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The 5 differences between self-concept and self-esteem

The 5 differences between self-concept and self-esteem

October 3, 2022

The concepts of self-esteem and self-concept serve to refer to the way in which we construct an idea of ​​ourselves and how we relate to it, but the truth is that many times they can get confused.

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 a way, self-esteem and self-concept are theoretical constructs that help us understand how our mind works, how we see ourselves and in what way the opinion of others influences the idea we have of our own identity. This means that they are not "pieces" that can be localized in a place in our brain, components that are easy to recognize and isolate from the rest of the mental phenomena that take place in our minds, but rather are useful labels within that very complex sea that is the human psyche. .


However, that 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 many things; for example, it would lead us to believe that seeing oneself in a certain way (overweight, tall, pale, etc.) indicates that irremediably that image of one's identity is seen as something negative or positive, only because socially there are more valued attributes What others.

Below you can see the basic points that are used to distinguish self-esteem from self-concept .

1. One is cognitive, the other is emotional

The self-concept is, basically, the set of ideas and beliefs that constitute the mental image of what we are according to ourselves. Therefore, it is a framework of information that can be expressed in a more or less textual way through affirmations about oneself: "I am bad-tempered", "I am shy", "I do not serve to speak in front of many people", etc.


Self-esteem, on the other hand, is the emotional component that is linked to self-concept, and therefore can not be dissected in words, because it is something totally subjective.

2. One can be expressed in words, the other can not

This difference between self-esteem and self-concept is derived from the previous one. Our self-concept (or, rather, part of this) can be communicated to third parties , while the same does not happen with self-esteem.

When we talk about those things about ourselves that make us feel bad (whether they are more or less real and exact or not), we are really talking about our self-concept, because self-esteem can not be reduced to words. However, our interlocutor will gather that information we give him about self-concept and from there he will imagine the self-esteem that is associated with it. However, this task will consist of actively recreating the self-esteem of the other person, not recognizing it in the verbal information that arrives.


3. They appeal to different types of memory

Self-esteem is a basically emotional response to the idea we have of ourselves, which means that it is related to a type of implicit memory: emotional memory. This kind of memory is especially related to two parts of the brain: the hippocampus and the amygdala.

The self-concept, however, is associated with a different type of memory: the declarative , which is more related to the hippocampus and the zones of associative cortex that are distributed by the cerebral cortex. It is conformed with a series of concepts that we have learned to associate with the idea of ​​"I", and that can contain all kinds of concepts: from joy or aggression to the name of certain philosophers or the idea of ​​certain animals that we identify with we. Of course, certain concepts will be more related to the core of our self-concept, while others will be part of the periphery of this.

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

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

Therefore, while self-concept is independent of value judgments, self-esteem is based on the fundamental value judgment about what one is worth: it depends on the extent to which we believe we are close to "the good", and therefore it traces us a path that will indicate us if we are approaching or moving away from what we should be.

5. One is easier to change than the other

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

The self-concept, although it is related to self-esteem and therefore its changes correspond in part with this, is somewhat easier to change, because it can be modified directly through cognitive restructuring: if we stop to think about the way in which we see ourselves it is very easy for us to detect inconsistencies and failing parts, and replace them with more viable beliefs and ideas when explaining who we are.

For example, if we believe that we are markedly timid but then we realize that in the past we have come to be very confident and confident when giving talks in front of many people in an exhibition on a subject that we are passionate about, it is easy to think that our shyness is something more moderate and circumstantial. But nevertheless, this does not have to translate into an improvement in self-esteem , or at least not immediately.

It may be that in future occasions we remember that we are not so shy after all and that, therefore, we do not behave with such timidity, which would make others give more importance to our presence and, yes, our self-esteem could improve , to see real changes in the real world that tell us the value we can have.

A very blurred border

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

Actually, both occur together; As practically all the mental processes and subjective phenomena that we experience, are the result of a loop system of parts of the brain that work at an incredible speed and that are constantly interacting with our environment coordinating with each other. That means that, at least in human beings, there can be no self-concept without self-esteem, and vice versa.


The Difference Between Self Confidence & Self Esteem w/ Psychotherapist Hugh Barton (October 2022).


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