change much over time, we self-discover, self-reflect and start to think about who it is that we are and as we grow older we learn more about ourselves.

Where does our self-concept come from?

from a lot of different sources.


This is also known as the looking glass self, (1902 William Cooley). we learn about ourselves from our communication with others.

For example, if somebody tells you, boy, you make really good cookies and you’ve heard that from family members you may think that they’re just trying to be nice.

But when it comes from strangers and multiple people, you start to internalize that and think to yourself, maybe I am good at making cookies. Perhaps, I should be a baker. And then it becomes more of your self-concept.

Self-concept from others is a really big one. That’s where a lot of our self-concept comes from. It is from our communication with others.

We know how people look at us, we notice their nonverbal’s and feedback, we take note of what they say to us directly, we internalize them and make them part of our self-concept.

you can think about one more negative aspect of this with bullying and how bullying can get out of control and affect our self-concept and self-esteem,


There are some things that people can’t tell us about ourselves, we have to self discover.

For instance, you like dessert. It becomes part of you. That’s not something that people have told you over time. It’s just something that you have grown and learned to like to eat dessert. So that’s self-observation.

A lot of times our likes and dislikes are not things that other people tell us about. It is true our likes and dislikes, attitudes and beliefs, are certainly influenced and shaped by others.

But, as part of our self-concept, these are things that we have internalized ourselves over time.


Another origin is our group associations, so our group associations are parts of basic groups that we associate.

But let me give you some examples. if you’re part of a church, you might associate yourself as part of that church, I am a Christian, I am Lutheran, I am a Methodist, I am a Catholic, I am a Muslim, you’re associating yourself with that group as part of your self-identity.

if you are a fan of a specific team, or you associate yourself with some sort of group of other people. that’s a group Association there too.


These are just roles that you kind of assumed into. for example, you are a wife, that’s a role you assumed when you got married. You are a mother to two children, that is a role you assumed when you had your children. You are an owner and mother to a cat. So that is a role that you assumed when you adopted a cat. These are just roles.

I could say like they’re not necessarily roles you choose. they’re sometimes roles that are given to you.


We compare ourselves to others a lot through self-observation we compare ourselves to others, to determine who we are as well.

We’re influenced by other people all the time. The way we dress, the way we act, many times is influenced by all the other people that we’ve been around.

we can determine whether we’re good or bad at something or whether we’re fortunate or unfortunate from upward and downward social comparisons.


An upward social comparison is when we look to others, and we see like, it’s something to work towards. This can be negative, and it can also be seen in a positive light because I like to look at everything in a positive light.

In upward social comparison, you look to those people who are a little bit better off or own something bigger and better than you do and you think to myself. It is not so much jealousy it’s more of like, “what have I done wrong in life, to get to this spot and what have they done right to get to that spot”. And this is that perception.

On the other hand, upward social comparison can also give you something to work towards. So, when you look up to somebody and you want to be like them.

For example maybe you have a co-worker who just finished their degree, graduated, and got a promotion and you’re thinking to yourself, like, that’s where I want to be in five years. I want to finish my degree, get a job and a promotion.

I want to be in their position in five years. That’s still is an upward social comparison, but instead of making it, you feel bad about yourself.

It helps give you a goal in mind or something to work towards it’s very motivating. So again, those have impacts on our self-concept and self-esteem as well.


Now, the downward social comparison is the exact opposite. It’s when we look to others who aren’t as good at something like you and we feel better about ourselves, or someone who’s less fortunate and we feel more fortunate.

For example, in the classroom, You might get your test back and you might have earned an A on that test. Well, if everybody else in the class earned an A on the test, you probably don’t feel as good about that day.

When you find out the class average was 70%, and only one person in the class got an A and that was you. You’re going to feel good about doing that. It is going to up your self-esteem and self-confidence and maybe say to yourself concept, ” I’m good at math, look at, nobody else could do this and I did”. So you feel better about yourself in that way.

Those are the main origins of your self-concept. As you go along, start reflecting on these ideas of your self-concept and you’ll get a better idea as to who you are as well.


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Hello readers, you are welcome to your info connect. My name is Emmanuel, I am a graduate Mechanical Engineer, a blogger, and Digital Marketer. I share educational and career information and content to enable viewers who are aiming for success to attain it in their various fields. I hope you enjoy your tour here.

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