Your Perceived and Ideal Self
The level of your perceived attributes is the degree to which you perceive that you possess these attributes. You are a good mother or highly intelligent. The level of your perceived attributes can be determined by comparing yourself to others (ordinal frame of reference). For instance you want to be the best or you want to be first. The level of an attribute can also be determined by evaluation against a goal or desired outcome (fixed frame of reference).
The strength of your perceived attributes refers to how strongly you hold your perception of your attribute level.
As I stated earlier your environment is of the utmost importance. In some circles you may perceive yourself to be highly intelligent. Let’s say a professor is teaching a group of students. In that scenario the professor may feel highly intelligent. The question is: Will the professor perceive his/herself to be just as intelligent when surrounded by the world’s top neuroscientists? That answer depends on the strength of the professor’s perception of his intelligence. HINT: Another person’s perception of you doesn’t necessarily have to be YOUR reality.
Your ideal self represents the set of traits, competencies and values an individual would like to possess (Rogers, 1959). In other words, the attributes that you desire to possess and would like people to believe you possess.
This brings us to a major point. The distance or difference between your perceived self and your ideal self determines your self-esteem. The greater the distance between your perceived and ideal self the lower your level of self-esteem will be. The smaller the distance the higher your level of self-esteem will be.
In elementary and middle school I used to be a nerdy little guy. I was Steve Erkle before there was a Steve Erkle. This had an interesting effect on my self-esteem. My perceived self was a guy who just wasn’t “cool”. My ideal self was a guy like King Solomon who has all the money and gets all the girls. Big gap. Low self-esteem. On the other hand my perceived self was a guy that was highly intelligent. I thought I was smarter than everybody. (Thankfully I learned that “the limits of knowledge in any field have never been set and know one has ever reached them”). Back to my ideal self, which was (as I just stated) a guy like King Solomon full of wisdom. Small gap. High self-esteem.
Here’s how intrinsic or self-motivation comes into play. If a person gets up every day to go to a job that is not helping them to close the gap between their perceived and ideal self would they be intrinsically motivated to do their job. NO. Motivation requires that you experience a beneficial relationship between your behavior and your desired outcome. Suuuure… they’ll show up…after all, there are bills to be paid, right? But they won’t put in the type of effort Otis will. He, like myself, will work day and night, including weekends by choice. Why? Because he knows, even if it’s unconsciously, that what he does brings him closer to his ideal self.
The Million Dollar Question:
My friend, what brings you closer to your ideal self?
1.Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side write the attributes (identities, traits, competencies, and values) of your perceived self. On the other side write the attributes of your ideal self.
2.Think of what you can do to close the gap. (If you are already doing something this exercise will still increase your knowledge of self a vital component of emotional intelligence)
3.Create a well-formed desired outcome based on what you thought of.
(If you want an outline of a well-formed desired outcome there’s one the next page).