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Public vs. Private self


Human personality is a complex subject but a consensus from various scholars is that individuals have personal and private conceptions of self. Individuals exhibit different behaviors and personalities depending on the people around them and often enough, their understanding of their private-self is distinct to their public-self. The difference between the public and private self can be seen as the two sides of a coin which while being different, have the same value. Self-consciousness, public or private, is one of the most important aspects of human psychology as it addresses the question, “What does it mean to be human?” The human train holds the key to comprehending our behaviors, emotions, and attitudes to everyday experiences.


Private self is considered to be the tendency to focus on “oneself” from a personal vantage point. This means that the individual focuses on “themselves” in aspects that are inaccessible to others, such as feelings and thoughts. Public self-consciousness, on the other hand is an individual’s unique tendency to look at themselves from an imagined or real “other-person” vantage point. Looking at oneself from this position, the individual considers how other people see them, including the behavior they show and their appearance.


Some of the factors that signal that indicate an individual is highly self-conscious include:


· Sensitivity to feelings-even when experienced privately.


· Focus on behavior-either past, present, and awareness of future behavior.


· An appreciation of one’s characteristics-positive or negative.


· An awareness of one’s image to others.


· Having concerns about the approval of others.


· The ability to imagine oneself- picturing how one appears to self and others.


· Being introspective-self examining themselves to find out their true-self.


While every individual is self-conscious by default, studies have further indicated that self-consciousness can be manipulated by various factors such as social attitudes, behaviors, and emotions. For example, a mother can instill their own ideas of their child’s private self, forcing them to live a false, as opposed to a “true” self. But, when an individual has high levels of private self-awareness, they have an advantage in social conditions since they understand what they want. By understanding themselves, individuals can maintain their conviction even when their opinions are challenged.


Public self-consciousness on the other hand is related to perception on how other people, perhaps strangers, view the self. A great example of public self-consciousness is when an individual is more concerned with physical changes such as their skin and hair and thus resort to other solutions like makeup and hair. Thus, people that have high self-consciousness are more accurate about how others perceive them, and are more likely to be affected by group pressure. Such an individual is more likely to wear makeup to cover flaws or dress up in a way that aligns with his/her group’s norms. Regrettably, high public self-consciousness also leads to social anxiety, shyness, and other negative emotions.


However, in recent times, scholars have begun addressing the distinction between public and private self, with some even questioning the necessity of separating the two. For older generations, the concept of private-self was enshrined in their cultures, as all areas of life, for example behavior at home, was only accessible to close family members and friends. However, for Millennials, their ideas of privacy were replaced with openness since everywhere they go, “someone is watching.” From CCTV cameras, dash cams, and even social media, young people share personal behavior and in effect, publicize their lives. This reality has led to some revisions of ideas towards the public and private self as some wonder whether the distinctions are even necessary. With the internet, privacy and solitude have been transformed and in effect, they have created significant impacts on individual personal identity. As such thoughts are still under development, it is possible that the definitions of private and public self might change too.


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