Accurate perceptions of yourself, and satisfaction with yourself are two different things.The latter speaks to self-esteem.
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Self-esteem is the value you place on yourself. It is the assessment of your self-image as positive or negative. To reiterate, self-concept is your identity, who you believe yourself to be, while self-esteem is how you feel and what you think about that person that is yourself. People with high self-esteem tend to be more outgoing and willing to communicate, try harder to accomplish a task a second time after failing at it the first time, are more comfortable initiating relationships, and are more likely to believe that expressions of love and kindness from the relational partners are genuine. Also, when their relationships have problems, they are more likely to end the relationship and seek out new ones. They are also believed to perform better academically and professionally, and be more shielded from stress. Conversely, those with low self-esteem tend to behave aggressively toward others, tend toward substance abuse, and tend to become sexually active at an earlier age than those with a more positive self-image. Low self-esteem is often blamed for criminal and antisocial behaviors. Those with high self-esteem are generally happier with their lives than those with low self-esteem.
Self-esteem is more dynamic and changeable than a self-concept. While a self-concept usually only changes in response to a major life event, self-esteem can fluctuate in response to minor individual events such as getting a date with an amazing person, or failing an important exam. Poor self-esteem can hold us back from achieving our full potential because we simply don't believe in ourselves enough to reach our greatest heights.
Our degree of self-esteem doesn't only affect us; it also affects our communications with others. Research suggests that our self-esteem interacts with three important interpersonal needs that affect how we communicate with other people. These are the need for control, the need for inclusion, and the need for affection. Our need for control motivates us to achieve and maintain some level of influence in our relationships. We need to have some say in what happens. When we feel that we have no control, we are often less satisfied with those relationships. Research suggests that people with higher self-esteem tend to feel more control of their lives.
The need for inclusion is our need to belong. We need to be included in the activities of others, and to have positive human contact. When our need for inclusion is not met, research shows that people can experience mental and physical distress. People with higher self-esteem tend to be more outgoing, thus, are perhaps more motivated to seek out relationships that fulfill their need for inclusion. For example, they might be more willing to join groups or sports teams in an effort to meet other people. This is not to say that people don't need their down time – everyone needs solitude every once in a while.
Each of us also has a need for affection. We need to have people in our lives who love and appreciate us and express their affection toward us. We also have a need to give love and intimacy to others. Research has shown that the more affection people give and receive, the healthier and happier they are. This relates to self-esteem in that people with higher self-esteem tend to be more expressive of affection than those with lower self-esteem.
Research suggests that all of these needs are fundamental and necessary for humans. We all have these needs, though perhaps to different degrees. It is not that people with higher self-esteem have stronger needs for control, inclusion, and affection, but that they are more successful at meeting these needs through their communications with others.
Self-presentation: Image Management
Image management is the process of projecting one's desired public image. A modern-day manifestation of self-presentation or image management is our Web 2.0 or social networking sites. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, match.com, and other websites that require us to fill out a profile and post a picture of ourselves epitomize self-presentation and image management. Posts on these websites are carefully considered and often even checked for feedback from friends before posting to ensure we are presenting an appropriate, acceptable image of ourselves – we want to be sure we look good. Image management has three components: It is collaborative, we manage multiple identities, and it is complex.
Image management is collaborative in that we get help managing our image from those around us. If other people accept the image you seek to portray, you will tend to behave in ways that reinforce that image. If you project yourself as a confident person, and others see you as confident and treat you that way, this will strengthen that part of your identity in your own mind.
We each put forth different identities around different people. Consider, for example, your teenage years and the image you portrayed to your parents, versus the one you portrayed to your friends. When our worlds collide, such as bringing home a boyfriend to meet your parents, we may be uncomfortable. This is because we are forced to manage two very different identities in one moment. Our family and our new boyfriend each know a very different part of ourselves. Each context in which we are known carries its own distinct expectations of our role, as we probably create and put forth a very different identity in each one. You likely communicate differently at work and at home, or with your friends and your family. We all manage multiple identities, or show different parts of ourselves to different people in our lives. This management of multiple identities is easier for some than others. Those with hidden medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, have to decide how to incorporate these aspects of themselves into their public image. They might only tell certain people. The challenge is similar for those of many sexual minorities. Sexual orientation is not always visible on the surface, so those of sexual minorities have to negotiate when, how, and to whom to reveal their sexual orientation.
Image management is very complex. We might have competing goals in our interactions with others. For example, we might have conflicting needs of projecting ourselves both as responsible and in need of assistance when we are seeking help from a family member. We typically manage these conflicting needs with narratives we construct, such as, "I promise to contribute to the household while I'm here."
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