The Idea of the Self

In this article we explore the various aspects of the Self and try to define the Self Concept by breaking it down into simple components.

The Self has been analyzed, in many ways, by many academics, from various backgrounds mostly in Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Spirituality. It is a multidimensional construct. However, as a starting point, we will only consider with the psychological construct of the Self for its simplicity & most extensive applications to behaviourism.

Mary Calkins on the “Idea of theSelf”

Mary Whiton Calkins, along with William James, is one of the earliest pioneers in the field of Self Psychology who attempted to define the Idea of the Self. According to Calkins, the Self comprised of many facets, was transient, indiscernible yet describable, but not definable. She outlined the following properties, proposing that the Self is:

  • a totality, comprising of numerous facets
  • a unique being in the sense that I am I and you are you – that no one, however similar, can take the place of you or me
  • an identical being (I the adult self and my ten-year-old self are in a real sense the same self)
  • a transient being (I the adult self differ from that ten-year-old).
  • a being related in a distinctive fashion both to itself and its experiences and the environment around

James’ proposed a theory based on the idea of multiple selves – including the material self, social self, and spiritual self.

“One is so constantly aware of one’s self that one might understandably overlook it when reporting on a sensational experience”

According to Mary, this was the primary reason for Self Psychology not gaining popularity. And this holds true, even to this day.

A Unified Conceptualization

Here, I have taken ideas from the past works of various psychologists & attempted to offer a unified conceptualization of the Idea of the Self.

An illustration attempting to depict the idea of the Self based on its key aspects.
  • The very first attribute of the Self – is its underlying continuity over time. That means – I – am the same individual over time. My physical & psychological traits change – but at the core – I believe myself to be the same person – from birth to death.
  • So – Let’s draw an entity -we call it the Self. We have the past Self. We have a future Self. The past Self is based on an Impression. The future Self is based on an Expectation.
  • We also understand – that there is a part of the Self – that we expose – to the outside world. And a part of it stays inside. So, we have the Social Self.
  • The Social Self comprises of our Self Image, our Identity & our Self Worth.
  • On the inside – we have Self Awareness, the Self Concept & our Self Esteem.
  • Next – let us take a deeper look at each one of these aspects of the Self.
Aspects of the Self with a brief description