A question clients frequently ask is: What is the difference between self-concept, self-image and self-esteem?
Your self-concept is how you see you, how you understand and what you believe to be true about you. It is powerful because it shapes your behaviors. It also shapes your life.
Why? What you believe about you, your abilities, what you deserve, and so on, determines how you respond to events, to others and to life around you—and how you treat yourself. It shapes your emotional state, thus, your every behavior.
Your self-image is related to your self-concept; however, it is how you believe others see you. If this sounds confusing, bring someone in your life to mind, then ask yourself:
- How does this person “see” me?
- What do they believe about my abilities or character?
Now, compare this to how you see yourself. See the difference?
Together, your self-concept and self-image make up your self-esteem. More specifically, your self-esteem is how you emotionally feel about yourself as a result of what you believe about your life and experiences, the sum total of your life experiences, conscious and unconscious.
So, how does your self-concept affect your couple relationship?
Your thoughts about you, both what you believe about yourself or how you believe others see you produce images in your brain, and automatically these images cause emotional states.
Thus, depending upon whether you believe you are capable or not capable, for example, your brain is going to produce completely different images and emotional states.
Your beliefs affect the quality of your relationship because they activate emotions inside you, and it is emotions, rather than logic, that literally shape your behaviors.
It is your emotions that determine whether or not you take action, for example, and what kind of action you take.
To explore this, reflect on the following questions:
- What’s it like whenever your partner “sees” you differently than you see yourself?
- What do you do?
- Does this effect how you feel about yourself in any way? If so, how?
- Does this change how you feel about your partner? If so, how?
If your self-concept consists of any limiting, impairing beliefs about yourself, they may negatively affect you and your confidence. You are more likely to lose hope, for example, and stop believing in yourself and your partner, or even worse, your relationship. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine what this can do to the energy in your personal life or your relationships.
Don’t you and your partner, and your relationship deserve to be nurtured by two people who both have a healthy self-concept? Yes, you do!
There’s good news.
Your current self-concept is not a fixed reality.
It is a dynamic creation of your mind, and not a static one. What you could not change as a child, you can as an adult, as you explore any neural patterns that no longer serve you. You have the ability to heal and to emerge beyond limiting belief patterns, to integrate a new reality. You can learn to improve or develop a radiantly healthy self-concept. How? By engaging in conscious processes that allow you to empathically connect to self and others with your compassion and understanding.
That is how healing works. It is an inside job.