What Is the Difference Between Self Concept and Self Esteem

What Is the Difference Between Self Concept and Self Esteem?

Every human being has a perception of self, just like they have perceptions about others. The perception is based on a multitude of negative and positive experiences. It also revolves around how you view yourself in your environment. Nevertheless, the overall picture or assessment that you paint of yourself is at times inaccurate. Moreover, it’s usually distorted and contrary to the truth.

While you may not realize it, self esteem and self concept are closely related concepts in the diverse world of psychology when it comes to self-perception or self-image. Given their striking similarities, it’s not surprising that immense confusion surrounds the two, and people mistake them as synonyms.

However, self concept and self esteem differ. With that being said, in this guide, we’ll delve into the popularly asked question, ‘what is the difference between self concept and self esteem?’

What Is Self Concept?

To sum it up, self concept defines your overall perception or knowledge of who you are. Therefore, it’s the answer to the commonly asked philosophical question, ‘who am I?’ The earliest known consideration of the perception or idea of self comes from a well-known philosopher, Descartes Rene. He discovered the relation between the perception of self and existence.

Furthermore, Sigmund Freud, another prominent philosopher, came up with the term ‘ego’ as the description of other aspects of personality. His concepts have significantly impacted the psychology of personality that a wealth of theorists who came after him still measure the self with the ego. Towards the end of the 20th century, the most renowned theory of self concept was introduced. Discussed by Carl Rogers, this theory of personality mentioned that self concept can be broken down into three components.

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Ideal Self

It encompasses the person you aspire to be. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the ideal self has the qualities or attributes you’d like to possess or work towards by cultivating daily healthy habits. It’s the person you envision if you were just as you wanted.


It defines how you perceive yourself in the present. Self-image is the sum of social roles, physical characteristics, including how you view your body, and personality traits.

Self Esteem

The degree to which you value and accept yourself despite your shortcomings makes up self esteem. Nevertheless, many factors affect self esteem, including other people’s perception of you, your role in society, and comparing yourself to others.

Self concept develops throughout your life and is affected by many factors. Most theorists agree on two main ones: biological factors and environmental factors.

These include social interactions. According to Carl Rogers, an individual with a healthy self concept has a congruent ideal self and self-image. It’s this congruence that paves the way for healthy self-worth. The result is a completely-functional individual who aspires for self-actualization and works towards it.

With its comprehensive conceptualization, self concept is closely similar to other terms. Besides being a component, self-image varies from self concept because it’s a perception of oneself that might not always align with the truth.

What makes self esteem stand out from other concepts is that it’s the perception of value or worth, whereas self-efficacy is the judgment and perception of your abilities. Lastly, self-awareness entails the consciousness of your being and all its aspects.

Congruence and Incongruence

It’s worth keeping in mind that self concept doesn’t always tally with reality. When it aligns, then it’s believed to be congruent. If there’s a mismatch between who you wish you were or aspire to be (your ideal self) and your self-image (how you view yourself in all aspects), then your self concept is incongruent. The incongruence harms self esteem.

According to Rogers, incongruence stems from childhood. When parents put conditions on their affection for their little ones, which means solely expressing love when they feel their children have ‘earned it’ via particular behaviors and living up to the expectations of their parents, kids start distorting the memories of experiences that make them feel unworthy of unconditional love.

On the other hand, when parents foster unconditional love with their children from birth, it undoubtedly cultivates congruence. A child who experiences this type of love, also known as family love, doesn’t need to consistently distort their memories to believe that others will accept and love them for who they are.

How Does Self Concept Develop?

Although you may not realize it, self concept also develops through our interactions with others. Besides close friends and family, other people in your life can significantly impact your self-identity. For instance, teachers believe that the abilities of high-performing students, the greater their self concept. The same can’t always be said for a lower-performing student.

The development of self concept stems from what you listen to. For instance, a female reader who is ‘deeply transported’ into a book about a leading character with a conventional gender role has a more feminist self concept compared to another woman who isn’t as moved by the storyline.

Keeping that in mind, the media plays a significant role in developing self concept, not only on social media but also on mass media. When these platforms show bias towards particular ideas, there’s a high chance that you’ll make those ideals yours. Moreover, the frequency with which these ideas are presented, the more they impact your self-perception and self-identity.

What Is Self Esteem?

In layman’s language, self esteem encompasses a person’s perception of their value or worth. That can be simplified beyond the scientific community as the level or degree of self-love or self-appreciation.

The earliest known conceptualization of William James, who came up with the self esteem blueprint, was the ratio of a person’s expectations to successes. He believed that the lower the expectations, the greater the success, paving the way for high self esteem.

Later, his concept came under significant impact from the humanistic school of personality that Rogers spearheaded. The most renowned concept of conceptualization of self esteem emerged in the 20th century. The famous Abraham Maslow, a peer of Rogers in the humanistic school of personality, suggested that self esteem is a need in every human being that must be satisfied sooner or later.

According to society, this given concept of self esteem is a need that must be embedded in nearly all societal situations, ensuring that all individuals develop high self esteem as sooner in life rather than later.

