The Self-Discrepancy Theory (SDT) is a psychological framework designed to explain how individual’s self-perceptions can lead to negative emotions and behaviors. Developed by Higgins (1987), SDT suggests that individuals have three important selves: the “ideal self”, which reflects our idealized version of ourselves; the “ought self”, which reflects internalized expectations about who we should be; and the “actual self”, which reflects our current reality. According to Higgins (1987), when discrepancies exist between these three selves, it can produce tension or dissonance that leads to negative affect and/or maladaptive behavior.
One time in my life where I experienced discrepancy or tension between two of my three selves was during college while I was pursing my undergraduate degree. During this time period I had high expectations for myself in both academics and extracurricular activities as outlined by my ought self – such as studying all night for an exam or becoming president of an on campus organization. However, due to competing demands like work commitments or social obligations there were times when these lofty goals fell short of what actually transpired according to my actual self – resulting in feelings of anxiety associated with not meeting what I thought I could achieve according to my ideal and ought selves. As a result, I became distressed over these discrepancies and less motivated toward achieving future goals as suggested by SDT (Higgins 1987).
What is the Self-Discrepancy Theory? Discuss at least one time in which you had a discrepancy or tension between two of the three selves described by self-discrepancy theory.
Although this experience was frustrating at times it did provide me with some valuable lessons that contributed positively towards developing more realistic standards going into graduate school related both academically and professionally. Through learning more about SDTI better understand why some of those situations occurred during undergraduate studies and am now able align my ideals with what is realistically achievable through being mindful about how each decision may impact one another rather than setting unattainable expectations on myself- something that SDT can proved useful insight towards understanding (Higgins 1987).
In conclusion, the Self-Discrepancy Theory provides a useful theoretical foundation for explaining how people can become emotionally distressed when their actual experiences diverge from their idealized views about themselves – something that has found application across multiple academic disciplines since its inception almost 35 years ago(Higgins 1987). By understanding where discrepancies exist between different components within ones’ identity individuals are better equipped towards making informed decisions based on realistic outcomes rather than setting unachievable goals thus reducing any potential distress associated with not achieving them .