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Self-Awareness and Person-Centered Approach Theory Essay

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Carl Rogers’ Person-Centered Approach Theory to human development states that development of an individual is based on a number of factors, top of which is the immediate environment. He argued that interpersonal skills are very important for a person to realize self-actualization. A person would want to be accepted in the society. Generally, people feel good when they are appreciated. Any appreciation to one’s good work will always be interpreted as an appreciation of self. It is also true that people do not appreciate rejection or any negative comments towards them. When their work is rebuked or rejected by other people, they tend to own the rejection, and consider themselves unworthy. Such feelings can have adverse effect on individuals’ life, especially if people around them constantly subject them to rebuke and a form of rejection. One may be withdrawn, and feel a strong sense of self of self-rejection.

Children are the most affected group by this possible rejection from members of the society. It is at this stage that one experiences massive development towards maturity. It is also at this stage that one strives to be the ideal person in life if he or she becomes an adult. In fact, Merry (2002) says that at this young stage, the potential of an individual is limitless and can be used for greater success. During this tender age, one would define life path based on the factors within the environment. People around such an individual would play a major role in determining the path taken as one grows. It is important to note that at this early stage, people would want to be regarded positively by others, especially people who are in authority. This means that teachers play an important role in the development of a child. Ability of an individual to achieve self-actualization in life depends on the kind of childhood experiences one had.

When a teacher constantly encourages a child by telling it how intelligent and hardworking it is, the child would want to put more effort, not to perform even better, but to receive more praises. Such a child would grow up with confidence, always believing that all can be achieved as long as enough effort is put. On the other hand, when a child realizes that it is rejected among peers and people in authority, it gets withdrawn, and this hinders its normal experience. Teachers have the capacity to help such children who feel rejected aware of their untapped potential, and their capacity to deliver better results than their peers. This research paper seeks to demonstrate this by focusing on the personal experience of the researcher at this stage, and supportive theories from Carl Rogers on human development.

Description of the Incident

When I was in the elementary school, I had a teacher by the name Ms. Nora. She was our grade 5 teacher. When we first attended her class, she told us that she would care for all of us, and that her love for us was equal on all her learners. However, this proved not to be the case as soon as she got to know individual students in the class. I was one of the students who drew her attention very quickly, but in a negative way. I would sit right next to her, in front of the class. I was generally untidy, with clothes that were worn-out. She noticed that I was withdrawn, and avoided mingling with other students freely. She quickly developed a negative attitude towards me. She was keen to know my name so that she could award me the worst grades even before checking my assignments thoroughly. She not only considered me dumb in class, but also a clumsy child who could not easily mingle with other students.

This affected me so much. I did not have peace both at home and in school. At home, my mother was constantly under depression, especially after delivering twins who died soon after. She never gave the attention I needed to make me succeed in life. My father never gave me any inspiration, as he had no interest in my academics or general development. I was uncared for at home, and this explains why I was not as decent as other classmates were. In school, other classmates were indifferent towards me. It could be because of the fact that I was not presentable. I felt rejected, and this made me feel withdrawn from them. In my second and third grades, I always received encouragements from my teachers who made me work even harder. However, this was not the case in my fifth grade. My teacher always considered me as a student with lesser potential in class compared to others. She would give me grade ‘F’ and put it in red to emphasize its gravity. This affected me even the more. I was convinced that I was unwanted at school and at home. The poor grading that was given to my work always seemed to be a poor grading on myself.

This changed when Ms. Nora changed her perception towards me after reading the comments my previous teachers had made about the person in me. She quickly realized that I had a potential that was untapped because of the sense of rejection I had at school, and lack of proper care. She gave me very close attention from that day, and encouraged me to work harder. This acted as a motivation as I gained strength to work even harder. Her constant appreciation of my work, and the statements she would make about my untapped potential made me more determined to work hard. The main reason why I worked hard at this tender age was not to excel in my academics, but to earn praises from the teacher, and acceptance from my peers. I worked hard not to disappoint Ms. Nora who had come to appreciate that I had the potential to be successful just as other students.

I felt that I had the capacity to do it. This effort was boosted by the recovery of my mother from her depression. She also started giving me the moral support. For the first time after a very long time, I started feeling accepted both at home and in school. I came to realize that I was normal just as other students. I also realized that I had the capacity to achieve whatever was in my desires. As I progressed to higher grades, the positive remarks and constant encouragements I received from my grade 5 teacher remained clear in my mind. They were constant motivation, and a reminder that I had the potential to achieve success. I went through high school, to college, and currently I am taking my post-graduate degree, but the memory of my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Nora, has remained clear in my mind. I still consider her as my best teacher because she helped me realized my potential.

