Living in a certain environment, one inevitably observes it and interacts with its components. A human being exists among other people, communicates with them, and finally inquires what differs each person and particularly themselves. Under the conditions of the constantly changing world, self-perception is also fluid and context-dependent (Dickerson, 2012).
To identify oneself as a separate entity distinct from others, the combination of various characteristics, such as age, ethnicity, gender, religion, academic progress, and so on, may be taken as a basis. The scientific studies of self and identity scrutinize this issue from different angles and help form the aggregate picture. Deeply versed in the sphere of self-identity, a person has the opportunity to sort out one’s feelings and achieve harmony with one’s private world and the surrounding community.
In this paper, developmental, individualistic, and constructivist theoretical perspectives on self-identity are examined: I describe how they relate to my own perceived self. The social constructionist perspective and the idea of oneself as a relatively stable, cognitively based, individual entity are also considered. Finally, I address the difference between my perceived self-concept and the ideal self.
Theoretical Perspectives and My Own Perceived Self
One of the main perspectives that pertain to self-identity is the developmental theoretical framework. As the term implies, it concentrates on the development of a person throughout their life. Age becomes the key criterion. According to this paradigm, it is possible to single out some phases each of which is notable for a complex of relationships, requirements, and settings.
During any developmental stage, one needs to incorporate changes to self-concepts: a unique and essential transition or crisis may be present, and problem resolution allows passing to the next stage successfully (Williams & Nussbaum, 2013). In other words, a developmental perspective refers to experience accumulation.
I assume this perspective is relevant to me. Age has always played a key role in how my life is organized: my past and present actions can be considered in the context of my age and corresponding knowledge and skills. For example, just as any teenager, I had to choose the branch of study and develop the vision of my future career.
It was not an easy task; I can state that I experienced a kind of crisis and tried to perceive myself as a specialist in several spheres. Probably, it was quite tough for me because I had not developed enough experience at that moment. Now I face another set of demands characteristic, again, of my age group: my studies and implementation of my career plans are among them. My perceived self is influenced by it: I regard myself as a future professional, evaluate my skills and knowledge, and compare them with what I want to achieve.
The individualistic approach focuses on the idea that a person possesses unique traits separating them from others. Indeed, individual view of self-identity is formed on the ground of how an individual perceives one’s inner world: concerns, motives, aspirations, and desires become significant (Stainton Rogers, 2011). In comparison, social self refers to the impact of the social environment. The process of socialization, identification with certain social groups, and types of upbringing make an impact (Stainton Rogers, 2011).
I suppose that I find a balance between the individual and the collective. I have my own opinions and emotions, but at the same time belong to many social groups and identify myself with them. The influence of my friends is especially big: we share values, have our memories and jokes that no one else understands, and still differ from each other. I cannot sometimes distinguish the individual and collective attributes because they are intertwined.
From the constructivist perspective, a socio-centered focus is important: the way a person is identified, bespoken, and exposed influences them and creates numerous identities relevant in specific contexts (Stainton Rogers, 2011). Under these circumstances, the individual self is believed to be a state of language (Gergen, 2009). To put in bluntly, the use of language’s potentials reflects personality to a large extent. For me, the constructivist perspective is primarily connected with the language.
Many studies suggest that it is a gender identity that is especially important in the context of speech: for instance, different topics generate different choices of linguistic means (Palomares, 2009). However, I guesstimate that I use neutral language even if the topic is masculine or feminine. Another aspect is applied to individual non-verbal mechanisms through which the vast majority of communicative information, for example, empathy, respect, hostility, friendliness, genuineness, is translated (Argyle, Alkema, & Gilmour, 1971).
Judging by my own experience, it is true: people do tend to show much information via their gestures, voice tones, facial expressions, and so on. I dare say that I can interpret body language signals effectively. When I converse with a person, I usually understand their response and then automatically evaluate if my words and actions are appropriate. Thus, I perceive myself as a successful or low-performing communicator. Overall, this perspective is the most relevant for me because I have many social roles and behave according to the situation.
Constructionist Perspective and Individual Entity
The traditional approach to a person as a solid, cognitive-based entity is disputed by the constructionist theoretical perspective since a person interacts in various social contexts. Human identity is fluid; it is composed of many parameters moved forward by social surroundings (Gergen, 2009). People participate in numerous activities, and each social situation involves different partners, although some of them may enter into multidimensional relationships.
Still, family environment, work setting, friends’ company, and other situations predominantly engage different people; thus, they create several identities of the same individual. Contexts are not stable: throughout the whole life, an individual takes part in multiple activities. Consequently, identities are changeable.
My Perceived Self-Concept and Ideal Self
One can hardly be fully satisfied with their character and current achievements, and I am not an exception. Assessing my personality, I realize that I have strengths as well as weaknesses. I am persistent, optimistic, and I can read people well. On the other hand, I need to develop concentration and quick thinking. It is also desirable to acquire more professional knowledge and practical skills. While I perceive myself in a definite way, my ideal self is not rigid: as I meet new people, study, and familiarize myself with different cultures, I add some traits to the ideal self-model and remove what seems irrelevant.
To sum up, different theoretical perspectives touch on identity and self. While the developmental approach implies stage-by-stage progress and individualistic perspective focuses on the comparison of personal and group characteristics, the constructionist view draws attention to numerous identities of a person. My perceived self-concept differs from the ideal self: I am eager to improve some of my traits, and I will do my best to achieve this goal.
Argyle, M., Alkema, F., & Gilmour, R. (1971). The communication of friendly and hostile attitudes by verbal and non-verbal signals. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 385–402.
Dickerson, P. (2012). Social psychology: Traditional and critical perspectives. Harlow: Pearson.
Gergen, K. J. (2009). Relational being: Beyond self and community. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Palomares, N. A. (2009). Women are sort of more tentative than men, aren’t they? How men and women use tentative language differently, similarly, and counter-stereotypically as a function of gender salience. Communication Research, 36, 538-560.
Stainton Rogers, W. (2011). Social psychology (2nd ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Williams, A., & Nussbaum, J. F. (2013). Intergenerational communication across the life span. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.