Self-Image as a Predictor of Success in Career - An Analysis in the Field of Sciences


The human potential represents the highest point which can be reached by an individual in his/her development and requires the activation of all bio-psycho-physical resources. Among the factors that converge in the maximal development of the individual, it can be included the self-image , which may influence the success in life and the failure of personal actions. The self-image is a fundamental psychological structure and is involved in the holistic development of the personality, which is constructed through social interactions of the individual, through the internalization of models and experiences. In this respect, the present paper highlights a number of components of the self-image that can be found in the psychological portrait of science specialists. The students who think to a career in the field of sciences tend to design at the level of self-image, specific features of this field, identifying so with their models in the psychological plan. For each person, it is important to choose a profession that meets their needs and expectations. The self-image is one of the factors that make the correspondence between desires and possibilities of accomplishment, but also of the success in carrier and life. The study was done based on the feedback offered by the secondary students to a specific questionnaire applied after the implementation of inquire-based science teaching modules, developed in the frame of the European FP7 Project entitled: “ PROFILES - Professional Reflection Oriented Focus on Inquiry-based Learning and Education through Science ”.

Keywords: Self-imageself-esteempsychological portraitstudents’ feedbackPROFILES Project


Each person has a mental image on its own person, a representation - at his psychic level - of its

individual particularities, built based on the convictions gathered in its subconscious mind, from the

experiences he has had, from the lived successes or failures, from certain faiths, from others’ reactions

and attitudes related to him/her.

The self- concept represents a multidimensional model, summing up the way a person self-

appreciates its abilities, talents, physical aspect and social presence (Byrne, 1996). Its construction

begins very early during childhood and has a dynamic character, grows richer and becomes complex in

the course of the life. The self -concept includes very different elements, from the global image on one’s

own image, to the subjective perception, strongly determined situationally, related to an isolated

behavior (Boncu, & Ceobanu, 2013).

The Psychological self-structure

The self -concept was used initially by W. James around 1890, representing the unit reuniting two

realities: one subjective, interior - the psychological self ( I ), and one objective (from the outside) – the

social self (me).

The psychanalyst theories (S. Freud, A. Freud, C. Rogers) consider that the self ( Id ) represents the

center of the human personality, which assures the dynamic and permanent integration of the

information on oneself, on the others and on the entire world, contributing to the shaping of the feeling

of identity, continuity and unity of one’s own existence (Ţuţu, 2008); self is a social product involved

in interpersonal relations. Rogers claims that there is a fundamental human need to have a positive

image both from others and from oneself (Purkey, 1988). The self-concept is generally used to refer to

the conscious reflection of one’s own being or identity, as an object separated from the others related to

the environment.

In the process of self-formation, three components are interpenetrated: physical or corporeal self ,

psychological or spiritual self and social self. The physical or corporeal self is the image on one’s

body’s internal environment, the image on one’s physical constitution, the affective experiences

connected to those mentioned above, the bio-physiological needs and the association to corresponding

value judgements (beautiful-ugly, pleasant-unpleasant, strong-weak, man-woman). This is the first self

which begins and develops during the ontogenesis. The psychological self reflects the image on one’s

own internal psychical organization, the affective experiences related to that, the self-realization or

self-improvement needs which will to act, and the association with the following value judgements:

capable-incapable, talented-untalented, good-bad. The social self offers the image on one’s own place

and role in the society, the interiorized social value system, motives or status needs, social feelings

which will to interact and get integrated, and the association with value judgements such as:

appreciated-persecuted, integrated-marginalized, accomplished-frustrated, liked-hated (Golu, 2009).

M. Zlate (2002) speaks about the inner psychological structure of the self, including:

The subjective self, representing the individual’s self-image;

The reflected self, which is the self-image reflected in others, depending on their opinions;

The authentic self, different from the masks worn or the roles played by the individual and the

one that the individual could have if he/she were to actualize the unique being carried inside him;

The ideal self, what one wants to be or appear in order to answer expectations, to be accepted by the others and face the pressures exerted by the people around the individual. The ideal self is a projection of one’s self-image.The discrepancies between those facets of one’s self are correlated to various psychic vulnerabilities, negative psychological states, and physical discomfort.