Description of Own Awareness

According to Roy (2011), self-awareness is always important in the process of personality development. This scholar says that in life, a person would have an ideal image of whom he or she wants to be in life. It is always important to have own awareness in order to be able to achieve self-actualization by becoming the ideal person. In the case presented above, it is clear that even at tender age own awareness is always a real experience and a determinant of personal development. One thought that would run through my mind was the fact that I was in a social class far below my classmates. I would compare my dress code with their and realized that mine were worn out and untidy. When it came to giving our teacher presents, mine was considered the worst. I felt the same because other classmates bought new items for the teacher, while mine was half-used perfume.

There was a strong sense of self-rejection, especially when I realized that I was worse in almost every aspect in class. Academically, other classmates would outperform me. When it came to dressing, my clothes were untidy and worn out. In giving presents to the teacher, mine was the funniest. I felt that I was drawing massive negative attention to myself, and this made me hate my personality. I felt that I was very far from achieving the ideal self. The self-withdrawal symptoms made the situation even harder. I had no close friend that I could share my feelings with and in most of the occasions, I felt out of place when classes were in progress. There were incidences when I felt like crying to myself because of the unfortunate situations I would find myself. I wanted to be appreciated by my peers, my teachers, and my parents. However, what I received from them was rejection, rebuke, and lack of concern. This would hurt my feelings.

There were also cases when I desired to feel loved. I desired to have friends who would accept me so that we could share personal experiences. This was also not forthcoming. This would make me breakdown. I felt that there were so many obstacles in my life that were hindering me from achieving happiness and satisfaction in life. My self-esteem was at its lowest during this stage of development. At times, I thought that I was wasting my time in school, as I was too dumb to achieve any academic success. I would go to school only to please my mother who was always under constant depression. I thought that one day she would come to appreciate the effort I was making in school. Once in school however, a strong sense of rejection would engulf me, making me yearn to be at home away from the presence of my peers and the teacher. In essence, I was neither comfortable at home or in school. This only changed when my teacher came to appreciate that I had potential to be successful in academics and in life. I suddenly felt my mind open-up as I felt that it was my time to be recognized. I felt happy listening to Ms. Nora shower me with praises in front of other students. A feeling that I am an academic giant would come during such praises. This feeling has remained in me since then, and has been the main driving force in all my academic endeavors.

Supportive Theories

Human development has attracted attention of many scholars across many fields in the educational sector. Psychologists have tried to explain some of the phenomena that always take place in the mind of a person. As Seeman (2012) observes, a doctor may be able to diagnose a problem in the brain, and even rectify it to make a patient feel better. However, understanding activities taking place in the mind of a human being has been beyond their scope. It is important to have a scientific explanation to the occurrences that took place in the researcher’s mind at her fifth age, and how this has come to influence her development, especially the academic life. Psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, Maslow, and Carl Rogers have come up with psychological explanation of what takes place in the mind during a person’s development process. This research will be based on Carl Rogers’ Person-centered approach principles in an attempt to explain the above case scientifically.

Carl Rogers Personality Development

According to Freiberg (2009), the central theme to Carl Rogers’ Theory of personality is the concept of self. Self may be defined as the soul or the inner personality of a person that would dictate his or her actions and reactions to various environmental stimuli. In life, it is common for an individual to develop an ideal self. A person would try to achieve this ideal self by trying to behave in a manner that is in line with the ideal-self. This means that every actions that a person would engage in, there is always an attempt to reflect on what one considers ideal. However, if some environmental factors affect the possibility of achieving this, then one can end up reacting in a way that is contrary to ideal-self. This explains why the child felt withdrawn to herself and started underperforming. She was not a withdrawn person before experiencing rejection from people around her, but the prevailing environmental conditions made her react in a way that was opposite to her ideal-self. Self-concept to personality development has three components.

Self-esteem is the first component of self-concept (McCulloch, 2010). It always starts at childhood, and plays an important role in defining personality of an individual. Self-esteem, or self-worth as others would call it, is the general feeling one has about self’s value. It is always developed from a child’s interaction with the parents, teachers or peers at early stages in life. In the above case, the child lost self-esteem because of the poor interaction with parents, peers, and the teacher. However, this was regained when the teacher developed positive attitude towards her.

