Understanding the Role of Self Concepts in Eating Disorders

Topics: Self-esteem, Conceptions of self, Self image Pages: 7 (2771 words) Published: March 30, 2013
The self is a complex process of gaining self awareness. Markus (1977) and others submitted articles that established that the properties of self-views and constructs were similar and specific to constructs that had been championed by cognitive psychologists-schemas and beliefs. This paved the way for researchers to confirm that self-concept was a viable and legitimate scientific construct. This in turn, resulted in a sharp increase in research related to self, around the 1980’s. This showed that as people go through life they develop self-concepts about themselves. In 1999, Baumeister defined ‘self concept’ as “the individual’s belief about himself or herself, the person's attributes and who and what the self is.” Lewis (1990) put forth two aspects of self-concept development, the existential self and the categorical self. He suggests that the Existential Self is the part of the self-concept or self-scheme that is most basic. It is the sense one has of being distinct and separate from others along with the awareness of the fact that the self is constant. This sense of awareness may develop in a child as young as a few months old. One of the reasons for this awareness to arise in a child is his relationship with this world from that age onwards. Furthermore, Lewis says that the categorical self comes in once the individual realises that he or she exists as a separate experiencing being. Next the child becomes aware of the fact that he or she is also an object in the world. Just as other objects including people have properties that can be experienced, so the child becomes aware of him or herself as an object which has properties and can be experienced (big, small, blue, smooth and so on). Similarly, the self can be put into different categories like age, size, gender or skill. In the early years, children identify with their very tangible characteristics or categories, like height, hair colour, skin colour, and likes and dislikes. As they grow, this self-description begins to take account of other characteristics like comparative evaluations, their internal psychological personalities and perception of how their peers see them. Charles H. Cooley says in his ‘looking glass-self’, “people use other people's reactions as a source of self-knowledge”. Thus, other people’s reactions act as a ‘looking-glass’ or mirror that reflects our image for us to see. Another study (Miller et al. 1975; SP p. 99) showed that children behaved in the way that other people depicted them. This is the basis for insecurity in people who seem unsure of their own self-concept, especially in the case of children. People create self-concepts nearly the same way as they form ideas and impressions of other people. In the self-perception theory, people infer internal characteristics from their behaviour. Another view is the one given by Feininger in his social comparison theory. This theory says that self-concept forms as a result of comparisons between us and other people. When we seek to accurately evaluate ourselves, we tend to look at others and focus on similar attributes to compare ourselves to. This social comparison may have another purpose too. For instance, it helps in confirming that we are unique individuals. While looking at others we focus on unique and distinctive features of our own self in comparison to others. However, this can result in a pragmatic view of one’s self. Carl Rogers (1959) suggests that self concept has three distinct components; self image, self-esteem or self worth, and ideal self. The ‘self image’ refers to the view you have of yourself, while ‘self esteem’ shows how much value you place on yourself. ‘Ideal Self’ refers to what you yearn to be or what you wish you were like. All these three components are important in the development of one’s self concept. The view one has about oneself has implications in a number of areas of one’s life.

Self-concepts, self-esteem and self-image have often been seen...
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