Self-concept in simple words means what u think of your self. Your views and perceptions about yourself are termed as self-concept. How you think about your self-affects your behavior to a great extent. When you have a positive view of self, you are confident, have high self-esteem and resulting to a positive self-concept. On the other hand, when you are low in the love of self and don’t have a positive opinion of self. Criticize and judge yourself a lot, blame your self and have a high degree of self-doubt, all these contribute to a negative self-concept. The seven reasons given here are my views based on famous theories or schools of psychology. Let us examine these seven reasons for the negative self-concept.
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychodynamic theories stated that humans are driven mainly by the sexual drive (also called libido) and the aggressive drive. Freud explained that the libido mainly consisted of the id, ego and the superego. The id works on the pleasure principle that demands the immediate gratification of all impulses and engages in primary process thinking commonly known as wish fulfillment. Parts of the id spills into the ego which tries to gratify the kids’ demands in a socially accepted way, it works on the reality principle and engages in secondary process thinking. The superego is the storehouse of rules and regulations a person learns from his/her parents and society. They are the absolute moral standards.
When the person is dominated mainly by the superego, the ego tries constantly to find a balance between the ongoing conflicts between the id and the superego. One side a person wants to fulfill their desires and on the other side has moral and social obligations. Since the superego is dominating, it pressurizes the individual to comply, if the individual fails to comply, he/she faces a lot of guilt. This guilt often leads to a negative self-concept.
Next view is that of Abraham Maslow. Abraham Maslow gave a hierarchy of needs. Needs low in the hierarchy must be met before needs higher in the hierarchy can be satisfied. At the base of this hierarchy, deep roots are observed pertaining to the need of belongingness, love, security, and basic needs like hunger, thirst, warmth. Above those lie aesthetic needs like beauty and order, cognitive needs like to know, to be aware, and esteem needs like to achieve, be competent. At the top of this hierarchy stands self-actualization.
Generally, people satisfy their basic and lower order needs like food and shelter, safety and security, but they do not fulfill their need for love and belongingness. They lack these needs and thus, stun their personal growth. The lack of these needs often lead to frustration and thus lead to a negative self-concept.
Erick Erickson gave a series of psychosocial developmental stages. At each stage, individuals are faced with conflict or crises. How they deal with the crises can have an effect on their development. When dealt with positively can lead to a positive concept and if not dealt with can lead to a negative self-concept. Let us see some of these crises, at infancy one falls in the crises of trust versus mistrust, at the early childhood one falls in the crises of autonomy versus shame or doubt, between the ages of three to five one falls in the crises of initiative versus guilt, between the ages of six to puberty one falls in the crises of industry versus inferiority, at adolescence one falls in the crises of identity versus confusion, at early adulthood one falls in the crises of intimacy versus isolation, at late adulthood one falls in the crises of generativity versus stagnation, and finally at old age one falls in the crises of integrity versus despair.
When a crisis is not resolved it leads to a negative self-concept. An example, in early adulthood the individual is facing the crises of intimacy versus isolation. If the person is not able to resolve this crisis and hence feels a sense of isolation, that sense of being isolated can lead to a negative self-concept. Behaviorism states that reinforcement and conditioning play a dominant role in shaping a person behavior. Behaviors are learned through experiences in the environment. Behaviorism has two main principles, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning. When a person behaves in an unacceptable manner, depending on the feedback or response of the people around him/her, that behavior is punished or reinforced. This will have an impact on the person. More than often people are not aware of the impact of their response on the opposite person. Consider the example, when a boy behaves in a way that is not acceptable to his mother, she might hit him or shout at him and say “you are a bad boy”. This statement may make the boy feel that he is not good and he may start to develop a negative self-concept of him self as “I m a bad boy”.
When trying to understand the reasons why people develop a negative self-concept it must be remembered that first n foremost it is the person’s perception of him/her self. Thoughts and feelings affect and shape our behavior and emotions. They contribute to the maximum extent in the development our sense of self. A psychologist Albert Ellis developed a technique called as A B C D E technique. Ellis introduces the rational emotive therapy. The ABCDE technique involves:
A activating agent
D dispute irrational beliefs
I would like to explain this theory by saying that feelings lead to thoughts and thoughts lead to behaviors. There for all thoughts have some kind of feelings underlining them. We can not stop or control the activating agent may it be an object or an event, so to change our consequence to a situation we have to change our belief system. Most of the time, we are not aware of the fact that we as individuals consistently talk to our self, we are consistently talking to our selves. In my opinion, we talk to our selves in two ways. We are either motivating our self or we are consistently judging or criticizing our selves. When our inner self, our inner voices are too harsh in judging our every move, it creates pressure on us and if we don’t behave in accordance with our own expectations, we feel guilty. These thoughts and feelings often lead to our negative self-concept.
Another reason for a negative self-concept thought the concept may be temporary is the biological factor. Biologically, a negative self-concept can be explained in terms of chemical imbalances, i.e. sometimes when our hormones are not in balance they can produce discomfort that can lead to a negative self-concept. Consider an example, sometimes a thyroid dysfunction can cause depression and lead to a negative self-concept. Humans are social beings; they can not live in isolation. Each society forms its own sets of regulations which become the basis of our behavior. The society defines the roles we perform in our environment. It is the society that makes us what we are and it is through social comparison that we feel “accepted”; hence, we are obligated to obey the social norms. Unfortunately we humans are hedonistic in nature; we find it difficult to follow the social norms all the time. When we do not follow the norms, the society puts us under pressure. This pressure sometimes leads to a negative self-concept.
It should be known that all the different factors work together to form either our positive or negative self-concept. But the most important step is to realize and be aware of our environment and know what the different aspects that shape us are.