Comment on whether you think it is possible to track the genesis of your self-concept back to specific individuals, groups, books, etc. that you think have helped shape you as a person. Have you noticed much change in your self(idendtity) over your life?
Are you asking about self-esteem or about "self(identity)"? If you are asking about self-esteem, my self-esteem is related directly to the remarks, feeling, and attitudes of certain family members toward me. This is my mother and father, my maternal grandmother and -father and my older sister. In a sense, my sister's influence on my self-esteem outweighed and overshadowed the influence of the others I've listed. Other highly significant influences on my self-esteem were my kindly neighbor across the street, my sweet and lovely neighbor on the corner, my other admiring neighbors up the block and Mrs. Schwabenland around the corner. These people set my self-esteem, yet I am aware that my self-esteem has gone through troughs depending on certain life altering vagaries of life. Each trough has eventually yielded to the stable peak these people instilled in me.
If you are speaking about self-identity, I can't say that my essential, inner sense of self-identity has changed since my earliest memories. Albeit, some external manifestations of this essential identity have been modified in the various ways over the years for various reasons including expediency and protectiveness. Nonetheless, on an essential level, what I seemed to be to myself in my earliest memories, I seem to myself to be now--be that good or bad. My self-identity does not seem to me to have had an influence; it seems to me from my earliest memories to have been fixed, innate--for better or worse.
The genesis of my self-esteem was influenced by may parent's, my brothers, the people I associated with in my neighborhood and at school. As my life continues I find that my religious beliefs and those I deal with in my vocation have an influence on my self-esteem. I agree with Post #5 that setting goals and working to achieve them is conducive to self-esteem. My understanding of what I believe as the purpose being worked out here on earth, again, due to my religious beliefs, has a direct and significant impact on my self-esteem. Even great literary works of fiction have had an impact on my self-esteem as I explore the messages of these works and let the enlightenment and knowledge gained from them help shape the person I am.
I grew up with a father who offered little in the way of validation he was emotionally aloof, and while my mother was more nurturing, I don't remember a lot of validation from her either. It seems that my self-esteem early on was based upon what my friends and peers thought. Later as I became an adult making my own choices, I began to seek validation from myself. My achievements compared to my failures. With maturity and wiser choices, my achievements became greater, and my failures became less. Thus with maturity, I found more esteem.
In my opinion, true self-esteem can only be based upon one's accomplishments. The praise of others is great, but self-esteem comes from within, not from without. I have noticed a trend in recent years to praise children whether or not they have accomplished something, and it seems to me that we are sending them out into the world with the expectation that they will be appreciated and praised no matter what. There was, in fact, an interesting program on NPR on this very issue, with employers weighing in on how how their young employees seemed to expect to be patted on the head for merely showing up.
My family and the larger world around me certainly have made me feel good about myself over the years, in innumerable ways. My parents were a great support to me, and it is wonderful to receive good feedback from friends and in the workplace. But I am fairly certain that my self-esteem is built on what I have done, not upon what people have said to me.
I definitely think people's sense of self is influenced by their family and friends. One study this summer connected teenagers' self-esteem with their relationship with their dads (you can read CNN's report on that study here http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/24/living/dads-and-self-esteem/index.html). As the article notes, correlation doesn't prove causation, and there are lots of reasons why kids and teens who have good, active relationships with their fathers tend to do better and have higher self-esteem.
Another recent study connected spending lots of time on facebook with having low self-esteem (read about that here http://www.sciencenewsline.com/articles/2012040219260057.html). In that study, done in Sweden, people who used facebook for a lot of time each day often compared themselves and their lives to their facebook friends--but because users are more likely to post about positive things than negative ones, comparing yourself to your friends' facebook profiles,what they choose to share, can lead to lower feelings of self-worth.
It would have to start with positive reinforcement from parents and grandparents at first. Next, it would be close friends who nurture you and maybe a special teacher. However, some self-esteem comes from setting out to achieve a goal and then, making it happen. This will cause a person to become self-reliant and more confident, which in turn, builds self-esteem.
As a girl growing up in middle America, I remember wondering where my place would be in the world of adults. Parents are most definitely the first place a child would look for examples of identity, but don't forget siblings and friends as well who also have a great influence on us. My older sisters tormented me so much that I fight back before a fight is even started! A sense of distrust of those people who are close to me has followed me throughout my life as a result. Then, my best friend at age 10 got me into make-up and dance which then carried over to high school, college, and even career. Teachers weren't much of an influence, but my good grades in school were the validation I needed to succeed and to find potential in myself.
Yes, I have seen a great deal of change in my self-concept over the years. Mainly, this has come as I have gotten more confident with age. When I was young, I felt that I was overshadowed by my older brother. My identity was 1) the smart kid and 2) his little brother. What I cared most about was sports and he was better than me at all of them.
As I have grown up, I have gotten out of his shadow. I have come to feel much more competent and self-confident because I have seen that I can excel in various ways.
My self-image, then, was derived largely from the reaction of my peers. Now, I am more able to define myself. I am also more confident because my peers have respect for my abilities in various areas.
My parents had the biggest impact on me. I gained self-confidence from them. My teachers were not very helpful in that regard. I think that my moral compass, and thus my sense of self today, came from my parents and books I read in high school, such as those of Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck.