Understanding the Concept of Self Can Empower Growth

Understanding the Concept of Self Can Empower Growth

Understanding the concept of self can empower us to grow substantially; first, we need to identify which self is the most significant in our lives...

Tags: self self, perceived self, actual self, concept of self

You may have heard that each of us has many "selves."

This terminology has been used to describe the conscious vs unconscious mind.

It has been used to contextualize a person's actual vs ideal self.

In addition, the concept has been used as a framework to compare where a single individual is during different points in time (i.e., past, present, and future self).

Understanding the concept of self can empower us to grow substantially.

Here, we are going to explore the following three selves which typically co-exist simultaneously: 1) "Self" Self 2) "Perceived" Self 3) "Actual" Self

"Self" Self

The "self" self is perhaps the most familiar self to each of us.

This is the self that we believe we are. Thus, it is the self that is closest to home.

If we pay attention, we probably have hundreds of thoughts about ourselves each and every day - good and bad.

A positive self image brings with it the confidence to do God's work in the communities around us.

However, when our "self" self is inflated, we can quickly find ourselves overconfident and prideful.

Furthermore, our self-worth can suffer when our "self" self is deflated. We may become unjustifiably sad and depressed about who we are.

The "self" self can also be deceiving. We may rationalize our sin away as we live in denial. For example, we might spend money we don't really have simply to support our belief that we deserve the finer things in life. We might even avoid being in family pictures so we don't have to be reminded that we need to lose weight.

"Perceived" Self

The second self is the "perceived" self.

This is the self that is concerned with how others look at us.

Similar to the "self" self, if we are truly paying attention, we have hundreds of thoughts about what others think about us each day.

Again, some of this can be good. After all, this line of thinking begins in consideration of others. We are thinking about what is important to others.

Our are sometimes motivated to serve others in order that we make a good impression.

In more serious circumstances - beating an addiction - we might have an accountability partner. One of the purposes of having such a partner is to avoid failing in front of that partners and feeling the shame of the weakness that failure can represent.

However, concerns over how we are perceived by others can also become quite damaging.

Worrying about what others think of us can truly influence our attitudes and behaviors regardless of whether or not they are true.

As an example, I grew up believing I was not to "bother" others by interrupting their day with conversation. I distinctly remember when I was working my first minimum wage job and a co-worker told me I was a snob.

My internal self told me I was respecting others by not bothering them (i.e., good thing)... my external projection was I that I acted too good for those around me to even talk to them (i.e., bad thing).

The desire to please others to create some sort of ideal perceived self is an exhausting exercise.

Have you ever been in a romantic relationship in which you compromised your values in pursuit of pleasing another?

How much work do we do to project that we are the perfect Mom... or the perfect employee... or the perfect Christian?

At the same time, there are lots of truths that these are futile efforts. We all know that we will NEVER be able to please everybody! We also know that nobody is perfect!

"Actual" Self

The final self is the "actual" self.

As you might suspect, this is the authentic self... the "real" self.

What's weird is that while it seems each of us should know this self the best, we are rarely familiar with our "actual" self.

In fact, it takes an abundant amount of wisdom to even start to understand our actual self.

Now consider this...

God has known our "actual" self every moment of our lives...

So what do you think that suggests for our spiritual growth?

Perhaps the "actual" self should be our priority! Perhaps the "actual" self should dominate and maybe even completely overtake any other "selves" we might have.

The gospel teaches us that our "actual" self is so precious to the creator of the universe, He sent His only son to die for us that we might be able to be close to Him in eternal life.

But how often do we feel that precious to anyone, especially the Lord?

How would we live each day of our lives if we actually knew and believed this message to our core?

Continually renewing our minds on the promises of the Gospel is the only way to get there. Ephesians chapter 1 is a great starting point.


We have considered the many "selves" that coexist within each of us every day of our lives.

While we explored the self, perceived, and actual selves each of us have, we realized that having so many selves is exhausting.

We also reviewed how God most likely knows our "actual" self better than we do! Furthermore, if we are to focus our own spiritual growth on any self, it should be our "actual" self... the one God knows best. After all, this is the self that is so precious to Him that He sent our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die so that we might be rejoined with Him in eternal paradise.

I encourage you to consider the futility of all the effort in build great self and perceived selves. Rather, reflect more on your "actual" self to feel the love of God and His blessings upon your life continuously.

Please share your spiritual growth success and challenges in the comments below...

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