The self-image

One of the main subjective forms of manifestation of the self is the self-image , formed from the

interaction and inter-conditioning of external and internal factors, respectively of the following three

components: physical self-image, psychic self-image and social self-image (Golu, 2009). The self-

image is a combination between the sum of self-perceptions (physical, cognitive, emotional, social and

spiritual features) or the way a person perceives his/her self ( self-knowledge ), but also the representation

that others have about us, the way we are seen, appreciated and accepted by our fellows. The content of

one’s self-image refers to our whole being, to those features by which we differ from others and which

we refer to our personal self , different from you and him/her . M. Zlate (2002) defines the self-image as

the sum of the individual’s representations, ideas, beliefs about his/her own internalized personality.

The crystallization of one’s self-image begins between at the age of 6 and 8, yet its organization takes

place during one’s adolescence.

Depending on our perception, at a certain moment of our development, on what we wish to be or

what we could be, we can distinguish several hypostases of our self : actual self , ideal self and future

self . The actual self represents the way the person perceives his own physical, cognitive, emotional,

social and spiritual features at a certain moment. The dimensions of the actual self are:

physical self (what I think about my body);

cognitive self (what I think about the way I think, memorize etc.);

emotional self (what I think about my emotions and feelings);

social self (how I think others see me);

spiritual self (what I believe important and representing a value for me). Between the structure of the self and the profile of the self-image , there is a close interdependence:

the self-image derives from the subjective, aware and synthetic image of the self , situated in a certain

context, and this image, once constituted, can influence, in its turn, the structure and the functioning of

one’s self (Craiovan, & Dîră, 2012). Maltz (1999) argues that all the actions, feelings and behaviours of

an individual always agree with his/her personal image, namely our self-image influences our

behaviours, which strongly calls for the construction of a realistic and correct self-image .

In the content of the self-image , one can find characteristic aspects, such as: image of our body and

physical and psychic qualities we are aware of; social identity (name, age, residence, family,

profession, economic status etc.); way of understanding what we do, feel and think at a certain

moment, by relating that to certain value- and attitude-landmarks we are aware of as being

characteristic of ourselves; the representations we have about our position in society and about the roles

played in relevant life situations and circumstances; feelings to ourselves, to others and to the

significant events and situations we are or have been involved in; the physical and psychosocial area

bearing the mark of our will’s options, of our actions and of our personality (Craiovan & Dîră, 2012).

The self-image represents a central self-regulation mechanism of the personality system, a filter for

the passage and for the comparison of the individual’s own internal requirements (needs, desires,

aspirations and aims of his/her activity) and external requirements, conditioning the concrete way of

acting in each particular circumstance and situation (Golu, 2009). One’s self-image takes shape

progressively and changes continually throughout one’s life.

The Self-Esteem

The self-esteem is defined as the value the individual attributes to his/her own person (Rosenberg &

al., 1995); it is the evaluative component of the self-knowledge (Salmela-Aro & Nurmi, 2007). This

concept is very often correlated to professional success (Salmela-Aro & Nurmi, 2007; McCullough,

Ashbridge & Pegg, 1994; Chiu, 1990). The level of one’s self-esteem strongly influences one’s

performances in all domains, people with a high self-esteem trust their own possibilities more, are more

in command of themselves and succeed better, which later contributes to the consolidation of their

good opinion about themselves; a low level of self-esteem is correlated to the increase in the number of

failures, which determines, in its turn, the shaping of a negative vision on one’s own person, the loss of

one’s self-esteem (Iluţ, 2001). The self-esteem is a quality that perseveres in time, a fact that gives it a

special importance in the human personality structuring process.


