The 5 differences between self-concept and self-esteem

The concepts of self-esteem and self-concept are used to refer to how we construct an idea of ​​ourselves and how we relate to it, but the truth is that they can often become confusing. for each other.

It is important to be clear about the differences between the two to know how we think about ourselves.

The main differences between self-esteem and self-concept

In one way or another, self-esteem and self-concept are theoretical constructs that help us understand how our minds work, how we see ourselves and how the opinions of others influence our idea of ​​our own identity. This means that these are not “pieces” that can be located in one place in our brain, components that are easy to recognize and isolate from other mental phenomena that take place in our mind, but are useful labels within that. very complex sea. Who is the human psyche.

However, this does not mean that it is not important to distinguish between these concepts. In fact, if we confuse them, we run the risk of not understanding a lot; for example, it would lead us to believe that seeing oneself in a certain way (overweight, tall, pale, etc.) indicates that this image of one’s own identity is inevitably perceived as something negative or positive, simply because socially there are attributes valued than others.

Below you can see the basis points used for distinguish self-esteem from self-concept.

1. One is cognitive, the other is emotional

The concept of self is basically the set of ideas and beliefs that make up the mental image of who we are. according to U.S. It is therefore a network of information which can be expressed in a more or less textual way through declarations about oneself: “I am cranky”, “I am shy”, “I am not good at speaking in front of many people “, etc.

Self-esteem, on the other hand, is the emotional component that is related to self-concept, and therefore cannot be dissected into words, as it is something totally subjective.

2. One can be translated into words, the other cannot

This difference between self-esteem and self-concept stems from the above. Our self-concept (or rather a part of it) can be communicated to third partiesIt is not the same with self esteem.

When we talk about those things about ourselves that make us feel bad (whether more or less real and accurate or not), we are actually talking about our self-concept, because self-esteem cannot be reduced to words. However, our interlocutor will gather this information that we give him about the self-concept and from there he will imagine the self-esteem associated with it. However, this task will be to actively recreate the self-esteem of the other person, not to recognize it in the verbal information that comes to him.

3. They use different types of memory

Self-esteem is essentially an emotional response to our idea of ​​ourselves, which means it’s tied to a type of implicit memory: emotional memory. This type of memory is mainly linked to two parts of the brain: the hippocampus and the amygdala.

The concept of self, however, is associated with another type of memory: declarative, Which is more related to the hippocampus and to areas of associative cortex that are distributed throughout the cerebral cortex. It is made up of a series of concepts that we have learned to associate with the idea of ​​”I”, and which can contain all kinds of concepts: joy or aggression in the name of certain philosophers or in the name of the idea of ​​certain animals that we identify with ourselves. Of course, some concepts will be more related to the core of our self-concept, while others will be part of the periphery of it.

4. One has a moral component, the other does not

Self-esteem is how we judge ourselves, and therefore it depends on the similarity we perceive between our concept of self and the image we have created of the “ideal self”.

Thus, while the concept of self is on the fringes of value judgments, self-esteem relies on the fundamental value judgment of what one is worth: it depends on how close we think to be of “good”, and so draw a path that will tell us whether we are getting closer or further away from what we should be.

5. One is easier to change than the other

Being part of emotional memory, self-esteem can be very difficult to changeSince it does not obey the criteria of logic, in the same way that phobias, which also depend on emotional memory, make us afraid of stimuli and situations which according to reason should not be afraid.

Self-concept, although it is linked to self-esteem and therefore its changes partly correspond to those of self, is somewhat easier to change, as it can be changed directly through cognitive restructuring. : if we stop to think about how we see ourselves it is very easy to detect inconsistencies and failing parts, and replace them with more viable beliefs and ideas when it comes to explaining who we are .

For example, if we think that we are very shy but realize that in the past we have become very confident and confident to lecture in front of many people in an exhibition on a topic that we are passionate about, it is easy to pass to think that our shyness is a little more moderate and circumstantial. however, it should not translate into improved self-esteem, Or at least not immediately.

We can remind ourselves on future occasions that we are not that shy after all and therefore behave so shyly, which would make others give more importance to our presence and, here yes, to our esteem. self. the real world that tells us the value we can have.

A very blurred border

Although there are differences between self-concept and self-esteem, it should be clear that both are theoretical constructs of psychology, which they help to understand how we think and how we act, but which do not describe clearly differentiable elements of reality.

In reality, the two take place together; like virtually all mental processes and subjective phenomena that we experience, they are the result of a looping system of parts of the brain that work at incredible speed and constantly interact with our environment by coordinating with each other. This means that, at least in human beings, self-concept cannot exist without self-esteem, and vice versa.

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