One of the main things impacted by our self-concept and our self-esteem is our communication with other people. Find out how this works, and then test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Communication and You

For most of us, communication is a pretty common feature of our daily lives, and I’ll bet that you’ve noticed a few important traits about it. For one, communication goes smoother when you’re a part of it. I know that this must seem pretty obvious so far, but we’re not just talking about your physical presence. We’re talking about attributes of yourself, like how you see yourself, how you want others to see you, how you think others see you, and how you want to see yourself. All of these attributes can determine our communication habits.

Self-Concept and Self-Esteem

As we start talking about your place in your own communication practices, we’ve got a few terms we need to define. First is self-concept, which is simply how we perceive ourselves. How you see yourself, how you define and understand yourself, is a pretty important part of how you direct your life, and this part of you is actually very closely tied to how you think other people perceive you.

In fact, some social scientists think that the majority of your self-concept is a reflection of your relationships and the people around you. Others think that all of your self-concept is a reflection of your relationships. Think about the people in your life, from friends to heroes to bullies, and picture how they’ve impacted the way you perceive yourself.

Our relationships with other people can affect two areas, or subcategories, of our self-concept. These are our self-image, or characteristics or traits we believe that we possess, and our self-esteem, or our evaluation of what is worthwhile or valuable about ourselves. While our self-image is the descriptive side of our self-concept, the self-esteem is the evaluative side, which means the side that assigns value and worth to those traits and characteristics.

So, for example, the way in which I perceive myself is my self-concept. Within in that, my self-image perceives that I am below average height and a good researcher. My self-esteem places more value on my researching skills than my height as a positive aspect of who I am. See how that works? The entire process is a subconscious reflex that can cross into conscious awareness, but it’s happening all the time throughout our entire lives.

Self-Concept, Self-Esteem and Communication

Your self-concept, and especially your self-esteem, are major factors in the way that you communicate. Do you see yourself as extroverted or introverted, outgoing or shy? Do you place a lot of value on your sense of humor, and is it very important to you that other people see you as funny? Whether you’re aware of it or not, these emotional needs and desires can dictate your communication.

Say that you perceive your self as an introvert, but you don’t like this about yourself; it negatively impacts your self-esteem. You really want to be funny, because you’re sure you have a great sense of humor. So you go to great lengths to tell jokes and try to amuse people.

We all know people whose communication is directed by their self-esteem and self-concept, because it can often feel forced or unnatural, since it may not be that person’s natural communication style. People can lose sight of their natural communication habits by trying to make up for what they see as a deficiency in their personality.

Now, you’ve probably noticed that your self-concept and self-esteem can change, even in the middle of a conversation. Say that you see yourself as a generous person, and you’re proud of this. But then you start talking to someone who gives 50% of every paycheck to charity and spends four days a week volunteering at the soup kitchen. Suddenly, pride turns to inadequacy, and again, communication changes. Maybe you feel the need to justify your choices, or perhaps the drop in self-esteem makes you much more reserved, whereas before, you would have been much more confident and forthcoming.

Our self-concept is very often determined by our context and the expectations of specific people around us, so it can constantly be changing. So the ways that you communicate, and the ways that others communicate with you, are always fluid. It just depends on which ‘you’ we’re talking about.

Lesson Summary

We communicate constantly throughout our lives, and how we do is often impacted by our ideas about ourselves. The most basic idea here is the self-concept, or simply how you perceive yourself. Self-concept is almost always a reflection of how you think others see you, and this can be broken into two categories.

First is the self-image, which is a descriptive analysis of the traits or characteristics we believe we possess. The other side of self-concept is self-esteem, or the value and worth we attach to those traits. Basically, how do you feel about yourself, given your self-image?

Self-concept and self-esteem are major factors in how we communicate, since we may alter our communication styles due to low or high self-esteem, a desire to be seen a certain way, or the context of our communication. Our self-concept is always changing and so are our communication habits, but this process is usually something that can be controlled. Just be the you you were meant to be.

Distinguishing Between Terms

Communication aspects

Phrases Meanings
Self-concept simply the way in which we perceive ourselves
Self-image characteristics or traits we believe that we possess
Self-esteem our evaluation of what is worthwhile or valuable about ourselves

Learning Outcomes

After finishing this video lesson, you may surprise yourself when you:

  • Understand the relationship between self-concept, self-esteem ; communication
  • Note the contrasts between self-concept, self-esteem and self-image