Self-image is another component of self-concept. It refers to how an individual perceives self in terms of a good or bad person. Self-image may change given different environmental settings. For instance, there was a moment when the child in the above case felt that she was untidy. This was a negative self-image that affected the way she behaved towards others, and how she felt about herself. In other instances, one may have positive self-image that would motivate him or her to act positively. In the case presented, the child came to realize that she had academic potential that could enable her succeed in life. This positive self-image motivated her to act positively, and this made her succeed in her subsequent classes.

Ideal self is the third component of the self-concept. It refers to the kind of person one would want to be in life. It entails one’s aspirations, taking into account the dynamism in life. Roy (2011) says that ideal self is always influenced by environmental factors, including such factors as level of exposure and academic achievements. This means that ideal self at childhood may change when one reaches adolescent stage. This may change further as one gets into adulthood based on the changes taking place in his or her life. In this case, the ideal self for the grade five girl was to be a decent girl who was acceptable to people around her. However, this changed as she grew up. She realized that she wanted to expand her knowledge, and therefore, decided to further her education.

Self-Worth and Positive Regard

According to Carl Rogers, children have two major needs in life, which is self-worth and positive regard from people around them (Roy, 2011). A child would perceive himself or herself based on the complements of people around them. A child who is constantly exposed to ridicule from people around it will develop poor perception of self-worth. Withdrawal mechanism will automatically be experienced as a self-defense mechanism against the harsh environment. Such a child would always associate itself with failures and unhappiness in life. This explains the behavioral pattern of the child in the given case. When people around this young girl subjected her to constant negative criticism, she developed withdrawal symptoms as a defense mechanism against the environment that had turned to be harsh.

However, this changed dramatically when the teacher changed her attitude towards her. The teacher developed a keen interest in helping her develop socially and academically. She started feeling respected, valued, loved, and treated with some form of affection. This positive regard made her realize that she was worthy in this class. The feeling was further enhanced by the change of the mother’s attitude towards her. This increased her self-worth perception. Her level of interaction increased as she realized that she was as normal as other students were in their class. This played an important role in defining her entire success in life.

Unconditional positive regard is always important in enhancing positive development of a child at early stages and even later in life (Valett, 2007). It refers to accepting and loving an individual for what she is irrespective of the prevailing situations. According to Rogers’ Personality theory, a child would thrive well in an environment where there is an unconditional positive regards. This is because such a child is given room to be creative. Any mistake done in the quest to be creative would not earn it any rejection. The young girl in this case lacked unconditional positive regard from her teacher at first. The teacher did not love her because of her low academic performance and untidiness.

Conditional positive regard on the other hand is only given on condition that an individual does what is considered as praiseworthy. In this case, a child would get approval and praises for their good deeds. As Kriz (2006) says, conditional positive regard should always be used alongside unconditional positive regard. This means that the parent or teachers should always have unconditional positive regard to all learners. However, when one of them does what is considered as exemplary, there should be additional positive regard in praise of the exemplary work done.


In his personality theory, Carl Rogers talks about congruence between an individual’s ideal self and the actual experience of a person’s life (Schlosser, 2009). This theory states that after setting ideal self, a person would always try to act in a way that would be as close as possible to the ideal self. It is possible that the actual experience will not be congruent with the ideal self. However, closeness to the ideal self will determine how close one is towards achieving personal aspiration. Hitt (2008) says that in cases where actual life experience is consistent with a person’s ideal self, then the congruency would be considered to exist. However, in cases where there is lack of consistency between the two, then congruency will be considered as lacking. As a child, the young girl wanted to be successful in her academics not only as a way of succeeding in life, but also to please those who were in the immediate environment. Due to lack of positive regard from people in authority such as the parents and her teacher, her performance dropped significantly, and she earned ridicule from her teacher instead of the desired praises.

This made her drop even further in her academic performance. This means that there was lack of congruence between the ideal self and the actual self. This changed when the teacher and the mother came to appreciate her for what she was. This made her feel accepted, a fact that motivated her to move closer to her ideal self. She finally managed to excel in her academics. The fact that she has constantly kept in touch with her grade five teacher even after starting her post graduate studies means that she still lives to her childhood expectations of excelling in academics. It means that living by her childhood standards she has perfectly matched her actual life experiences with ideal self.

She has achieved perfect congruency, which can be considered as achieving self-actualization in life. However, it was stated that life aspirations are dynamic, and they change with changes in lifestyle, exposure, education and other environmental standards. This means that although she is considered to have achieved self-congruency by childhood standards, the current standards have set new life aspirations, making self-actualization a step away from her. However, with consistency, and positive perception towards self, it is possible to achieve congruency between the current ideal self and actual practices. She has maintained the motivation she received as a child from conditional and unconditional positive regards from the teacher. This has helped her at her later life development.

