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The personal and social identity

The personal and social identity

May 10, 2021

Who I am? This question is frequent but the answer is so unusual that it could be considered a rhetorical question. It is a question that we usually ask ourselves regularly when we feel insecure or do not know how to take charge of our lives.

However, this article does not pretend to be an existential philosophical essay about being, nor does it pretend to give a transcendental answer that will make you reinvent yourself. Simply I will show what Psychology has to say about identity and how it largely determines our behavior.

Identity: something that defines us

With a simple look at different profiles on social networks we can see the small descriptions we make of ourselves. There are those who define themselves as students, footballers, reporters, cinephiles; while others will define themselves as cheerful, friendly, funny, curious, passionate, etc.


As can be seen, these two types of definitions are the most common and present a fundamental difference between them. Some people are defined by the groups they are part of, while others are defined by their personal traits. The Psychology defines the self-concept, the self or "self" as a same construct formed by two different identities: personal identity and the social identity.

The social identity

The social identity defines the self (the self-concept) in terms of the groups of belonging. We have as many social identities as there are groups that we feel belong to. Therefore, the groups of belonging determine the group an important aspect of self-concept, for some people the most important.


Let's take an example of a famous Latin singer. Ricky Martin is part of many roles, and he could define himself as a man, artist, brunette, singer, homosexual, millionaire, son, Latin American, father, etc. He could define himself with any of them, but he will select to identify himself with those adjectives he feels that differentiate him more and bring a differential value to the rest .

Another representative example we can see in the small biographies that each of us have in the social network Twitter. Defining on the basis of the groups of belonging is as human as judging other people based on their attire and nonverbal behavior.

By forming such a broad part of our self-concept, irremediably, the groups determine our self-esteem. Remember that self-esteem is an emotional-affective assessment that we make of our own self-concept. For this reason, defining oneself on the basis of groups of high social status will suppose a high self-esteem, while those who are part of groups that are not socially valued, will have to use strategies of support in personal identity to deal with the decrease in their assessment.


In this way we see the high impact on our self-esteem and self-concept, the different groups to which we belong.

Effects of social identity

In the article in which we talked about stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination, we mentioned the social identity theory of Tajfel in which the social categorization effects in intergroup relations were revealed in the form of prejudices, stereotypes and discriminatory behavior.

Tajfel showed that the mere fact of identifying a group and considering themselves different from others gave rise to a differentiated treatment since it affects the cognitive process of perception , increasing the magnitude of the similarities with those of the same group and the differences with those that are not part of our group of belonging. This perceptual effect is known in social psychology as the effect of double stress.

As we have pointed out before, Social identity and self-esteem are closely related . Part of our self-esteem depends on the assessment of the groups of belonging. If we like the group of belonging, we like each other. "Shine with the reflection of the glory" of others. We identify with the achievements of the group or one of its individuals and this is reflected in a positive mood and self-esteem. This effect can be seen widely in the hobby for soccer.

When the team that is the winner is ours, we proudly go out to the street identified with the success of our team and we attribute it to ourselves, since they are part of our identity. Did you see someone who was not excited about the fact of feeling Spanish? when Iniesta gave us victory in that wonderful summer of 2010?

The personal identity

Social identity defines self (and self-concept) in terms of social relations and idiosyncratic features (I am different from others). We have as many "I's" as relationships in which we are involved and idiosyncratic characteristics that we believe we possess.

But what is it that differentiates us from others when we are part of the same group? Here our traits, attitudes, abilities and other characteristics come into play that we self-attribute s . Those that are defined by their sympathy, solidarity, tranquility or courage; they have a personal identity of greater dimension than the social one. This may be because their membership groups do not make them feel good because of their low social status, or simply the individuality of these people is reflected better by their attributes and by their social roles.

I am sure that as you read this article, you tried to know with what identity you make yourself known to others when you introduce yourself. You can go further, you know that the basis of the promotion of self-image is to maintain high levels of self-esteem. So take care and cultivate those groups or traits with which you define yourself and with which you want the world to know you , because if you define yourself with them it means that they have a high emotional value for you. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing oneself.


Identity Theory vs. Social Identity Theory (May 2021).


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