Who I Am and What Has Shaped My Personality: Reflection Paper

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‘Who am I?’ is a question that runs through my mind as I reflect on the person I am - my strengths and vulnerabilities, my natural inclinations and aversions, and what gives me fulfilment. As I step into social work, a helping profession, clarity regarding how my character has been shaped by my past and the system of beliefs that have emerged through the years is necessary. In particular, self-awareness is critical for workers in helping professions, in order to use the ‘self’ effectively in a therapeutic setting (Reupert, 2006). Thus, this reflective essay aims to elucidate how my identity and values are impacted by life experiences, namely family and cultural influences, as well as educational background. Importantly, it will also examine how these influences relate to my professional life.

I am the first-born of four children in a middle-income Singaporean Chinese family. My father is the sole breadwinner, as my mother gave up her career when I was in primary school to look after the children. Thus, as she has been my primary caregiver, we have a close relationship. In addition, as the eldest child, my parents entrust me with greater responsibilities, such as watching over my siblings when they are unavailable. Overall, I am thankful for my family’s financial stability and parents’ strong marriage that together, have created a secure environment for me as I grow up. In terms of personality, I have a quiet, introverted disposition, so I prefer listening to speaking. I find great fulfilment in lending a listening ear to my loved ones. However, as I am reserved and tend to put a lot of thought before I speak or act, I hesitate to step out of my comfort zone. If the situation is deemed too uncertain or daunting, I choose to remain quiet. This is one of my weaknesses, which will be explored in detail in a later section of this essay. Altogether, the values I abide by include humility, responsibility and courage. Grounded in these values, I chose social work as a profession as I believe the essence of a meaningful life is to always grow in character, challenge myself and extend compassion to others.

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Firstly, my upbringing has a tremendous impact on my belief system. As culture influences children’s socialization (Quah, 2003), my upbringing is a confluence of both my parents’ personal life principles as well as values emphasized in the Chinese culture. In particular, my mother played a critical role in molding my character. According to the Chinese culture, parents believe they are responsible for cultivating good character in their children (Luo, Tamis-LeMondaa & Song, 2013). Thus, they express concern for their children’s development through control and supervision, which can come across as authoritarian (Chao, 1984). This is congruent with my mother’s parenting style. She closely monitored my activities, such as my time spent with friends in school, and set high expectations for me. When I made mistakes, she would reprimand and punish me. As a young girl, I was bitter at how strict she was. However, as I grew older, I began to see the values behind discipline, which is an expression of her love. Notably, after every round of punishment, she never failed to gently explain why my actions were unacceptable and the underlying principles. Occasionally, she apologized when she felt she was unintentionally harsh. Through my mother’s teaching, I acquired life lessons and values that remain with me. Specifically, through her willingness to admit and apologize when she was wrong, I learned the importance of humility. Furthermore, family structure influenced my character formation. As the eldest daughter of four children, my parents always stressed I had to be a role model to my younger siblings, partially based on the Chinese belief that the eldest should lead by example. Through my role as the eldest, I realized the importance of responsibility and the value of sacrifice, especially when I had to prioritize my siblings’ needs over my own. As a social worker, the strengths nurtured and values inculcated by my upbringing contributes to my professional competency. Humility and responsibility are key values that I should abide by during practice, as mistakes are inevitable. As Sicora (2017) contends, it is impossible to eliminate mistakes in social work practice, but it is possible for the practitioner to reduce the likelihood of error by acknowledging the possibility of mistakes, then working to reduce them through reflection. Hence, rather than being discouraged, I should take responsibility for my actions, be humble to acknowledge when I am in the wrong, and grow from them. Striving to improve my professional competency, such as by seeking guidance from my supervisors and attending training, is aligned with the profession’s code of ethics (Singapore Association of Social Workers, 2017). Equally important, social workers are to adopt an attitude of curiosity, especially in relation to developing cultural competence (Ow & Nur Hilya, 2014). As a practitioner, I will be encountering clients from diverse backgrounds. Although I have been brought up in the Chinese culture, I need to be open-minded and invite clients to share their cultural narrative which may differ from mine. Congruent with Ow & Nur Hilya (2014)’s assertion, being curiously engaged with clients’ cultural frame of reference not only facilitates empathy but also enables it to be identified as a strength. As such, being curious and sensitive to various cultural nuances that shape clients’ worldviews is fundamental in my professional life.

From a more macro perspective, my experiences in school also had an impact on my life. In the past, I compared myself to my peers not only academically, but also in public speaking. As underscored in an earlier section, being reserved, I experienced anxiety when I had to speak in large group settings as I found it intimidating. I felt inferior when I compared myself to my peers who seemed to be able to express their insights confidently. In addition, I was highlighted by teachers on numerous occasions for not being participative in class or speaking too softly when called upon to answer questions. Their comments about me, sometimes publicly, left me embarrassed and indignant. However, I am thankful that with the love and support of my family and friends, I am learning to accept myself. These experiences have taught me to be more courageous and develop strength of character, to be able to confront my weaknesses and grow from them. Specifically, I have begun to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone. In junior college and university, I began to share my opinions in class and I am working on developing confidence as a presenter. I want to continuously cultivate courage, which is to me, “not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it”, as Nelson Mandela aptly puts ('Nelson Mandela Quotes', n.d.). Reflecting on these experiences, I am more aware of how they may affect my professional life. Firstly, courage is foundational in social work practice, especially when I have to relate assertively with clients (Hepworth et. al., 2017). For instance, I would need to challenge clients’ thinking, set boundaries in our relationship and guide the helping process. All these considered, I need to be bold to help clients achieve their goals. Secondly, reflection has also enlightened me on my position as a wounded healer. On one hand, my negative experiences in school can serve as an opening for me to empathize with children or youth struggling with their self-worth. Conversely, I need to be wary of negative countertransference, tuning in to my emotions to check if they are due to unresolved issues of the past. As cited by Zerubavel & Wright (2012), for a therapist’s wounds to facilitate empathy rather than interfere in his relationships with clients, his wounds need to be adequately processed and healed. Above all, an empathic connection is not dependent solely on common life experiences, but on the social worker’s commitment to perceive the client in their unique context and to communicate that understanding (Egan, 2014). Hence, a wounded healer is one that is self-aware, understanding that similar life experiences are not a necessary condition for empathy.

To sum up, the person I am is molded by influences from culture, family upbringing and experiences in school. The values that I hold on to - humility, responsibility and courage - have emerged as a result of my history and have been the impetus for me to choose social work as my profession. Correspondingly, Reupert (2006) asserts that it is critical for social workers to be conscious of how others and society have shaped their values and beliefs as their personhood is also a product of contextual influences. Thus, reflection is a continuous process where I seek clarity on the self I bring into practice, acknowledging how environmental factors have shaped the lenses I adopt.

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Who I Am and What Has Shaped My Personality: Reflection Paper. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/who-i-am-and-what-has-shaped-my-personality-reflection-paper/
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