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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Self-concept: Self-awareness

My Introduction to Me

Do you really know yourself? Have you ever introspected to know the real you? Do you know for sure your capabilities and if you do not, how are you ever going to use them for your and others' benefits, then? Determining your self concept is the starter step to work out your next steps to achieve effectiveness, efficiency, success, self esteem, growth and happiness in your personal, professional, family and social life.

First, Do This Exercise

Do this simple exercise. Take a blank page and a pencil. Start writing randomly everything that you have observed from the start of your day till now. Like you might have noticed that you woke up forty five minutes late this morning as compared to the other days. Put that down on the paper and label it as observation number 1. Now, jot down your next observation and label it as 2. This second observation might relate to say, aroma of something yummy being cooked in the kitchen by one of you family. You get curious and walk into the kitchen to find a cake being baked in the oven. Your getting curious could be your observation number 3 and baking of the cake seems to be your fourth observation. They deserve to be called your observations only if you really did observe them and can recall them now. Do not write anything as observation if you have not observed it, i.e. do not write your imaginations. So, in this way, keep on recalling all that you observed and keep jotting it down.

The moment you start feeling some kind of strain on your mind to recall any further, stop writing. That's an indication that what all you observed, you have been able to pour it down on the paper and now you are finding it tough to write any more. In a sense, you have exhausted all your observations.

What are total number of observations you noted on the paper? Write it.

Also, out of total observations you made, how many pertain to human beings and how many pertain to inanimate things or other than human beings. For example, your observation on your getting curious as to what was cooking in the kitchen belongs to observation on human beings (animate observation) and baking of cake belongs to observation on other than human beings category (inanimate observation). Work out a rough percentages of each one of them.

Take a pause here and complete the above-mentioned exercise before you proceed to read further.

Now, Little Bit of Analysis

OK, you completed the exercise. You counted the total number of observations made by you. You also worked out the percentage for observations on human beings and the percentage for observations on things other than human beings.

First, check up how many observations you made: is it nil observation, is it just about 1 or 2, is it below 3 observations, is it 5, or is it 7 or 10 and something else? I bet, a large majority of you might not have even reached a figure of 10 observations. Come to think of it- that's really not an impressive figure. And I am sure that many of you found the exercise a bit tough, you just could not scribble your observations just like that; it wasn't a cakewalk. It took some toll on you mind because you had not really observed enough and also had not observed that well.

Now get on with the percentages. Our general research on thousands of people who undertook this exercise tells us that your percentage of observations on things other than human beings is much higher than the your percentage of observations on human beings. In few exceptional cases, it could be other way round.

So two things become somewhat clear. First, majority of people do not make many observations on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour or minute-to-minute basis. They are not keen observers. Second, people observe the inanimate things more than the human beings.

Now, do one more little analysis. Of the observations made on human beings by you, how many observations you made relate to yourself and how many relate to others? Again, our general research on thousands of people tells us that with the exception of few, majority would have fewer observations on self and more observation on others.

Now this will be a general pattern for most people on most of the days, most of the times.

The inference from all this is: majority of people do not observe enough and do not observe well, majority of people observe the human beings with less keenness and within that, observations on the self is the minimum or negligible.

But, Observations Are Important for Improvements

Say, you are walking in an art gallery and all the paintings on the walls are placed meticulously. Then, suddenly, you observe that one beautiful painting is not looking all that impressive. This observation triggers a question why? And you start looking out for an answer, a reason. You observe more, study the painting and also the display of painting with keen eyes. It takes perhaps a few seconds to realize that the painting is tilted on one side. It is not hung symmetrically on the wall. Now, you may like to bring it to the attention of the administrative staff of the art gallery who will fix it up properly. The same painting looks better now, It is more impressive. An overall improvement in the display of paintings was brought about by your observations.

The same thing happens to you when you tend to observe yourself. For example, while clipping your nails on your fingers, you notice that the color of the nails is not the usual pink but it has turned rather on the white side. You mull over it and suspect depletion of hemoglobin in your body and then you recall another of your observation that lately you had not been feeling all that smart; you get tired pretty fast. These two observations, then, lead you to consult your physician who orders a blood test on you and confirms that the iron content in your blood has gone below the count required for a healthy person. Your doctor administers an appropriate treatment on you to make you a healthy person again. Here again, the observations were responsible for bringing about the desired improvement.

Now, experiencing such benefits of observations, you learn to observe more and your observation skill becomes sharper. You are able to find out many aspects of your behavior which you had never bothered to look at earlier. For instance, you figure out that your short tempered behavior often upsets the rest of family members and the environment at home often becomes hostile. You wish to change it, you wish to bring about an improvement and make the atmosphere at home more friendly. Due to your introspection (observation) of yourself, you now know the reason. So, you decide to work on your short-temperedness and soon get over it. Home environment starts flourishing.