Furthermore, in the late 20th century, a man named Nathaniel Branden came up with the theory that self esteem is made up of self-respect and self-efficacy. The latter defines the unwavering confidence in your abilities and skills, whereas self-respect is the notion that you’re worthy of love, happiness, and achievement.

Like self concept, self esteem is impacted by environmental and biological factors that include social interaction. Nevertheless, self esteem is impacted by self concept and the constituents of self concept, namely ideal self and self-image.

With healthy self esteem, you’ll have an optimistic outlook on life even amidst the challenges life throws at you, a clear picture of your weaknesses and strengths, and unwavering self-confidence that will be felt and admired by others.

Self esteem is typically confused with self-regard, but there’s a difference between the two. Self-regard can be defined as the respect or consideration of oneself. Furthermore, it varies from self-efficacy, which is the valuation of your abilities. It also varies from self concept, which is the more overarching perception of yourself.

High-Self Esteem

Love Yourself
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It can be defined as self-perception from a positive standpoint. That doesn’t imply you love everything about yourself or consider yourself flawless. On the contrary, individuals with high self esteem are self-critical with aspects of themselves that they’re not proud of (weaknesses) while appreciating their strengths. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that self esteem can fluctuate based on various life circumstances.

It allows you to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Once you understand that, you won’t take everything to heart and be reactive. Unwavering self-respect allows you to step outside yourself and feel the confidence of your place in the world.

What Factors Contribute to Low Self esteem?

An intricate web of influences shapes your self concept, identity, and personality. Moreover, particular factors predict low or high self esteem. For instance, whether your needs, ideas, thoughts, contributions, and feelings were valued, and if you had a supportive and loving upbringing.

Challenging life experiences such as a natural disaster (drought, war, or floods), trauma, divorce, abuse (physical or emotional), racism, being bullied, discrimination, and neglect can contribute to low self esteem.

How well you cope with adversity, your level of resilience, and relative optimism, are all factors that can be learned or innate and significantly affect the relative positivity of your mindset, which in turn impacts your level of self esteem.

With that being said, let’s explore the behavioral or character traits of people with low and high self esteem. People with high self esteem:

  • Confident in your abilities
  • Do not worry about what other people think of them
  • Optimistic
  • Have an impressive level of self-acceptance
  • Have the drive to succeed
  • Possess impressive communication skills
  • Cultivate healthy relationship
  • Are assertive in setting boundaries and articulating their needs
  • Individuals with low self esteem are always:
  • Comparing themselves to others
  • Aspiring to be like others rather than embrace their uniqueness
  • Pessimistic
  • Worry about other people’s perceptions of them
  • Lack confidence in their abilities
  • In low spirits
  • Feeling inadequate
  • In toxic relationships

What Is the Difference Between Self Concept and Self Esteem?

african american girl wearing sweater over isolated background looking confident with smile on face
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Let’s explore the variations between these two terms.


Self esteem is your overall subjective assessment (emotionally) of your self-worth. Contrarily, self concept is the idea that’s self-constructed from the beliefs you have about yourself and the responses of others.


Self esteem refers to more self-evaluation, whereas self concept is the cognitive aspect of oneself. Therefore, this difference in self-evaluation sets self esteem apart from self concept.


Granted, principles are related to self concept. However, the evaluation of self esteem is based on these principles about oneself.


Given that self concept is mostly the cognitive insight into oneself, there’s no comparison. Conversely, comparison to others is a key component of self esteem that affects self-evaluation. That’s a considerable difference between self esteem and self concept.

Self Worth

Another variation between self concept and self esteem is self-worth. Self concept focuses on information about oneself. Therefore, it doesn’t consider valuing who you are in your individuality.

Contrarily, self esteem revolves around finding your value or worth within yourself. That means you don’t rely on external validation from material things or people.

The Similarities Between Self Concept and Self Esteem

Now that we’ve answered the commonly asked question, ‘what is the difference between self concept and self esteem?’ let’s delve into the similarities.

1. These Are Two Of the Major Dimensions of Self

Self esteem and self concept define the same ideology. They refer to an individual’s self-perception and can be described in different terminologies.

2. Self Concept and Self Esteem Refer to an Individual’s Self-Image

It’s worth noting that the term ‘image’ in this context isn’t synonymous with ‘concept.’ Self esteem and self concept define the negative or positive perception an individual has of themselves. These two terms are related to each other because low self esteem also implies a negative self concept.

3. Self Esteem and Self Concept Are Regarded as Essential Aspects of Oneself

It’s not surprising that people view themselves from a negative or a positive self concept. Therefore, if you view yourself negatively, there’s a high likelihood that you might develop a negative mindset about yourself and engage in self-blame for things that are not your fault. That’s typically referred to as internalization of the problem and can trigger depression.

Conversely, if you have a positive self concept, you organically develop a positive attitude towards yourself and begin to blame other people for things that are not their fault. That’s known as externalization of the issue and can trigger frustration, resentment, rage, and disappointment.

To Wrap Up

In conclusion, self esteem and self concept are two closely similar concepts in psychology. That’s because they encompass the perception or identification of oneself. Self esteem and self concept become unique based on a deeper evaluation. The fundamental difference between the two is that while self esteem evaluates who you are, self concept doesn’t.

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