The difference between Social Identity and Self Identity

Social Identity

Social identity refers to the set of characteristics by which a person is definitively recognizable or known by the society in which they live. These are characteristics that are attributed to the individual by others (the society). These characteristics serve as markers that indicate what that person is, in the eyes of others (their society). At the same time, this means that these characteristics put that person in the same group as other individuals who share the same attributes. Examples of social identities include being a father, mother, student, physician, lawyer, evangelical, homeless person, Catholic, etc.

Another way to define social identity is “Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s)”. This definition looks at social identity as perceived by the individual.


While social identities group together individuals with the same characteristics, and therefore point out ways in which individuals are the same as others, self-identity sets us apart as distinct individuals. Self-identity defines our unique sense of ourselves and our relationship to the outside world. Dictionaries define self-identity as the conscious recognition of the self as having a unique identity. It is an awareness of and identification with oneself as a separate individual.

Social identity is the story the society (others) says about you while self-identity is the story you say of yourself. The story you tell yourself has a much more powerful impact on your life than the story other’s say about you. 

Are you telling yourself limiting stories or expansive stories? Are you saying things like, “I’m not a good test taker”, “I fail when I take risks”, or “I’m not a good parent?”? These limiting stories wreak havoc on our self-identity and rob us of meaning in life.