The Social self and its Role in Identity

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"The Social self and its Role in Identity"
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We all interact in various social worlds. Our social self is the impression we promote within our sometimes numerous groups, whether in an educational setting, family situation, church environment, committee, workplace, online chat room, or other social grouping. Members of the military interact among other members, politicians move about in a world of government officials, and clergy mingle with other members of the clergy and congregations. All humans participate in social worlds, in either a limited way or within a broad spectrum of social communities.

The social self plays a large part in individual identity (Myers, 2008). We tend to label and identify ourselves with the social worlds to which we belong. For example, writers usually interact in a world where other literary types are present, either in real life situations or virtually in groups such as are found in online writing sites. The individual then identifies him or herself as a writer to a greater extent than he or she may identify as a student or homemaker, although these also may be social worlds to which the individual belongs and identities they may also possess.

Our self-presentation is important to each of us. It is the self-concept that helps us attain greater self-esteem and aids our sense of self-efficacy. As social animals, we adjust our words and actions to suit the groups of individuals we are associating with, and present ourselves in a way that will create the impressions we desire (Myers, 2008). The impression we make upon others in a particular social world is usually accompanied by an impression we desire for ourselves. We constantly attempt to boost self-image and self-confidence by presenting our best side to the people we deal with, as well as to ourselves. This is a human instinct for most people.

Associating ourselves with leadership is also an important role in our identity. When we can prove to others and to ourselves that we are competent, capable, and well able to achieve victories, great and small, we validate our effectiveness in the world and create an even greater and more positive impression. Our identity is enhanced and we have improved our feeling of self-worth and achievement. For some people, this tendency to promote themselves is a way of life (Myers, 2008) and their concern for self-presentation masks the real, authentic self. In time, it may become difficult to display the genuine characteristics of the individual's personality and traits.

The opposite of self-promotion can occur with some people, and is more likely to be seen in Asian cultures such as China and Japan. Modesty is greater in cultures that value self-restraint. Chinese and Japanese children learn to share successes with others and take responsibility for failures. Westerners tend to take credit for successes and attribute failures to the situation (Myers, 2008). The social self would differ greatly in a culture that frowns upon boasting of one's achievements and values modesty and social restraint.

As we can see, the social self has much to do with our identity. Whether our own world includes many different social groups or whether we operate in only a few, our identity is closely linked with how we interact in those groups. We all want to present a favorable image to others, and the more social worlds we have, the more we adjust our identity and image. Our self-concept and identity relies heavily on how we have chosen to present our social self.

Myers, D.G. (2008) Social psychology. (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

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