Self-perception begins with the question "Who am I?" and pertains to worldly matters. This material identity defines how we fit into society.
Self-esteem, different from self-perception, judges the analysis. Self-awareness, is the capacity to understand the "I am" in the environment of conscious thoughts and feelings. All are distinct from the Self or Soul.
Five components of self-perception
Your core beliefs affect how you judge yourself. The human brain reconstructs images by building on what was previously experienced. Using stored data, our brain attempts to predict an outcome for future events. For example, if your mother tells you to watch your weight and your friends are always dieting, you presume you could get fat. Now the intellectual potential is open to the possibility of getting fat. Therefore, you look for an image being essentially "fat" in the mirror because you predict the outcome of this data set. This example of a normal biological process of cognitive functioning happens regardless of your weight.
Fear intensifies perception. Cognitive impressions of anxiety heighten our ability to scan the environment looking for possible threats. Our skill to comb the horizon for threats is innate. Consequently, you are apt to perceive things that frighten you more readily, or intensely. For example, if you fear aging then you notice wrinkles in the mirror even if you still look young. Since current society values youth over age, this interpretation is rational, albeit counterintuitive.
Fixation on objections. When the brain concentrates on an object, it becomes engrossed with it. Focused attention fixates on one object over all others; it becomes spatially distorted. For instance, if you dislike a distinct facial feature, let's say your nose, you stare at it analyzing the prominent peculiarities. The unique characteristic becomes grossly out of proportion, like a caricature.
IIgnoring or rejecting relevant data. Quickly classifying and appraising data is critical for survival in nature. But for the modern man, overriding facts by jumping to conclusions can impair judgment which corrupts reality. You look at one viewpoint rather than the overall picture. To illustrate, after a first date which you had high hopes for, "died on the vine" you believe you will always be alone. When your perspective is too narrow, it forfeits equilibrium. You run the risk of living your life from false assumptions.
Fluctuations in mood affect the way you see things. Regardless of the cause: hormone imbalance, lack of sleep, or poor diet, alterations of physical and mental conditions affect self-perception. To illustrate, when you have low-energy you don't smile as often, and your friendly nature lacks passion and animation. Because people mirror back what you project, your presence is not recognized. As a result, you feel sad or alone. Not only that, if the condition is chronic the feedback is repeated. The memory imprints the mind distorting your life experience.
Seeing how these cognitive functions happen and why they are there should bring you a sense of relief. They are part of our evolutional tool box for survival. Don't over analyzing yourself. Realizing characteristics and seeing unique traits helps us distinguish between our human features and our spiritual nature. Knowing the difference not only brings a sense of relief but it also empowers us to see beyond the material world.
One one hand, we enjoy being who, and what we are. While, on the other hand, we rise above it.
An honest review of our experiences, characteristics, and traits ultimately shows the nature and quality of our human condition.
Your first step
To see the true you, the real Self beyond thoughts, experiences and cognitive functions you need only recognize what you are not.
Learning about yourself in this way is nothing new. The ancients used a method called the Neti Neti doctrine (neither this nor that). (1)
It is the first step in working your spiritual path to self-realization. It pulls from the vast doctrine known as Indian philosophy and is the foundation of Yoga science. The first step is the discovery of your nature, tendencies, qualities, and experiences, the way they are, not the way you want them to be.
To learn more about the first step of self-realization: seeing yourself as you truly are, please visit my website: http://www.SandZuid.com.
(1) Yoga Affect: A Primer for a Beautiful Life, 2016 Sandra Zuidema.
Sandra Zuidema is the author of the Yoga Affect Series. Yoga Affect: A Primer for a Beautiful Life and it's companion journal, Yoga Affect: A Guided Journal, both available on Amazon.com. To learn more about the series and please visit the website SandZuid.com