Quick, fill in the blank in this sentence: “I am a ________________.”
I’ll show you what I mean by sharing my results: “I am a husband, father, son, brother, Christian, entrepreneur, reader, writer, cook, and musician.”
Self-concepts influence our identities
This short exercise highlights what psychologists call our “self-concept.” Attitude (“I like reading”) is an important influence on our behavior, but self-concept (“I am a reader”) is even more powerful. For example, when I say, “I am a musician,” I’m declaring that music is a deep and inalienable part of who I am. When a role or behavior is part of your self-concept, you don’t weigh the positives and negatives of that activity when deciding whether or not to do it; it’s just something you do.
Our self-concept is a function of our behavior, and vice versa. When we do something repeatedly, we’ll begin to internalize that activity as part of our self-concept.
Let me show you a video of a four-year-old who has a reading self-concept:
This child is obviously not reading the words on the page. She’s reading from the bottom of the page and making up the story. But she’s having fun, for sure. This is what reading self-concept looks like before a child can even read!
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