By: Taruna Anil
We’re taught from a very young age to value the opinions of others strongly, whether it be teachers who commented on your behavior in first grade, or your parents criticizing your test scores. Every opinion, what that person thought of you, what your first impression was, how they perceived you—for some reason, it matters so much. But why do their opinions have to matter more than yours?
The definition of self-concept is a culmination of the beliefs we hold about ourselves, constructed mainly from the responses and beliefs others hold about you. It’s a melting pot of every reaction, every sentence said about you, every thought someone has had about you that was later shown in one way or another.
According to verywellmind.com, self-concept tends to be more malleable when one is at a younger age, as they are going through the process of self-discovery.
Okay, so… what does that mean?
It means we, as teenagers, are more vulnerable to having a negative self-concept, which can cause harm to our mental health. When your perception of yourself is centralized around the opinions of others and their perception of you, it gets difficult to differentiate what is true and what is false. You may think you’re doing pretty well in school considering your circumstances, but because another person says that you’re falling behind compared to everyone else, that may be what you believe. Then, the questions arise: “Am I a bad student? Am I just not intelligent enough? Am I going to fail this class? Will I ever get into college?”
Soon enough, you start answering these questions for yourself. “Yes, I’m a bad student. I’m stupid. I won’t pass this class or get into this university.”
Self-concept is learned, not inherent, and it does not always align with reality, or who we actually are. Social interaction plays the largest role in developing self-concept, and though self-concept can be changed, it becomes more difficult as time goes on, since we already have established ideas of who we are (PositivePsychology.com). Being surrounded with negative reinforcements, like toxic people, environments, media, etc. can taint the ideas you hold about yourself.
So, when people say, “Don’t let what others say get to you!” “Know your worth!” “Don’t let a grade define you!” Maybe you’ll roll your eyes and keep going about your life. After all, it’s way easier said than done.
But those corny sayings hold truth. The more we let people define who we are as individuals, the more our self-concept is affected. The more our self-esteem drops, the worse the repercussions become.
Understand who you are. Understand that you’re someone with many positive traits (and negative ones too--but that’s okay!). You hold so many strengths that have proven useful time and time again. Surround yourself with people who will continue to remind you of that.
But if you can’t know that who people think you are is not a dictionary definition of you. No matter how you’re perceived, know your worth. You are more than a comment, a thought, a judgemental feeling.
"What Is Self-Concept And How Does It Form?". Verywell Mind, 2021, https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-concept-2795865. Accessed 8 Apr 2021.
"What Is Self-Concept Theory? A Psychologist Explains. [2019 Update]". Positivepsychology.Com, 2018, https://positivepsychology.com/self-concept/. Accessed 8 Apr 2021.