Often Time, Self Improvement Is More Important

Most often, self improvement is more important rather than expecting other persons or other things to change or improve. Also, the fact of life is that you really cannot change others if others do not wish to change themselves. You very well know the saying,"You can take horse to water but can not make it drink water unless the horse wants to drink." So, do not take the burden of changing others. It is waste of your time and energy. Things will work out better for you if you bring about improvements within you. So, concentrate in that department. Often times, it is seen that if you behave better and keep doing so on every occasion in dealing with others (though, at times, it needs lots of patience), you are likely to get a better and desired reciprocation from others over a period of time.

And as we established earlier, the improvements cannot be effected without observations. So, the improvements within you too can be brought about only if you start observing yourself more and more and also with more keenness. By self observations, you start understanding your own self- your physical profile, your intellectual profile, you emotional profile, your spiritual profile, your competency and skill profile, your thinking patterns etc. You start knowing how good and how bad you are on these elements. You start getting introduced to yourself more and more in many ways. You also start seeing the potential of improvement in certain aspects within you.

You realize that if you can bring about these improvements within you, you can become more effective and efficient. Effectiveness and efficiency in turn will help bring better results through your actions leading to enhanced success, self esteem, growth and happiness in your personal, professional, family and social life.

So, the first step you took was to observe and to know your self more completely and more deeply. Getting introduced to your own self is known as creating the "self-concept" of one self. You have started answering the typical question, "Who am I?" You have your "self-concept" with you, now.

Formal Definitions of Self-concept

There are several connotations to the word or phrase “self-concept” that we just introduced in the earlier paragraph. Many of these definitions are given below:

  • It is perceived personality or an aspect of the personality of the self.
  • It indicates the complete personality of the self.
  • It is one’s own identity. So, self-concept can be called also as self identity.
  • It can be defined as conscious understanding of the self.
  • If the typical question “who am I” can be correctly and completely answered, the answer in itself  is self concept.
  • Self-concept is the search of the truth about the self.
  • Without going into in-depth technical debate or technical dissection, self-concept also can be termed as self image.
  • Again, without going into in-depth technical debate or technical dissection, self-concept also can be termed as self-schema. Self-schema is the storage of information about the self, the way one thinks and behaves.
  • Self-concept is normally an outcome of the self-assessments or introspection or observations.

Factors that May Constitute Self-concept

Description of any entity or any system completely can be done by describing many constituent elements of it in a number of different ways.

For example, imagine describing a car to someone. You will try to describe the car by describing many elements or factors of it in different ways. You will describe its physical appearance- its shape, size, style, color, seating capacity, number of doors etc. You may then go to describe its component systems or aggregates- engine, transmission, chassis, electrical/electronic system, safety devices etc. You may also describe the car by the type of its use and function- sedan, station wagon, sports etc. Thus, the more elements and more relevant elements of car you describe, the clearer becomes the concept of that car.
Human being is far more complex. To describe a human being more completely, the characteristics of a person, at least on the following factors must be found out and assessed. Determining self-concept of a person thus is not a very simple task because as you may see that the factors given below are quite loaded.

  • Physical attributes (height, weight, hair color, color of eyes, gender etc)
  • Values (fundamental beliefs).
  • Knowledge (intelligence quotient IQ, emotional quotient EQ and spiritual quotient SQ).
  • Paradigms (mindsets or thinking patterns on day-to-day’s numerous things).
  • Skills and competencies.
  • Internal motivation, will power and action orientation.
  • Social behavior with people from various spheres.
  • Habits.
  • Interests and hobbies.

(You may like to read author Shyam Bhatawdekar's book titled "HSoftware (Shyam Bhatawdekar's effectiveness Model)". The book can be obtained from

Self-concept Is Three Dimensional

You can work out your self-concept mainly in two ways: first, by introspecting within your self. Peep into your own psyche and try to answer many questions about yourself. Like, who are you? What is it that is good in you? What is it that is not so good or bad in you? Where do you shine and where you are dull? etc. You may also introspect the events that took place in which you were a predominant player. Analyze as to how well or how bad the event took place. What did you do right for the success of the event or what did you not do that resulted in failure of the event. You can also take recourse to a number of psychological or similar questionnaires that are designed to explore such aspects of yours (a partial list of such more popular questionnaires is given later in this article). These questionnaires are called instruments. However, answers to only one instrument can not measure all the dimensions of your personality. For example, as you need a foot scale to measure length and thermometer to measure the temperature, similarly, you may need many different instruments or questionnaires to measure different characteristics of yours.

Second  way of knowing yourself or creating self awareness is to seek the feedback of others about you on different aspects of your personality and behavior. Again, this can also be done in unstructured as well as structured manner or in explicit way or in implicit way. You can design a questionnaire and give it to many people who know you and get their feedback on it or you can interview them face to face. Or you can collect the data about yourself by observing  the way people deal with you, their reactions and responses towards you, their body language and gestures when they relate to you etc.

