3 Jan 2023


Multiple Selves: The Many Faces of the Self

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Academic level: Master’s

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Studies on self-concept have revealed that self-knowledge has a significant influence on an individual’s behavior (Markus et al. 1985). An elaborate and well-functioning self-concept allows an individual to make sense of their present and make predictions of their future. The self-concept also guides an individual’s motivation and goal setting. The theory of possible selves sheds more light on the current conceptions of self-knowledge. The existence or lack thereof of possible or multiple selves is, however, a controversial issue. My standpoint on the matter is that possible selves do exist, and they considerably influence our behavior. 

Possible selves are described as "the cognitive manifestation of enduring goals, aspirations, motives, hopes, fears, and threats" (Markus & Nurius, 1986). Possible selves, therefore, represent a person's thoughts or ideas of what they wish to become, what they might become, and what they are afraid of becoming in the future. For instance, an individual may wish to become a successful or admired self in the future as opposed to an unemployed or alcoholic self. A successful self, in this case, is a possible self that an individual hopes for while an unemployed self is a possible self that a person is afraid of becoming. It is the possible selves; therefore, that enable individuals to think about their future and their potential as humans. 

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There are two sides of possible selves, the positive and the negative images of the self. The positive perceptions of the selves represent what individual desires and hope to become while the negative images of the selves represent what they are afraid of becoming (Lee & Oyserman, 2007). The possible selves, therefore, allow for personal growth, malleability, and self-improvement in the context of future expectations (Lee & Oyserman, 2007). Personal growth and self-improvement, for instance, can be motivated by the desire to become a successful self in the future. The achievement or lack thereof of our future goals is influenced by the possible selves that we would like to become in the future. When we focus on the future, possible selves improve our optimism and our ability to control and regulate our behavior and remove distractions that may limit the realization of our goals (Lee & Oyserman, 2007). It is, therefore, evident that possible selves exist and influence our behavior. 

I would describe myself as an optimistic individual. I have set goals that will ensure that I become a successful self in the future. I work hard in my studies since I believe that high academic achievement will be the gateway to a successful career in the future. The possible successful self has significantly improved my ability to exercise self-control and remain focused on my goals. I have been able to remove distractions such as toxic friends from my academic life to work towards my goals. I am optimistic that I will become the successful self that I so much desire to become. 


Lee, S. J., & Oyserman, D. (2007). Reaching for the future: The education-focused possible selves of low-income mothers. 

Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves.  American psychologist 41 (9), 954. 

Markus, H., Smith, J., & Moreland, R. L. (1985). Role of the self-concept in the perception of others.  Journal of personality and social psychology 49 (6), 1494. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Multiple Selves: The Many Faces of the Self.


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