The Concept of Self: A general Statement

A few years ago we had requested some of our colleagues working in the field of behavioral sciences to write impromptu for us what they considered to be the meaning of expressions like ‘self’, ‘self awareness’, ‘self growth’ etc. We reproduce below what four of them wrote:

1. Self awareness is really the process of discovering and understanding various aspects of oneself like motivations, values, beliefs, etc. In the context of Behavioral Sciences, it refers to the cover and unconscious processes. This also means the base and the sources from which an individual derives his identify.
Self growth (I would prefer to call it personal growth) is not and end state but a process. There is an important distinction between self awareness and growth. While self awareness is necessary for growth, it is not sufficient. An individual may have discovered various parts and aspects of himself, but these parts may not be integrated. An individual may be aware of him self but may not have come to terms with it. An over simplification would be:

Personal Growth = Self Awareness + Self Acceptance

2. Self growth implies maximization of one’s potentials towards clear, specific and planned objectives of becoming. When we talk about self growth, it suggests a movement from being to becoming i.e. from “What I am to what I want to be or What I ought to be”. There appears to be a distinction between what I want to be, and what I ought to be. While the former refers to an individual’s wishes, desires and ambition towards the accomplishment of his/her goals, the latter implies an interaction between the individual’s own desires, wishes and ambitions and that expressed or expected of the individual by others in his social boundaries.
Self growth includes three components: (a) cognitive i.e. awareness and understanding of What I am and What I want/ought to be; (b) Activating the individual’s efforts towards becoming and (c) affective i.e. maintaining emotional adjustments with the social and work environment.
3. Self growth refers to an individual’s development for effective personal, social and emotional adjustments with the external reality through his own conscious or unconscious efforts in understanding and exploring his inner self both in terms of his strengths and weaknesses. Such self-exploration, understanding and awareness help a person develop sensitivity to be able to perceive the external environment more realistically for better and effective interaction of self with the external world.
4. Self awareness basically refers to our being aware of all the dimensions of our self or identity. Though self is usually talked of in terms of layers, the largest and deepest being the unconscious, in the concept of self-awareness we are confining ourselves only to those aspects of self of which we are aware, and of which we can become aware.

The concept of self growth refers to both the process and the result of self awareness. It also refers to the sense of self enhancement that accompanies the process.

A brief review of the above expositions is now in order. Some important elements contained in them are as follows:

(1) The common underlying theme reflected in all the statements is that the individual is viewed as an entity complete by itself, although embedded in a social setting. There is no unifying super-ordinate reference point to permit the convergence of so many individual selves. Let us explore this point through the statements.

(2) Although the movement from ‘being’ to ‘becoming’ is suggested, the preceding and succeeding words belie the profound philosophical element implied in ‘becoming’. Rather the message relates to the commonplaces desires, goals and ambitions we all tend to nurse in our respective spheres of social existence.

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