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Types of Self-Representations

Self-representation refers to the image one has about him or herself. It relates to how individual views oneself, mostly in relation to others. Self-representation is a very important concept in one’s life as it affects how one perceives himself or herself, and others (Simon, 1997). It also affects how one interprets different experiences in life, and how they behave towards them. Self-representation also affects how one feels, thinks, behaves and relates with other people.

The concept of self-representation has received a lot of attention and recognition from researchers. One psychologist referred to as William James postulated the theory of self, by stating that the concept of self has two aspects. These are the “Me Self” and the “I Self”. According to him, the I Self relates to what people perceive themselves as doing in the physical realms. It majorly deals with what people do in the physical world. For instance, one might recognize that they are driving or eating. On the other hand, the Me Self is psychological in nature. It relates to the reflections people have about themselves, and the characteristics they think they possess. When these two aspects are brought together, they help to give the true definition of oneself.

People usually possess either positive or negative self-views. Those with positive self-views tend to perceive themselves as having the desirable qualities. For instance, one may perceive oneself as being organized or insightful. These people will seek for positive evaluations from others, as well as self-enhancement. On the other hand, people with negative self-views perceive themselves as having some undesirable qualities. The need for self-enhancement moves these people to look for evidence that others see them as having the negative qualities.

The concept of self-representation can be grouped into three categories. These are the individual, relational and the collective self (Brewer & Gardner, 1996). The individual self is concerned with differentiating an individual from others. It is usually interpersonal in nature, and considers the special traits that serve differentiate people. It postulates that an individual is considered a separate entity from others. This is based on the specific characteristics they possess. The motive of this aspect of self-representation is to protect and enhance the well-being of an individual psychologically.

The second aspect is the relational self. This is normally achieved through relationships with others as individuals must associate with other people in their lives. It is the role and position of each individual in these relationships that this aspect tries to explain. The type of relationships covered by this aspect range from the most basic and natural ones to the complex ones. Examples include the relationship between a child and its parent, between romantic partners, or even teacher-student relationships. The main motive of this aspect of self-representation is to enhance the relationships by protecting them and making them strong.

The last of the three aspects is the collective self. This one is achieved through joining relatively big social groups (Fiske, Gilbert, Lindzey & Jongsma, 2010). The individual automatically assumes the distinguishing characters of the group’s members. When the group to which one belongs is contrasted with others, there tends to be some differences on the individual members. This aspect of self-representation does not entail close relationships among the group members. The collective self-aspect aims at enhancing the group and its members.

The main similarity between these three aspects is that they all co-exist within the same person. The big question that remains is whether the three aspects are close to each other, or whether they are very distant. These perceptions are mainly acquired through experience from past occurrences. According to psychologists, children start perceiving their differences from others from a very young age. The socialization they receive as they grow up helps to shape the images they have about themselves. They realize their actual self as well as their potential self. It is from one’s perceptions about themselves and perceptions about others perspectives that people realize their potential self.

The concept of metacognition refers to being aware of one’s cognitions. It can be referred to as being knowledgeable about one’s knowledge. Metacognition also involves realizing the various strengths and weaknesses one has. The motivational beliefs, as well as one’s beliefs, are also covered in the broad aspect of metacognition. Metacognition helps people understand and formulate individual images about themselves.

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