Wouldn’t it be nice if when we were young somebody would teach us that our self-concept is a dynamic and evolving process, and any decisions we make are always subject to later reconsideration and revision. Plus if every time we said “that is not me”, it evoked a discussion of the pluses and minuses of our current concept of “me”. Then over time, our sense of ourselves would progressively gain clarity and strength so in mid-life, we would know who we were and why instead of ending up doing the wrong things, in the wrong job, with the wrong friends, living in the wrong place and not understanding why.
Our self-concept, or “identity”, drives our priorities, decisions, goals, relationships and careers. Arguably its formation and refinement is the most important single factor determining whether we become happy and successful. Fortunately, self-concepts are not chiseled in stone so our fate is not sealed, but the longer we hold them, the harder they are to change. Developing a clear self-concept early gives a person a leg up on others who are still struggling with their identities later in life.
The elements that make up our self-concept include our values, strengths, skills, personality and interests.
- Values – Principles or standards
- Interests – Something that somebody enjoys doing and whose progress or success is important to them
- Personality – The totality of somebody’s attitudes, interests, behavioral patterns, emotional responses, social roles, and other individual traits that endure over long periods of time
- Strength – Extremely valuable or useful ability, asset or quality
- Skills – The ability to do something well, usually gained through experience and training
The process of personal development consists of applying our values to a spectrum of interests, exploring and experimenting with each one, in search of a combination that produces results that are important enough to us that their ongoing pursuit becomes self-generating. Over time these selected interests become part of our identity. We become writers, engineers, inventors, analysts, educators or any number of things. As these interests are refined and their need in society is ascertained they become careers, hobbies or simply interests.