Different Views On The Essence Of The "Self"

The Theory of One

The concept of the personal identity, or how one can individualistically describe what makes “me” me, has long been philosophically addressed. Yet, until today, theories remain to be vague and abstract as no one has yet to truly find the essence of the “self.”

William James had described the duality of the self, having to have the self as the thing that is observed by others and the agent the conscious observer (Robinson, 2016). Charles Cooley stated that the self cannot be understood in isolation, rather, the self is a social-construct and that we are built through others’ perspectives (Scheff, 2010).

George Mead describes the self through symbolic interactionism. That an individual defines the self through communicating and interacting (Psathas, 2014). Other psychologists, philosophers, and many other researchers have attempted to provide theories on the self. Theories that inspired each other (Mead and Goffman), others had clashing ideals (Erikson and Cooley).

All have diverse and competing perspectives in attempting to provide the ideal of what makes the “self. The self can essentially be described by adapting segments of various viewpoints. The self, as described by John Locke, is made up of the sameness of consciousness (Nimbalkar, 2011). The self, as described by Cooley, is scaffolded by social settings and societal perspectives (Scheff, 2010). The self, as described by Singer, is the reconstruction of the individual’s autobiographic past, present, and future to provide individualistic purpose (McAdams & McLean, 2013).

Combining these concepts, the self is said to be stiff in its consciousness but is dynamically influenced by the self’s past, present, and imminent future. The self is not isolated, but social. It is influenced by others perspectives and becomes flexible to adapt. The self is adapting a perspective that influences purpose and meaning, yet the consciousness of “self” remains. Similar to the water from a glass which is transferred to a bottle, only the form changes yet the self in essence remains.

The self is not just the individual. It is not simply from the body that will grow old and grey, it is not made from the memory. As the memories of the self as a 9-year-old and the memories of the self as a 28-year-old may not be reflective of the 90-year-old’s memory. The self is not just tangible but also abstract. The self is made of the personality, values and temperament. The self is made of the stories and experiences we tell others (McAdams & McLean, 2013). The self is the perspectives of others and what they believe is true of the self (Scheff, 2010).The self is influenced by interactions with others. The self is processed and is subjected to a be influenced both socially and discursively (McAdams & McLean, 2013). The self is improved by the “mirror” that is social interaction (Scheff, 2010).

Sufferings and successes affect the self, as it changes the self’s motivations and perspectives. But the self, despite the changes, remains essentially the same. The theory of the self can be applied to anyone, to an aspiring Physical Therapist, a student council member, a doctor, a daughter, or anyone. The theory of self can be done through effective reflection about one’s behavior and how one interacts with others, internal feedback, and external monitoring.

This can be applied by becoming aware of one’s values, personality, and ethics and how this affects the self as an individual and as a part of the society. Acknowledging changes and assessing whether to adapt to the change or remain steadfast to one’s beliefs. The self is your canvas. The self is the story you wanted to tell, the story you are telling, and the story that you plan to tell.


  1. Nimbalkar, N. (2011). John Locke on Personal Identity. Mens Sana Monographs, 9(1), 268–275.
  2. http://doi.org/10.4103/0973-1229.77443McAdams, D. P., & McLean, K. C. (2013). Narrative Identity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(3), 233–238. doi:10.1177/0963721413475622Psathas, G. (2014).
  3. The Interactionist Perspectives of George Herbert Mead and Harvey Sacks.Robinson, H. (2016, February 29).
  4. Dualism. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/Scheff, T.J. (2010).
  5. Memorial Session for Erving Goffman , ASA , Atlanta , August 2003 Looking Glass Selves : the Cooley / Goffman Conjecture [ 1 ].
03 December 2019
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now