On Self Identity & Self Awareness

Other segments of the What Is series make not of the concepts of self awareness and self identity.


Self Identity is a collection of beliefs about oneself that includes elements such as academic performance, gender roles and sexuality, and racial identity. Generally, self-concept embodies the answer to “Who am I?”.

Self-concept is made up of one’s self-schemas, and interacts with self-esteem, self-knowledge, and the social self to form the self as whole. It includes the past, present, and future selves, where future selves (or possible selves) represent individuals’ ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, or what they are afraid of becoming. Possible selves may function as incentives for certain behavior.

Self Awareness

Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. It is the extent to which self-knowledge is defined, consistent, and currently applicable to one’s attitudes and dispositions. It answers the question of “Am I?” (do I exist)


A person’s self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, gender, I.Q. score, etc.), but also items that have been learned by that person about himself or herself, either from personal experiences or by internalizing the judgments of others. A simple definition of a person’s self-image is their answer to the question “What do you believe people think about you?”.


People develop their attitudes (when there is no previous attitude-due to a lack of experience, etc.—and the emotional response is ambiguous) by observing their own behavior and concluding what attitudes must have caused it. This seems counterintuitive in nature, as the conventional wisdom is that attitudes determine behaviors.

Furthermore, people induce attitudes without accessing internal cognition and mood states.

The person interprets their own overt behaviors rationally in the same way they attempt to explain others’ behaviors.

Identity Formation

Identity formation, also known as individuation, is the development of the distinct personality of an individual in which individual characteristics are possessed and by which a person is recognized or known (such as the establishment of a reputation).

This process defines individuals to others and themselves.

Pieces of the person’s actual identity include a sense of continuity, a sense of uniqueness from others, and a sense of affiliation or affinity to larger groups and others.

Identity formation leads to a number of issues of personal identity and an identity where the individual has some sort of comprehension of themselves as a discrete and separate entity.

This may be through individuation whereby the undifferentiated individual tends to become unique, or undergoes stages through which differentiated facets of a person’s life tend toward becoming a more indivisible whole.[

Identity is often described as finite and consisting of separate and distinct parts (family, cultural, personal, professional, etc.), an ever evolving core within where our genetics (biology), culture, loved ones, those we cared for, people who have harmed us and people we have harmed, the deeds done (good and ill) to self and others, experiences lived, and choices made come together to form who we are at this moment.

Affinity Groups & Collective Identity

Many people gain a sense of positive self-esteem from their identity groups, which furthers a sense of community and belonging.

This is related to the question of why people engage in discrimination, i.e., why they tend to favor those they consider a part of their “in-group” over those considered to be outsiders. It has been shown that merely crafting cognitive distinction between in- and out-groups can lead to subtle effects on people’s evaluations of others.

Collective identity is the shared sense of belonging to a group. It is conceptualized as individuals’ identifications of, identifications with, or attachment to certain groups, so it is an individual’s cognitive, moral, and emotional connections with a broader community, category, practice, or institution.

Collective Identity and Affinity Groups are distinct, though they overlap.  Collective identity looks at the collective identity of the group, while Affinity groups describe the individual’s relationship to that group.

These two things are often conflated in the colloquial environment, where people apply a collective groups aspect to an in individual who may or may not share those characteristics, even though they are actively seeking to be a member of that.

A collective identity is not necessarily voluntary, as an affinity group is.

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