The present research has aimed to identify the way that the self-image contributes to the choice of a

profession, detect the features making up the psychological portrait of the specialist in the area of

Sciences and the way the students project on the level of their self-image , those features specific fora

professional in the desired career (real self + future self = ideal self). The applied questionnaire aimed

to highlight how students perceive themselves, on a personal level, individually, and how a specialist in

the area is perceived by the students (physical and psychological portrait, but also his/her

character).The research sample consisted of 529 upper secondary students, aged between 15 and 19

years old, all of them being gathered in a group who answered to a Motivational Learning Environment

( MoLE ) questionnaire ( MoLE ), with the view of evaluating their gains on scientific literacy, the

research being based on the implementation of a model of science instruction, taking into account the

effects of important variables of innovative and motivational learning environments on students’

outcome (Bolte, 2006).

Results and discussions

As result of the applied questionnaires, a series of features have been emphasized, offering the

possibility to group them into three categories:

-particular features concerning the self-image (beautiful, attractive, educated, smart, self-possessed,

resourceful, respected, popular);

-features related to the cognitive and emotional profile (intelligent, eloquent, creative, open,

imaginative, empathetic);

-features that refer to character - useful also for modelling the future career ( ambitious , tenacious ,

courageous, orderly, sensitive, authoritarian, strong, insistent).

In terms of self-image , the subjects assigned special importance to the following features: educated

and smart ; they give low importance to self-possessed , beautiful and popular . This means that at the

level of the self-image , students intellectual component stresses, but less on the social or relational

levels (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Fig. 1.Pattern related to the self-image
Fig. 1.Pattern related to the self-image
See Full Size >

In connection with the cognitive and emotional profile, the students’ stanceis oriented on high

features such as: intelligent, creative, open, imaginative, which shows that they know very well and

recognize in the structure of their personality important traits in terms of cognitive and emotional

development (fig. 2.).

Figure 2: Fig. 2.Patterns of cognitive and emotional profile
Fig. 2.Patterns of cognitive and emotional profile
See Full Size >

Students consider that ambition, diligence and sensitivity are traits that define them best and those

represent the motivating factors on choosing the desired career. In opposition, authoritarian and

insistent features are found, receiving so a negative connotation in the students’ minds (fig. 3).

Figure 3: Fig. 3.Patterns related to character features
Fig. 3.Patterns related to character features
See Full Size >


The career success is a target we all tend to. Any professional success acknowledged by individuals

and society can be considered an accomplishment. Obtaining professional success or success in life is

very much related to the self-knowledge , to the real valorization of one’s own person, to the measure of

how well one’s self-image and one’s actual possibilities of accomplishment overlap together. Iluţ

(2001) states that the individual has a paradox in front of him: although we have all the conditions to

know ourselves as well as possible, because nothing is closer to us (ontologically and epistemically)

than our own being, at the same time nothing is dearer to us than this being, which can distort our

perception in the favour of a positive image. The relation between the self-perceived , the self-desired

and the ideal self is objectivized as well concerning the choice of one’s career.

Regarding the presented study, the research has highlighted the fact that the individuals who had a

positive self-image on their own person and identified in the researcher’s psychological portrait

features specific and necessary for such a career in this area, projecting themselves, on the level of their

ideal or desired self, within the boundaries of that profile, realizing an overlapping of their own

personality features over the researcher’s psychological, characterial and even physical profile. This

research is relevant because it highlights important aspects for the people in charge of training the

students for a career in the research area: the subjects have a psychical representation formed about the

specific features of the persons in the professional proposed sphere, and the identification at the mental

level with their “models” develops specific skills, opens clear horizons on choosing one’s career

(discovery of one’s vocation), motivationally supports one throughout the trajectory of the entire

specialized training. The students identified in the sphere of their own personality mainly those

desirable features that compose the researcher’s psychological and characterial portrait.


This work was funded through the Seventh Framework Programme “ PROFILES - Professional

Reflection Oriented Focus on Inquiry-based Learning and Education through Science” no. -

SiS-2010-2.2.1, Grant Agreement No. 266589, Supporting and coordinating actions on innovative

methods in Science education: teacher training on inquiry based teaching methods on a large scale in

Europe. The support offered by the European Commission as well as the Community Research and

Development Information Service as responsible for the management of EU’s programmes in the fields

of research and innovation, through the project mentioned above, is gratefully acknowledged.


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