The Concept of Self: Human Interaction

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About this sample


Words: 1601 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: May 31, 2021

Words: 1601|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: May 31, 2021

The concept of the self has been widely discussed and debated for decades by people from various backgrounds, including influential figures like John Locke, Mary Shelley, and Carl Rogers. A popular lens when exploring the concept of self lies in the theory of nature versus nurture. The nature argument asserts that genetics create and define who someone is from birth, and the nurture argument suggests that one’s environment is what shapes them into who they are. While both arguments have merit to them, the concept of the self: what it is, who creates it, how it interacts with others, and more, is much more elaborate than just those two factors. This essay will further explore the complexity of the self and how it is maintained in society, as well as describe how I can use impression management to create a new self.

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When analyzing the self, the first point that must be addressed is what it actually is. One definition explains it as “the unique traits, behaviors, and attitudes that distinguish one person from the next” (Newman 74). To have a self is to be aware of the fact that everyone, (including oneself), has a distinguishable self that can be manipulated by internal and external interactions. In talking to a friend or a co-worker, I have a self that can see, understand, and possibly manipulate them, as well as they can do in talking to me. I can also do such things towards myself, through internal conversations or thoughts I may have. The self, however, is not to be confused with an identity which “consists of our membership in various social groups (e.g., race, ethnicity, religion, gender), the traits we show to others, and the traits they ascribe to us (Newman 72). An identity is shared among groups of people within society to whereas the self is unique to each individual. For example, many people can be black or female, but no one can say they are another person or another self. Everyone has oneself, and multiple identities.

Another important factor to analyze when exploring the self is where it comes from. Simply put, the self comes from the varied interactions we have with people and society. A large part of the cultivation of the self derives from something called socialization which is “the way we learn how to perceive our world; how to interact with others… what we should and shouldn’t do to and for others under certain circumstances; what our society defines as moral and immoral; and so on” (Newman 74). For such socialization to take place, there must be what is called agents of socialization, which could be a parent, friend, school, or even the media. All of these agents (and others) influence what a person deems as culturally acceptable, normal, and appropriate in interaction with society. Anticipatory socialization, which takes place during childhood is crucial to the development of one’s morals, values, and behaviors as one grows older. Without people, and constant interactions with each other, there would be no way to gauge what is okay and what isn’t, or how to behave in certain social settings.

An additional significant component in acquiring the self is learning how to differentiate between oneself and another person. While we don’t have this ability at birth, language, and learning to speak (which requires human interaction) play an important role in being able to do just that. Once a child can recognize that certain objects and people have distinct titles and names, they can start to recognize themselves as a separate being within a “named world” (Newman 76). With that skill, they can then observe how certain people act towards such objects/people, which allows them to understand the meaning behind each object. For example, if a child watches her parents use a phone, they can now see what a phone is rather than just knowing what the word is alone. In the same way, people can understand and interpret themselves based on how others (re)act towards them. This is referred to as the looking-glass self, which basically states that other people’s reactions towards us serve as somewhat of a “mirror” that enables us to determine the feelings we have about ourselves. It also gives us a sense of self-concept, which has three elements to it: “the imagination of our appearance to the other person; the imagination of his judgment of that appearance, and some sort of self-feeling” (Cooley 375). Since everyone has a different judgment and perception of certain behaviors and actions, one must learn to adapt to the differing expectations of specific people. This is called role-taking, and it has two stages: the play stage and the game stage. The play stage is when a child takes “the perspective of one other person at a time” (Newman 74), as they don’t know how to generalize across groups of people. For example, if one child’s parent told them not to pick their nose, they wouldn’t pick it while with their parent, but possibly in other social settings. However, in the game stage, a child can begin to generalize and consider the expectations of entire groups of people or society altogether. In this case, the child would realize that nose picking is condemned across society’s standards and therefore wouldn’t do it at all. In short, to truly comprehend where the self comes from, we need to acknowledge that the interactions we have with people and society, whether it be a parent, co-worker, school, etc, are the most crucial factor to its overall development. Without other self-aware individuals, there would be no reason or possibility to develop a self.

Knowing who I am now, I can see who I would like to become in the future. In all honesty, I had a very traumatic childhood, and so I would like to become and live the direct opposite of everything I experienced. This means that I want to be a successful (content with my life), financially stable, woman, with a career in education. Teaching high school in a low-income community of color is my main goal because I want to give back to places similar to where I come from. I would also like to have my own happy family and be a supportive parent to my kids. With these goals in mind, I can use what is called impression management to build this new self.

Impression management describes when people attempt to portray a positive public image of themselves to others in society. This can be analyzed through something called dramaturgy, which observes social interactions as if people were actors in a show, which includes lines, face, and facework. A line is a form of expression used to convey our perspective of a situation we’re in, and how we feel about who we’re interacting with. It could be something that someone says or even a non-verbal gesture. The face is simply the positive public image that a person claims through the use of lines. While it is possible to lose face, it can be avoided if one doesn't “betray the secrets of the team when between performances” (Goffman 381), doesn’t “exploit their presence in the front region” (Goffman 382), “keep himself from actually being carried away by his own show” (Goffman 383), and “determining in advance how best to stage the show” (Goffman 384). If one does lose face, facework would come into play. It isn’t just used for when someone loses face but is used by people, in general, to help maintain the face of themselves and others. This can be executed in two ways: navigating threats to face, and enduring a corrective process. In navigating threats to face, one can either avoid certain threats or choose to ignore them. The corrective process entails an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and an attempt to fix it. Through this dramaturgical model, we can see just how impression management works and is executed in society.

As I have learned, impression management is essential to how people perceive me, which directly ties to the opportunities I will be able to pursue in the future. I have to pay attention to the impression that I give off because I want people that I may network with (teachers, co-workers, peers, etc) to perceive me in a way that reflects my truest passions and values. Seeing that I want to become a teacher, I have to be able to maintain the impression that I value education, giving back, and interacting with younger students. Things I can do to give off that impression are doing well in school myself, gaining experience in tutoring/teaching, and actively engaging with people already in this field. In doing this, I will have better chances of getting into graduate school, internships, and job opportunities. With that comes success, and once I get an official job, financial stability. On top of that, I will be able to establish my family and work towards becoming a good parent.

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To conclude, the self, being quite a complex concept, is actually very simply created and maintained through human interaction. Without everyone interacting with each other, there would be no self-concept or awareness. This brings to light just how significant people are to who we are as people. While it may be common for people to feel as if they don’t need or use other people to help them grow, that is frankly untrue, as even the most indirect contributions from others create specific guidelines for how we behave in society. Whether one chooses to acknowledge this is up to them, but no matter what, the fact will always remain that without each other, we would be nothing.  

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

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The Concept Of Self: Human Interaction. (2021, May 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from
“The Concept Of Self: Human Interaction.” GradesFixer, 31 May 2021,
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