Sociology 132/Section 1E
November 28, 2011
What is the self?
The self has many definitions. “The self is a social construction” (O’Brien, p. 111). “The
self is an ongoing conversation” (O’Brien, p. 118). The self is “an aspect of social interaction”
(O’Brien, p. 108). The self is a three-part system composed of the body, persona, and spirit
(Weber, 2000). The self is “material, social, and spiritual” (Weber, p. 22). “The self is a personal
intrapsychic structure and is only knowable by the person to whom it belongs” (Blumstein in
O’Brien and Kollock, p. 306). The self is something “knowable and stable” (O’Brien, p. 108).
The self is something that can be contracted or expanded (Weber, 2000). It is a controversial
being whose definition is yet to be completely agreed upon.
As it pertains to this project, all the definitions of the self are useful in understanding
what makes up the self and how the self can be changed, or transformed. O’Brien states that
theories of the self, particularly the social self, are helpful in understanding why we have certain
self perceptions and how these perceptions form our feelings, future dreams, and perceived
abilities (2011). Because of socialization, we identify our self “in terms of social roles or
positions and our ideas about what other people think of us” (O’Brien, p. 109).
We are born with a self. However, we are not necessarily born with a sense of self, or
self-awareness. That is, we learn what the self is. Therefore, we can say that the self preexisted
self-awareness; however, without self-awareness, the self does not have much purpose. Weber
suggests that we date the idea of self to the time when self-awareness was “characterized by