Compare and contrast the motives of “strategic self-presentation” (efforts to shape others’ impression of us)  and “self-verification” (desire to have others perceive us as we perceive...

Compare and contrast the motives of “strategic self-presentation” (efforts to shape others’ impression of us)  and “self-verification” (desire to have others perceive us as we perceive ourselves).

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the field of Social Sciences, "strategic self-presentation"  and "self-verification" are studied under the motivational framework, that is, under the assertion that both processes are goal-oriented. What this means is that both processes are motivated by a specific aim in mind.

Self-presentation is the process of manipulating the established constructs regarding something, or someone (in this case, "ourselves), in order to obtain a desired opinion. However, this is done either consciously or unconsciously to obtain a gain. Basically, the process consists on presenting an image. This image comes with its own story, details, and particularities. You basically want to "sell out" this specific image to instill pity, sympathy, or whatever the benefit is in the long run. In self-presentation, the motives are driven by publicity, more than for your own want for believing of yourself to be something that you are not. The best examples of self-presentation are politicians, who build websites, presentation documents, biographies, blogs, and tweets geared directly toward making people see them as people-friendly, or environmentally-aware, or whatever image it is that you need to convince others that you represent. 

Self-verification is motivated by one's need to prove that we are who we say that we are. It is the inverse of self-presentation which mainly convince people to believe that we are what we are not. Self-verification is a limiting process because it consists on doing things, even against our will, just for the sake of convincing OURSELVES that the constructs that we held true about who we are were true all along. For example, a controversial study conducted by White and Harkins (1994), noted that white people tended to pay more attention to black public officials and repeat their words to their Caucasian peers for the sake of self-verifying that they are not racists. Although this study is somewhat biased and the parameters of the study should be re-verified it helps to explain the process of self-verification. 

Another good example of self-verification is when people claim to be healthy eaters. They may have the want to eat junk food, but they hold it back because of their desire to eat healthy. However...when someone else expresses a lack of interest for healthy foods, leave it to the self-verified healthy eaters to say a sermon regarding the benefits of good eating, and about how bad junk food is for you. This is their way to confirm themselves as healthy eaters, but it does not take away the fact that they, like anyone else, would want to indulge in something not healthy every once in a while. 

Hence, self-presentation is done for the sake of obtaining benefits out of creating a public image. Self-verification is more internal and is done for the sake of obtaining proof that we are who we say that we are. Both processes are motivated by a specific goal in mind, one being public gain, while the other is personal conviction. Regardless, both are non-altruistic, and they can manifest consciously or unconsciously.