Of Self-Perception Essay

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Perception  of self is how  individuals  view themselves, their  attitudes, and  their  behaviors,  based on their  reaction  to the environment and  stimuli around them. It is developed when people observe their  own  behaviors  and  draw  conclusions  about what  caused  them  to  behave  in that  way.  It is a unique  interpretation about  oneself that  is based on    one’s   experience.    Self-perception    theory, proposed by Daryl J. Bem, posits that  individuals come   to   know   their   attitudes  and   emotions through observations of their own behaviors. That is, behaviors  cause  the  change  in  cognition.  For example,  after  providing  care to a sick or elderly person, caring and empathetic feelings will develop that were not present before the activity. Realizing this  trait   in  oneself  may  prompt  one  to  seek out additional volunteer  activities. Thus, Dem concludes    that    behavior    can    change    one’s self-perception  related  to attitudes and emotions.

Cognitive  dissonance  theory,  proposed by Leon Festinger, provides a different explanation. Cognitive dissonance  refers to a situation involving  conflicting  attitudes, beliefs,  or  behaviors.  These  mental conflicts produce  a feeling of discomfort, leading to an alteration in one’s attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore  balance. That is,  cognition   causes  the  change  in  behavior. For example,  a smoker  may  experience  cognitive  dissonance because that person must somehow  reconcile the knowledge  about  the health  risks of smoking and the fact that he or she nonetheless continues to smoke. This smoker, for instance, might rationalize his  or  her  actions  and  reduce  dissonance   by discounting information about  the  health  risks of smoking,  emphasizing  the  fact  that  he or  she has already  been smoking  for 20 years without suffering  adverse   health   effects.  Likewise,  individuals may know that they are not saving enough for retirement but  may  discount   this  information to reduce  their  experience   of  cognitive  dissonance. This  means  that  “full  information” may  not  be enough to inspire optimal  economic decisions.

When  an  individual  is content  with  his or  her self-perception, not  only  does  that  person  appear happier  but  the individual’s  self-esteem and confidence are much greater. Positive self-perceptions increase a person’s motivation to succeed. Individuals with positive self-perceptions view obstacles  as quick setbacks  that  are easier to overcome. However,  when a person is not content  with his or her self-perception, he or she is more  likely to lose confidence  and self-esteem and remain  isolated from others.  People who experience  negative self-perceptions tend to give up on tasks. Much  of the   information  that   determines   self-perception comes  as  a  result  of  the  observation of  others’ behavior  and  the  feedback  received  from  others. The behaviors  of others shape one’s self-perception by creating a distinct set of “norms” for behavioral reactions  in specific situations. At the  same  time, others’ behavior  toward an individual  serve as the implicit  or  explicit  feedback   that   changes  one’s self-perception.

Perception  of self is also closely related  to self-esteem, which is an individual’s  overall evaluation of his or her worth. This involves judgments, attitudes,  and   emotions   that   individuals   have about    themselves.   Self-esteem   is   a   result   of self-perception  regarding  one’s abilities  as a productive  member  of society, whether  in the  work-place,  friendships,  relationships,  or  with  family. The positive self-esteem occurs when an individual experiences a sense of achievement and accomplishes  good  things.  Thus,  the  individual  sees the success and  attributes it to  the  skills, knowledge, and the efforts that he or she has contributed. This positive  self-evaluation   causes  one  to  develop  a chain of similar attitude and behavior. In a study of self-esteem,  it was  revealed  that  individuals  with high self-esteem also have the ability to work independently   quite  successfully  and  do  not  require more attention and motivation from external sources. If a person’s self-esteem is high, he or she will  tend  to  ignore  any  negative  feedback   and maintain a  positive  self-perception, regardless  of what  others  think  of him or her.

On  the  other   hand,   a  person   with  low  self-esteem  can  be crippled  by negative  feedback,  and his or her self-perception  will become weak. Individuals   with  low  self-esteem  lack  self-confidence and have pessimistic views. They tend to perform  less effectively under  stress and show less initiative  and  confidence.  Additionally, those  with low self-esteem have a hard time accepting positive feedback. Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham developed a concept  known  as the Johari Window, which helps individuals discover more about the perceptions of themselves (Figure 1). According  to Luft and  Ingham,  there  are  four  parts  of the  personal window  that account  for self-perception. The first  quadrant is  an  open  area,  representing   the things that one knows about  oneself, and the things that others know about oneself, including one’s behavior, knowledge,  skills, and attitudes. The second   quadrant  is  the  blind   area   that   represents things  about  oneself that  one is not  aware  of, but that  are known  by others. This can include simple information  that   one  does  not  know,   or  it  can involve deep issues such as feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, unworthiness,  or  rejection,   which are  often  difficult  for  individuals  to  face directly, but can be seen by others. The third  quadrant represents  things  that  one  knows  about  oneself,  but that  others  do not  know.  The last quadrant represents things  that  are unknown by oneself and  are unknown by others.  People who have a large open area are usually very easy to talk to; they communicate  honestly  and  openly  with  others;  and  they get along  well with  a group.  People  who  have  a very small  open  area  are  difficult  to  talk  to;  they seem  closed  off  and  uncommunicative; and  they often  do  not  work  well with  others  because  they are  not  trusted.  People  might  have  a  large  blind area, with many issues that they have not identified or  dealt  with  yet. However,  others  can  see these issues   clearly.   These   people   might   have   low self-esteem.

    Of Self-Perception

In  summary,  perception of  self contributes to self-knowledge and one’s relationships with others. It has a significant  impact  on people’s social lives.


  1. Bem, Daryl. Self-Perception   New York: Academic Press, 1972.
  2. Festinger, Leon. A Theory of Cognitive  Evanston,  IL: Row, Peterson, 1957.
  3. Luft, Joseph and Harrington Ingham. “The Johari Window, a Graphic  Model  of Interpersonal Awareness.” Proceedings of the Western  Training Laboratory in Group  Los Angeles: University of California, 1955.

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