Actual Self vs. Ideal Self: A Review of Self-Esteem Abstract This paper will serve as a review of the actual self vs. ideal self and illustrate that discrepancies in behaviors associated with the need for positive self-esteem, the need for self-gratification and the consequences do exist. It will reveal that a burden within whom we are and who we wish to be is evident and unavoidable unless there is an awareness of this distress. Self-esteem also known as pride, self-respect or a favorable opinion of oneself also includes the attitudes one has about the things they do, how they act, and other social aspects that make a person who they are.
Distress in behaviors will allow a person to react irrationally and at times follow their impulses as opposed to logic and rational. The references cited and the article discussed proves that a person’s action can be influenced by the need for competency or self-worth. This paper will exam the relation between behaviors, self-esteem, and self-benefit. Emotion is central to human communication, as it allows researchers to focus on a variety of issues such as fear, sadness, happiness, self-esteem and sense of worth.
Emotions are puzzling to many, as it may cause an inner distress when trying to decide between the people we are and the person we wish to be (Izard, 1991). When describing self-esteem and what a person’s attitude may be towards his or her own attitude or image, we can spotlight on what that individual feels his or her self-value is. Self-value can include many aspects that can cause a person to feel positive or negative towards themselves such as how a person feels about their job, their achievements, their place in the world and their potential for success.
These are just a few of the many ways an individual rates their self on how their self esteem is. I will embark on the theory of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort and distress caused by two or more inconsistent cognitions consequently defined as being caused by an action that is different from one’s customary self-conception. In other words, causing a person to act in a way that is not common or normal for that person’s nature. Brehm (1976) stated the following: Cognitive dissonance was defined as a motivational state that impels the individual to attempt to reduce and eliminate it.
Because dissonance arises from inconsistent knowledge, decreasing or eliminating the inconsistency can reduce it. According to Festinger’s analysis a person who could find nothing to fear is motivated by cognitive dissonance either to reduce his fear or to find some fear-provoking event. Imagine a person who cannot find the cause of his fears. He is quite consistent about being usually fearful, but on the other hand cannot understand the reason for his fear. For this reason Festinger (1957) called this psychological state “cognitive dissonance”.
The following statement exemplifies a cognitive dissonance that can cause an overwhelming inconsistency: “Individuals are motivated to maintain a sense of consistency among their beliefs and perceptions about themselves. When there is a discrepancy between the actual self and the ideal self, an individual experience distress. As human beings we have a need for positive self-esteem; to feel good about ourselves. Can this need be so strong that it overpower our logic and lead us to act in ways that are not to our own benefits? ”
There are areas within us that contain information that are known to others and ourselves, or perceptions of us that others have but we don’t, or information and perceptions that we have about ourselves but choose not to reveal to others or information about ourselves that neither others nor we know are foundations for many of our behaviors. Understanding these discrepancies within our actual self and our ideal self has much to do with the person we are today. Our behaviors are not studied so that one can understand and change, but instead to understand and accept.
Humans have always been interested in the interpretation of the actual self, “who I am”. The need to understand who we are is fundamental to human motive as it initiates our self-esteem and our inner nature. Our ideal self, the “I should be”, is the person we always imagined being. Conclusions about the nature and causes of discrepancies between the actual-self and the ideal-self have important consequences for affect and emotion. Our discrepancies tend to construct attributions that serve our personal interests.
The above statement elucidates the need for human gratification; the need to feel good about ourselves and how our logic can sometimes be mystified by our personal profit, the Self-Evaluation Maintenance Theory. The way a person views him or herself. At times logic is distorted by the need of pleasure-seeking behavior. This brings us to the theory of Self-Affirmation. By affirming and focusing on behaviors that are acceptable such as being a good mathematician or artist and have no bearing on our illogical act, we divert the threat and attention from the original act at hand.
The result is a rationalizing trap, “the need to maintain our self-esteems lead to thinking that is not always rational; rather it is rationalizing. People are so involved in convincing themselves they are right that they frequently end up behaving irrationally” (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2005). The hypothetical basis for determining between the feeling of who I am and who I wish to be in order to please my self esteem and self worth derives the self-discrepancy theory. The disturbance brought about by our inconsistencies in self-beliefs, which causes us to act in ways that are not beneficial or irrational.
Envision a quiet, unpopular teenager who has just began high school. His teachings have revolved around religion, ethics and moral values. High school for this young man seems like a burdensome journey and the first footstep is overwhelming. The need to fit it, be accepted and establish a sense of security amongst your unknown peers is quite overbearing. The very first day in class he realizes the student students are talking, throwing papers and spitballs. He is hit with a dilemma, join in or rebuff? As a means of feeling accepted and a need for positive self-esteem he decides to join.
Contrasting his beliefs and logical thoughts his irrational behavior is caused by the need to be accepted and self-gratification. The article entitled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” (1999) states that people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Consequently, overly positive views over social and intellectual self can alter a person’s capacity and cause a burden.
On the other hand, the same skills that cause competence in a particular field are the same skills necessary to evaluate competence in that particular skill. In other words, to establish that a person is exemplary in math, he or she must also posses an exemplary knowledge of math in order to recognize any mistakes. The four studies conducted in this article were in an effort to prove the self overestimated ability by the subjects and help them recognize the limitations of their abilities. The studies showed that incompetent individuals compared to competent ones would overestimate their abilities due to a deficiency in metacognitive skills.
As a result, incompetent individuals will not recognize their inabilities and not be able to gain insight due to social comparison. It is difficult to recognize competence in others and incompetence in us, resulting in individuals not using the choices of others to alter our own inabilities. If an incompetent individual can gain insight about their own inabilities, it will make them more competent, therefore providing the necessary metacognitive to be able to realize their poor performance.
In relation to the statement at hand regarding discrepancy between the actual self and the ideal self, and a need for positive self-esteem, this article discusses the irrational thinking of human beings, which can cause them to provoke their own failures. In conclusion, there is much to be researched and understood about the power of self-esteem, logic and the ability to make proper rational choices. As humans there is a need for societal acceptance, recognition and approval, but more so a need for happiness within us that comes from self-endorsement. This need may cause us to think irrationally and consequently act accordingly.
It is not only an act that can cause senseless behavior, but can also cause us to alter our own self-awareness in order to accept make appropriate excuses for our conduct. Unquestionably, I conclude that need is so strong that it can over power our logic and lead us to act in ways that are not to our own benefit. References Izard, C. E. (1991). The Psychology of Emotions. New York: Plenum. Coaching Fast Track. Self Esteem – Definitions and Types. 2009 http://www. coachingfasttrack. com/self-esteem/121-self-esteem-definition-and-types Wicklund, R. A. , Brehm, J. W. (1976). Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance.
New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Hattie, J (1992). Self-Concept. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Olson, J. M. , Zanna, M. P. (1990). Self-Inference Processes. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Aronson, E, Wilson, T. D. Akert, R. M. (2005). Social Psychology 6th ed. ). New Jersey: Prentice Hall Kruger, J. , Dunning, D. , (1999). Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved September 9, 2009 from American Psychological Association database.