We are social beings. This implies that we need a social world in order to survive a human. Within this social world is the self which is a product of nature and nurturance. As we concoct concepts about ourselves, others serve as feedback, the looking glass self for our evaluation. These others implicitly or explicitly relay their expectations regarding the roles the society ascribed to us and we have chosen to partake.
The self-concept is the answer to the question “Who am I?” This answer is always anchored to what others are expecting from us and how they evaluate us. Say, an individual may claim “I am a daughter. This is my ascribed status and my family expects me to be one. I am artistic because art authorities believe that I am such. I am introvert because psychologists categorize my personality as non-extravert. I am existentially human due to my capacity for rationality per philosophers’ opinion. My friends say that I am fashionable since I follow the rules of fashion…….and so on and so forth.”
The self-concept is based on the rules and conventions set by the society. We are like this or that because the society which serves as our point of reference says so. One would consider himself as tall with reference to others’ vertical frame; or good with reference to the society’s concept of good and evil; or physically beautiful with reference to her culture’s concept of beauty. That is, our self-concept is greatly dependent on our social world’s set of standards or expectations. We could never have self-concept without references. True to this, our performances and actions are influenced by others as well because they (our responses) are the resulting scripts of our interplay with them.
When our references change i.e. others’ responses and standards, our self-monitoring skills would require that we should also adjust our self-presentations since this means staying connected with our audience in the theater of life. This therefore entails adjustment in our self-concept. How is that?
Studies have been done regarding the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. This was developed by Robert K. Merton which tries to explain how the expectation of others, whether correct or not, affects the outcome of a situation or the way a person (or group) performs. One’s performance of course, is always influenced by the self-concept. This self-fulfilling prophecy starts from the self-concept.
To elaborate further, a study done by Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson with elementary school children from 18 classrooms illustrates how teachers’ expectations influence the self-concept of the students. They randomly chose 20% of the children from each room and informed the teachers that these pupils were “intellectual bloomers” and expected to show increased performance. The result of the experiment showed IQ gains of these bloomers in the different identified areas.
Apparently, the teachers’ expectations communicated to these students encouraged them (students) to change their academic self-concepts and adjust their behavior to suffice their teacher’s self-fulfilling prophecy i.e. that they are really “bloomers” expected to bloom. This would also be the same with other cases such as when the other keeps telling someone indirectly or directly that he is a troublemaker would eventually transform his self-concept into becoming like one.
Huitt, W. (2009). Self-concept and self-esteem. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University.