Having created your own self-concept by introspecting and by collecting the feedback of others, your knowledge about yourself becomes better and better. At this juncture, then, you are ready to decide your further course of action as to what you will like to become really, ideally? You have to decide upon your new image of yourself, your ideal personality.

Therefore, self-concept is three dimensional in nature. These three dimensions are:

1.      Self part: How I think I am based on my judgment and experience. In this exploration, in addition to the self introspection on many aspects, also I get the answers for those certain things that I alone know about myself and no one else knows about them. In Johari window model, it is known as hidden self or hidden arena or hidden area of a person.

2.      Social part: How I think I am based on others’ thinking or perceptions about me. This comes by way of implicit or explicit feedback from others about me. In this kind of feedback, in addition to the feedback on many aspects, also I get the answers for those certain things that the others alone know about me and I am just not aware of them. In Johari window model, it is known as blind self or blind arena or blind area of a person.

3.      Ideal part: How I wish to become (and so, wish to be seen) and also, what I don’t want to become. This is done by understanding the other two parts, the self part and the social part and then working out the future plan of actions. It is a serious exercise and also needs good amount of my time and attention. It envelops opportunities and threats, hopes and fears, goals and time lines etc.

Time Dimension of Self-concept

There is yet another dimension to self-concept- the time dimension. Is self concept permanent, is it transitory?

Self-concept shows relatively more permanent self-assessments on various factors that constitute self-concept. These factors have been mentioned earlier. Example: if a person is laid back type, it is his more permanent trait and so, it is a part of his self-concept. But the same person may not feel well on one odd day and therefore, he acts a bit laid back on that particular day, it does not represent his self-concept.

However, self-concept may change with time if one tries to change oneself on any one or more or all of these factors or the change occurs due to factors beyond one’s control.

If one wishes to be more effective and efficient to achieve success and growth, one will have to improve one’s self concept from the present (self part and social part, mentioned earlier) to the ideal self concept profile (the ideal part mentioned earlier). This is an important journey- saying that I am here right now and I wish to reach there over a defined time line.

Creating self-concept Is Not an Easy Exercise- It’s Not a Cakewalk

We give below one of easiest of the hundreds of more difficult to answer questionnaires that are used to uncover some specific aspects (factors described earlier) of the self-concept. Answer the questionnaire and get the flavor:

On Myself (Fill in the blanks against each point below with understanding and honesty):

·         What I like best about myself is__________________________

·         I am best at__________________________________________

·         My biggest success was/is ______________________________

·         In my job I enjoy______________________________________

·         My biggest weakness is________________________________

·         My biggest mischief is_________________________________

·         I feel unhappy when___________________________________

·         I feel most happy when_________________________________

·         I value myself for_____________________________________

·         I feel powerful when I__________________________________

·         I am special because___________________________________

·         I want to become the kind of person who___________________


·         One of my dreams is___________________________________


·         I am________________________________________________

Titles of Some of Well Known Questionnaires/Instruments That Are Used to Determine the Self-concept on Various Factors

Earlier in this article, we mentioned that one could use the standard or customized questionnaires or instruments to explore the different aspects of one's self-concept. We give below a partial list of titles of some of the more popular types:

    Winners and losers (Self image check list. Refer: (Winners and Losers)
    How do you see yourself? (Personal preference index).
    Johari window.
    Firo-B (Interpersonal profile). Refer: (Interpersonal Relations)
    Know your ego states (Ego-gram).
    Self perception questionnaire: life positions (OKness).
    Overall interpersonal/operating effectiveness.
    Conflict management mode.
    Leadership profile (Managerial grid).
    Work patterns (Type A and type B personalities). Refer: (Stress Management)
    Three sixty degrees feedback.
    IQ questionnaires.
    EQ questionnaires.
    SQ questionnaires.


Self-concept: Must for Effectiveness, Efficiency, Success, Self Esteem, Growth and Happiness

Only after you know what or who you are, you will be able to take the next step of what you wish to become. With exploration of self-concept, you get introduced to yourself in a much better way, for the first time. You start knowing your current strengths and weaknesses. Also, now, you can define your new destinations. Then, your journey of improvement starts to shape up the new you- your stepped up self concept. Now, you know where you stand, in which direction and how much to travel, what is your destination and you can decide how to reach the mile stones on the way along what time lines.

The distance between where you are now and where you target to arrive defines the degree of self esteem and happiness at any given point of time. More the distance, less is the self esteem and happiness. Less the distance, more is the self esteem and happiness. Arriving there gives maximum self esteem and happiness.

For More of the Author's Work

For everything you wanted to know on building leadership and management, refer Shyam Bhatawdekar’s website:

Writings of Shyam Bhatawdekar:

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Also refer:, and

Our Book Publications (Books authored by Shyam Bhatawdekar and Dr Kalpana Bhatawdekar)

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