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The Self, Identity,

& Personality

Chapter 11
• All the Characteristics of the Person

• Self-concept: everything the person believes

to be true about him/herself

• Includes traits, preferences, social roles,

values, beliefs, interests, self-categorization

• Self-understanding develops throughout the

Self-Awareness in Infancy
• Dot-of-rouge experiment
• Recognize selves in mirror at 15-18
• 15-23 months
– Personal pronoun use
– Picture recognition
– Self-referencing, ownership, self-monitoring
Self in Early Childhood
• Confusion of self, mind, and body
• Concrete descriptions
• Physical descriptions
• Activities – what they do
• Overestimation of abilities
Self – Middle & Late Childhood

• Shift to internal traits and abilities

• Social role descriptions
• Real and ideal selves
• More realistic about abilities
Perspective Taking
• Opposite of egocentrism – the ability to
assume another’s perspective
• Children who are good at this are
• Development progresses through stages
Self in Adolescence
• Abstract-idealistic
• Self-conscious/ preoccupied
• Contradictions within self
• Fluctuating picture across time/situations
• Possible selves
• Self-integrations as they get older
Self in Adulthood
• Self-awareness (emotional intelligence)
– Accept own good and bad qualities
• Possible selves become more realistic
• Life review – evaluation of successes &
failures; more likely as you get older
Self-Esteem: What is it?
• Evaluative part of the self-concept
– emotional
• Difference between the real and ideal self
– Have you realized your potential?
– Do you value the trait, but have little potential?
– Ideal self includes the “ought” and the “wish”
• Measure of our sense of meaning in life
– This includes purpose
– Self-respect (Have you lived up to who you are?)
Self-Esteem: What is it?
• Influenced by the reactions of others
– Generalized other, great ubiquitous “they”
• People are susceptible to flattery
• It is tougher to accept criticism
• Basis for conformity
Self-Esteem: What is it?
• Self-serving bias

– Overrate ourselves
– Blame our failures
– Claim our victories
– As a rule, only depressed people truly have low
What’s the problem?

“Why is being wrong so socially traumatic

to students?”
The Self-Esteem Movement

Thank you to Dr. Tracey Zinn, on whose

conference presentation this section is
The Self-Esteem Movement
Propagated primarily in the educational system

Curricula aimed at increasing students’ self-esteem

Everyone born after 1970…

Focus has been on increasing self-esteem that is not rooted in reality

Researchers now suggesting that students need to be able to identify

their talents

The Psychology of Self-Esteem Branden (1969)

What Was Taught
“Keep your head up, feel good about yourself” vs. “take
responsibility for your work”. Forsyth et al (2007)

“You can do anything!”

•No use of the word “failure”

•Everyone got all As in HS, doing little work

•Unrealistic expectations of success

•Students report being bored in class

What Resulted
What Resulted: Attitudes
• “Being happy is the most important thing”

• We should always feel good about ourselves

• Increase in narcissism (debated)

• Don’t say “I’m a good soccer player” (Just say “I’m

What Resulted: Attitudes
Carol Dweck’s research

Effort is considered a sign of stupidity

When children are told that they are smart, they

choose an easier task.

Panic when they are challenged or

think they are engaging in “a lot of effort”.
Result – Confused Parents
• Encouraged delicate handling of children
• Shielded them from negative emotions, criticism
• Praised kids regardless of what they did

Carol Dweck’s research

Parents often think that helping their kids build self-
esteem is done by shielding them from criticism and
praising their talents

Protecting kids from hurt, failure, criticism, &

disappointment has made them more vulnerabl e
What Resulted - Behaviors

• “We’ve created college students who are woefully vulnerable to

• Thin skinned undergraduates, defensive when they miss
questions or are challenged
– Generation X Goes to College (Peter Sacks)

• Students seem to be incapable of handling negative feedback.

• New hires are asking for raises and promotions almost

immediately after being hired.

• When students with high SE are criticized

– Unfriendly, rude, and uncooperative.

• Entitlement regularly cited as an issue in college.

What Failed to Result

[High self-esteem] Isn’t associated with

improved grades, career achievement, reduced
alcohol usage, lower violent behavior, etc.
Baumeister and colleagues (2003)
What Self-esteem Cannot Do?

• Improve school performance

• Improve social relationships
• Guarantee good leadership
• Prevent risky behavior such as drinking
• Promote health

• It is defined in more than one way.

• It may simply be a marker or indicator
Educational Outcomes of the Self-
Esteem Movement

Susan Jacoby The Age of American Unreason

Are our students (people) hostile to knowledge?

Self-esteem movement = I’m the smartest kid!

“I’m supposed to be happy!”

Backlash against Self-Esteem
John Hewitt’s

The Myth of Self-Esteem: Finding Happiness

and Solving Problems in America

“Why do you feel good about yourself?”

“Because of self-esteem”
Backlash against Self-Esteem

Generation Me

Risk of depression & anxiety higher for young people


“Our growing tendency to put the self first leads to

unparalleled freedom, but it also creates an enormous
amount of pressure on us to stand alone.”
Are Negative Emotions Normal?

Against happiness: In praise of melancholy

Eric Wilson

Loss of sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal

Sorrow into Depressive Disorder
Alan Horwitz & James Wakefield

The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation

of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders
Peter Conrad
Correlates of Self-Esteem

• More initiative
• Happier, less depressed
– As long as things are going well.

• Related to physical appearance

• Can become narcissistic
• Fluctuates across the lifespan

– Meaning

– Purpose

– Living up to your identity & your destiny

Components of Identity
• Career
• Political views
• Religious beliefs
• Relationships
• Ethnic identity
• Personality
• Body image
Identity vs. Identity Confusion

• Identity crisis - exploration

• Identity commitment

• Problems:
– Weak sense of trust
– Little autonomy or initiative
– Lack of industry
Paths to Identity
• Identity diffusion
– No crisis/ commitment

• Identity foreclosure
– Commitment/ no crisis

• Identity moratorium
– Crisis/ no commitment

• Identity achievement (goal)

– Commitment following crisis
Erikson –Generativity vs. Stagnation

• Self-absorption

• Self-indulgence