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Identity and Self-Concept

Other concepts similar to self are identity and self-concept.

Identity is composed of personal characteristics, social roles and responsibilities, as well as affiliations
that define who one is (Oyserman, Elmore and Smith 2012). Identity is the combination of your
personality, your physical attributes and so on, so forth. It what makes an individual unique or different
to each other, by their own identity.

While self-concept is what basically comes to your mind when you are asked who you are (Oyserman,
Elmore and Smith 2012). For example, beliefs such as "I'm a good friend." or "I'm a shy person." Self-
concept is essentially a mental picture of yourself as a person.

• Identity and self-concept are not fixed in one time frame. For example, when you are asked about who
you are, you can say "I'm a varsity in 5th grade." which pertains to the past, "a college student" which
may be the present, and "a future politician" which is the future. They aren't also fixed for life nor are
they're ever-changing at every moment. Think about water. It can take any shape of the container, but at
its core, it's still the same element.

Carl Rogers captured this idea in his concept of self-schema or our organized system or collection of
knowledge about who we are (Gleitman, Gross and Reisberg 2011; Jhangiani and Tarry 2014).

• The schema is not limited. It may also include your interests, work, course, age, name and physical
characteristics, among others. As you grow and adapt to the changes around you, they also change. But
they aren't passive receivers, they actively shape and affect how you see, how you think and how you feel
about things. For example, when someone states your first name even if they are not talking about you,
your attention is drawn to them. Or let's say you're a kpop fan or a k-drama addict who knows a lot of
korean words, you heared someone said 'saranghaeyo' nearby, that person will surely catch your

Theories generally see the self and identity as mental constructs, created and recreated in memory.
Current researches point to the frontal lobe of the brain as the specific area in the brain associated with
the process concerning the self (Oyserman, Elmore and Smith 2012).

Several psychologists, especially during the field's earlier development, followed this trend of thought,
looking deeper into the mind of the person to theorize about the self, identity, self-concept, and in turn,
one's personality.

The most influential of them was Sigmund Freud. Basically, Freud saw the self, its mental processes, and
one's behavior as the results of the interaction between the Id, the Ego and the Superego.
However, as mentioned earlier, one cannot fully discount the effects of society and culture on the
formation of the self, identity and self-concept. Even as Freud or other theories and researches try to
understand the person by digging deeper into their mind, they can't fully discount the huge and
important effects of the environment. Social interaction always has a part to play in who we think we are.

Under the theory of symbolic interactionism, G.H Mead (1943) argued that self is created and
developed through human interactions (Hogg and Vaughan 2010). Basically, there are three reasons why
self and identity are social products (Oyserman, Elmore and Smith 2012):

1. We do not create ourselves out of nothing. Society helped in creating the foundations of who we
are and even if we make our choices, we will still operate in our social and historical contexts in
one way or the other. You may, of course, transfer from one culture to another, but parts of who
you were will still affect you and you will also have to adapt to the new social context. Try
looking at your definition of who you are and see where society had affected you.
2. Whether we like to admit it or not, we actually need others to affirm and reinforce who we think
we are. We also need them as reference points about our identity. One interesting example is
the social media interactions we have. In the case of Facebook, there are those who consciously
or unconsciously try to garner more "likes" and/or positive "reactions" and that can and will
reinforce their self-concept. It is almost a battle between who got more friends, more views, and
trending topics. If one says he is a good singer, but his performance and the evaluation of his
audience says otherwise, that will have an effect on that person's idea of himself, one way or
3. What we think is important to us may also have been influenced by what is important in our
social or historical context. Education might be an important thing to your self-concept because
you grew up in a family that valued education. Money might be important to some because they
may have grown in a low-income family and realized how important money is in addressing
certain needs like medical emergencies. Being a nurse or a lawyer can be priority in your self-
schema because it is the on-demand course during your time.

Social interaction and group affiliation are vital factors in creating our self-concept especially in the
aspect of providing us with our social identity or our perception of who we are based on our
membership to certain groups (Jhangiani and Tarry 2014). It is also inevitable that we can have several
social identities, that those identities can overlap, and that we automatically play the roles as we interact
with our groups. For example, you are a student who is also a part of a certain group of friends. You
study because it is your role as a student but you prefer to study with your friends and your study pattern
changes when you are with your friends than you do it alone.