All different beliefs and images that go into our self-concepts have one thing in common: None was with us at birth. Definitely, everyone is born with concrete physical characteristics and undiscovered capabilities.
But no one is born knowing she is male or female, black or white; nor does anyone come into the world already thinking she is stupid or smart, lovable or unlovable, pretty or ugly, strong or weak, shy or outgoing, generally inadequate or basically okay.
The newborn can be said to begin life with a “blank slate”, as far as ideas and impressions of her are concerned. Just as she later learns that she is a girl, that her hair is black, that her name is Susie Brown and that she is the daughter of John and Mary Brown, so, too, she learns to think of herself as stupid or smart, pretty or ugly, strong or weak, lovable or unlovable, shy or outgoing, generally inadequate or basically okay.
Many of the basic ideas we have about ourselves were obtained prior to adulthood, and from two main sources: how others treated us and what they told us about ourselves. Nonverbal communication played the most crucial role in early infancy: Depending on how much affection, food, touching and physical warmth was received.
For instance, we as infants obtained general impressions about whether we were loved and worthy. Then we began to translate these general impressions into specific words within our minds with the development of language capability, and what others told us about ourselves started to have as much impact on our developing self-concepts as how they treated us.
Attitude Of Others
People are deeply influenced by the attitudes of others toward the self and over we come to view ourselves essentially as we are viewed by others in the course of time. As we grew up and learned fundamental ideas about who we are and what we’re about, each of us also learned strong ideas about who we should be and what we should be like.
Whereas our ideas about who we in fact are make up the self-concept or perceived or “as is” self, our ideas about who we should be form our ideal self. Typically, we continually compare our perceived self to our ideal self, and the wider the gap between the two the lower our level of self esteem.
At the time of our birth, none of the ideal principles by which we judge was not with us. We had to be taught to believe we should be a certain way, and the particular ideals and standards by which we judge ourselves will vary from culture to culture, and even from individual to individual within the same culture.