What is self-concept? Your Self-Concept is nothing more than the thoughts that you think about yourself. Like all thoughts, they create emotions which affect your actions. Typical self-concept thoughts are ones that you’ve thought over and over for years, and they interact with your situational thinking to affect your behavior.
They’re present, or at least available in the background, separate from any specific situation you’re involved.
But they influence how you think and act in any situation. They create a bias or filter that affects how you process and interpret incoming information from your senses. They give or take away confidence, and they constrain or allow behavior.
Here are some random examples of self-concept thoughts:
- I’m an American / southerner / O’Neal.
- I don’t do heroin or smoke cigarettes.
- I’m nice to animals and restaurant servers.
- I’m not really a creative or artistic person, but I’m a good problem solver.
- I’m good at sports.
- Things usually work out for me.
- Things always go wrong for me.
Here are some common unhelpful self-concept thoughts related to drinking.
- I’m from a family where drinking is important for connection and belonging.
- I’m from a family of alcoholics who abuse alcohol.
- I don’t have much willpower.
- I can’t stop when I start.
- I start strong, but then give up.
- I am an all-or-nothing kind of person.
- I’m the life of the party.
- I’m a drinker, it’s just what I do and who I am.
- I’m a creature of habit.
- I’m very adaptable.
- I like to be flexible and spontaneous.
- I’m a black and white thinker.
- I don’t like rules.
And here are some ideas for drinking-related self-concepts that could be useful.
- I make my own choices about drinking. I don’t let others decide for me.
- I’m a professional.
- I do what I say.
- I’m learning to keep my word to myself.
- I keep the big picture in mind all the time.
- I’m willing to face discomfort.
- I’m learning how to love myself.
- People like me for me, not because I entertain them.
- Alcohol isn’t important to me.
- I have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards alcohol.
- I’m thoughtful about my drinking.
- I don’t need alcohol to manage my emotions.
- My drinking is 100% in my control.
- I’m becoming a fit and healthy person.
To adjust your self-concept, you need to first develop an awareness of the common ways that you define yourself. Notice when you find yourself thinking 'I am...' or 'I do...'. When you 'catch' yourself thinking thoughts that aren't useful, allow them to float away, with investing belief in them. Don't judge yourself, don't reject the thoughts, just let them pass.
In parallel to noticing and detaching from unhelpful self-concepts, you can practice thinking and living into self-concepts that are fun, productive, and that create expansion and growth.
You don’t need evidence or proof in order to adopt thoughts like this. If you accept the premise that hardly any thoughts are perfectly and absolutely true, you have complete freedom to adopt thoughts that are useful. The earlier you adopt a useful thought, the more easily quickly you’ll create evidence for the truth of the thought.