The Puzzle Pieces of Identity: Self-Concept and Self-Esteem

(Part 4 of 9)


Imagine your identity as a mesmerising puzzle, with each piece representing a unique side of who you are. Today, we’re focussing on the two essential pieces of this puzzle: self-concept and self-esteem. These pieces work together to shape your understanding of yourself and your world. Let’s explore how they fit perfectly to complete the beautiful picture of your identity.

Understanding Self-Concept and Self-Esteem

Think of self-concept as the foundation of your puzzle, serving as a canvas on which we paint our beliefs, values, and roles. Self-concept is what we think about ourselves. Essentially, it’s a mental portrait of oneself pieced together by thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Consider it your personal “user manual,” wherein you perceive yourself across various roles and dimensions – as a friend, sibling, student, artist, athlete, etc. It’s a mental collage of beliefs, values, and attitudes about yourself.

On the other hand, self-esteem is like the vibrant colours you use to shade your canvas. It is all about the value and respect we have for the image we have created, which is ourselves. Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves,  the worth and value we assign to our qualities, abilities, and overall existence. Think of it as a personal “confidence meter” that is permanently active. It is not just about being good at something but also the belief that we can always improve and deserve respect. The invisible force guides our perception of ourselves and how we navigate the world.

Connecting Self-Concept and Self-Esteem

  • Interplay between Self-Concept and Self-Esteem: Your self-concept shapes your self-esteem, and vice versa. Suppose you see yourself as capable and kind; your self-esteem soars. Likewise, healthy self-esteem reinforces a positive self-concept. As novelist Max Ehrmann said, “You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.” This quote is a reminder of our inherent worth and value. It is a message of hope and inspiration for all of us.
  • Building a Strong Foundation: Just like a puzzle needs a sturdy base, your self-concept provides the foundation for self-esteem. Your self-esteem naturally flourishes if your self-concept includes qualities like resilience and creativity. It’s like what Confucius wisely shared, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” He reminds us that our failures are not the end of the story. They are simply opportunities to learn and grow. We can use that experience to become stronger and wiser when we fall. We can also use it to help others who are struggling.
  • Influencing Relationships: Picture your puzzle as a combined masterpiece. Your self-concept impacts how you interact with others, while your self-esteem affects how others perceive you. If you respect yourself, others are more likely to treat you with respect. Remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The quote means that we are ultimately responsible for our feelings. No one else can make us feel inferior without our permission. If someone says something mean to us, we can choose to let it affect us, or we can choose to ignore it. We can also challenge the person’s opinion and stand up for ourselves.

Everyday Examples

  • Facing a Challenge: Imagine you’re learning to play a new instrument. If your self-concept says, “I can learn and grow,” you’ll approach practice eagerly. As you make progress, your self-esteem rises. Like Maya Angelou’s insight, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” The quote reminds us that we have the power to choose our destiny. It means we cannot control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we react. We can choose to let the events that happen to us define us, or we can choose to rise above them. So, are we victims, or are we survivors?
  • Exploring New Social Circles: Visualize attending a gathering where you don’t know many people. If your self-concept includes “I’m friendly and approachable,” you’ll likely initiate conversations, boosting your self-esteem. Recall J.K. Rowling’s advice, “It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.” The quote means that we will all fail at something at some point. This is because we are all human, and we all make mistakes. However, if we live so cautiously that we never take risks, we will never achieve anything great. We will never learn and grow.
  • Self-Care and Reflection: Imagine a day when you’re feeling overwhelmed. If your self-concept values self-care, you’ll take time to recharge. This action elevates your self-esteem as you prioritize your well-being. Actress Priyanka Chopra reminds us, “You don’t have to be a pushover. You can be strong and take charge while still being feminine.” The quote reminds us that femininity is not synonymous with weakness. Women can be strong and assertive without sacrificing their femininity. In the past, women were expected to be passive and submissive. However, this is no longer the case. Women are now just as capable as men of being strong and assertive leaders. We can be both feminine and strong at the same time.


Your identity puzzle isn’t complete without the complicated pieces of self-concept and self-esteem. Like jigsaws, they fit snugly together, forming a breath-taking image of who you are. As you manage the twists and turns of life, embrace your self-concept and nurture your self-esteem. Remember, as Dr Seuss wisely said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you”, reminding us that we should be proud of who we are and what we have to offer the world. We should never take ourselves for granted, and we should always strive to be the best versions of ourselves. So, paint your canvas, piece by piece, and watch your vibrant identity puzzle come to life!

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