The Fully Functioning Person

According to Rogers’ Personality Theory, anyone can achieve his or her life aspirations and wishes. When this happens, self-actualization will be considered to have taken place. As Sassoon (2008) notes, not everyone has the capacity to self-actualize. This may be because of dynamic life aspirations or inability to work towards the desired success. A section of individuals fail to self-actualize because of their inability to work hard and achieve the desired success. On the other hand, some people have very dynamic goals in life that makes it impossible to reach the state of satisfaction. Those who are able to self-actualize are regarded in this theory as fully functioning people. This theory clarifies the fact that self-actualization is a process and not a completion. Given that the girl in the case has been able to start her post-graduate education may be considered as self-actualization by the earlier standards. However, the changing environmental forces means that this girl must work hard continuously in order to be able enjoy the state of self-actualization. This means that if an individual enjoying self-actualization fails to keep in touch with the dynamics in the external environment, then the state may be lost. In this theory, Rogers talk about five characteristics that a fully functioning person should have.

Open to experience is the first characteristic. In this regard, this theory holds that a fully functioning person should be able to accept both negative and positive emotions as they may come. Positive emotions should bring joy, while negative emotions should be worked on rather than developing defensive mechanism against them. The fifth grade girl was not a fully functioning person in this regard because she was unable to withstand negative emotions.

Existential living is the second characteristic of a fully functioning person. This involves being in constant touch with different life experiences as and when they take place. It involves living in the present, without any melancholy about the past or anxiety about the future. At this young stage, the fifth grade girl could not live in the present. She had to anticipate what the future had for her. This again proves that she was not a fully functioning person.

Trusting feelings is another characteristic identified in this theory. The theory holds that a fully functioning person will always trust his or her instincts and decisions. Such a person should trust self to make right choices in life. This is because of high esteem they have towards themselves. Although the girl got close to achieving this after the moral support she got from the teacher and her mother, her age still forced her to rely on the decision of the authorities at home and in school.

Creativity is the third characteristic of a fully functioning person. A fully functioning person does not evade risks in life by constantly playing safe. They make changes and strive to get new experiences in life that would make them better people, and their lives more fascinating.

Fulfilled life is the fifth and final characteristics of a fully functioning person. According to this theory, a person will be considered to have achieved self-actualization if he or she is satisfied and happy in life. Such a person should constantly be looking for new experiences and challenges in life.


The above five characteristics would define a person who has reached self-actualization state in life. A fully functioning person may be on his or her way to self-actualization, or have reached this stage. The defining factor of self-actualization is the realization of full congruence between the ideal self and actual behavior. This means that a person would be behaving in a way that he or she would want to in his or her mind. Rogers says that childhood experiences always determine ability of a person to self-actualize. The girl presented in the case may probably reach self-actualization if the academic trend is kept.


A number of environmental factors that an individual encounters in his or her daily life will always determines his or her personality. The presented case about a fifth grade girl who was almost loosing hope in life at an early stage is a clear demonstration of this. This girl lacked proper support from her mother. In schools, the teacher failed to give her positive regards that would have boosted her moral in life. The peers also considered her as the odd one, making her life at home and in school unbearable. This was reflected in her poor performance. However, when the teacher realized her mistake and changed her attitude towards her, her life changed completely. The more she received positive regard from the teacher, the more her academic performance improved. As Carl Rogers notes in his personality theory, children need constant positive regards from people in authority in order to stimulate their development. Parents and teachers play important roles in ensuring that a child remains constantly motivated as a way of making them successful in their lives and future development. Self-actualization is always determined by childhood experiences of a person.


Freiberg, H. J. (2009). Perceiving, behaving, becoming: Lessons learned. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Hitt, W. D. (2008). The model leader: A fully functioning person. Columbus: Battelle Press.

Kriz, J. (2006). Self-actualization. Norderstedt: Books on Demand GmbH.

McCulloch, L. A. (2010). A person-centered approach to antisocial personality disorder. New Jersey: Wiley and Sons.

Merry, T. (2002). Learning and being in person-centered counselling. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books.

Roy, L. (2011). Self-actualization and the radical gospel. Collegeville: Liturgical Press.

Sassoon, J. (2008). Self-actualization: Theory and technology. Montreal: Humanica Press.

Schlosser, C. (2009). The Person in education: A humanistic approach. New York: Macmillan.

Seeman, J. (2012). Personality Integration: Studies and Reflections. New York: Cengage.

Valett, R. E. (2007). Self-actualization: A guide to happiness and self-determination. Niles, Ill: Argus Communications.

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