Who I Am: Defining My Self-Concept

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The question, ‘Who am I?’ is simple yet profoundly difficult to answer. Oftentimes, I thought I already have a definite picture of who I am, but when pushed to articulate it I falter and fail to form a clear overall picture. I could respond with my name, aspirations in life, gifts I possess, and talents I have perfected but these are merely reflections of who I am as a human being. Nevertheless, being able to answer this question could lead to a solid self-concept and self-understanding, which refers to understanding who you are as a person and understanding what your motives are when you act, respectively. Understanding the self is vital not only because it can have a multitude of repercussions in our daily life and goals but it also serves as a cornerstone for ways to improve ourselves and provides a reference point for personal development. Thus, I would want to pause and take the time to reflect in order to have a clear concept of self and be in a much better position in making long-term goals and radical self-improvements.

In one of the readings, McVittie and McKinlay (2017) emphasized the outsets regarding two understandings of the self, the I and the me. These two are distinguished by William James as the former being the doer, nominative self, and responsible for making sense of how we interact with others while the latter being the social, objective self and responsible for having a collection of selves based and through social interactions. Nonetheless, the I and the me have the self as intermediate reflexive, which is not a reflection of others’ judgement but rather how you internalize these. In other words, the self is a continuous recalibration of constructs (Gecas, 1982). Personally, my concept of self is the product of a recurrently restructured narrative, a sort of dynamic construct through which I sense my existence. As a human being, I am persistently discovering the inside and outside of my self, as well and how structured the narrative is and how persistent I am, represent the quality of attention and effort I am exerting to understand myself better. I believe that it is the self that perceives, distinguishes, and reports our dreams for us to realize we were dreaming – it is the conscious of consciousness itself like a passageway of looking glass endlessly extending out until it develops into its own thing; however, it is also that thing which knows about the existence of all other things. There is the I that is separate from the rest of the world yet there is a distinct outside world that contains my body and influences the me, inscribing the illustrative narrative of events that become my personal history. Hence, my idea of the self is the result of my interactions with the surrounding world and it is usually dependent on the culture and tradition of my surroundings but at the same time, on what I accept as the truth based on my own reflections. In this way, it is consolidative and thereafter akin to chemical reactions, I can both be a reactant and a product of the reaction depending on the circumstances. Culture and tradition might initially stain my views yet by experiencing new things and interacting with others more frequently, these fluid and impermanent views might change. Society might influence me but I have the ability to influence society as well. When I was young, I had the conception that I am simply an object in this universe and my actions have some ramifications to the point where I dropped into this pit of negativity, which was exhausting. Nevertheless, I remained to be civil and continued to withstand all those uncalled-for insolences brought by society, specifically those people who like to micromanage and bully others. But as I grew older, I got into the habit of so-called ‘gratitude attitude’ and began to introspect into how good I am relative to the ‘ideal self” that I want to become rather than focusing on what I lack based on society’s standards. By looking at the self, I was able to manage my life in such a way that it would minimize my dependence on others for the self, such as having a social circle that reflect my principles and intrinsic values rather than those that reflect how I would like society to perceive me. Moreover, I now prefer being with people I care about over the long term as compared to people who temporarily caught my attention. While I am still vulnerable regarding the social impact of people trying to judge me, I became less influenced by society, emotionally and psychologically. As long as there is no necessary impact, I do not let society and people’s opinion influence my concept of the self but if there is, I prefer to look where the grass is greener. Hence, it made me realize that self is not merely a product of society and culture but also an agent of change that needs preservation, wakefulness, and attention in order to function and achieve its goals and purpose. Otherwise, it would dissolve.

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Society influences people every day and it comes in many different ways. It influences the distinct traits of a person whether or not the person is aware of it. Sometimes, it influences the person so strong that it overcomes the person’s purposes, exerting constant pressure for everyone to be alike and follow its ideals when diversity should be celebrated. At an early age, my identity development was shaped by everything that I came in contact with; however, in the adulthood I already have the ability to choose, reject or simply accept those influences to guide my life. Ergo, through the foundation of identities, people are the most significant and influential because they help to achieve personal, emotional and educational development, especially those people with power. As stated by Callero (2003), Foucault viewed power as “so-called regimes of power […] bring the self into existence by imposing disciplinary practices on the body”. Hence, my social identity has been influenced by those with power, particularly my parents, affecting my relationships and goals in life. My parents were very protective of me as I am an only child and they sent me to a private school during kindergarten. I remember back when I was in grade school, they did not allow me to play outside and interact with other children of my age as often. They regularly reminded me not to talk to strangers and not to trust others easily. This circumstance sheltered me from most of the external influences of our culture. At that time, I only interacted with people that I have already created bonds with hence it was easy for me to communicate with my previous friends. I felt free, comfortable, and accepted when talking to them because we share similar characteristics; therefore, I felt no social pressure and it helped us build a formative relationship. Furthermore, my parents always told me that my social circle would tell a lot about me. Therefore, as the top student in class, I was only friends with those that have high academic standing and socio-economic status. I only felt comfortable interacting with those that have the same traits as I do. Surely, this had an effect on my social identity. I was not close to the majority of the class and I felt like I was often the one singled out by others and excluded from activities. Other people perceived me as upright, serious, grade-conscious, and competitive but I know deep down that I am also capable of having fun and be what society perceives to be ‘normal’ yet I had to act the way my parents want me to because I was sure they were doing it for my own good. Nevertheless, I did not feel like I was ‘normal’. My parents always reminded me that it’s okay to be different yet society seems to reinforce a contrary message. As my mind was gradually infected by cultural influences, I became pre-occupied about how others perceived me. Thereafter, I tried to change myself to prove them wrong. In high school, I tried to be more carefree and outgoing. I made the effort to socialize and join various groups but I crossed the line to the point where I was not happy with my grades and the person I had become. I realized that I gave the power that my significant others (parents) previously held to the generalized others. In other words, instead of following those who are important in establishing my concept of the self, I chose to please or meet the expectations of people I may not even know. But then again, the act of evolving is part of the discovery and I realized that if my acts are guided by other people’s ideas of who I should be, it leads to inauthenticity because the change is made solely to fit in. Indeed, people with power played a huge role in shaping my identity during my early years but now that I am an adult who is capable of deciding for herself, I already have the ability to resist the imposition of values and ideals of others. I have realized that not everyone is capable of giving me the encouragement I need to achieve my goals. Moreover, I’ve become aware that I hold the power to choose the people who will influence my identity the strongest.

My identity represents who I truly am and it allows me to be unique and stand out from the crowd. In my 19 years of existence, I have come across many obstacles that shaped my being and will further shape me into someone with particular traits, or an identity. Additionally, as aforementioned, I have already strategized my life to be less dependent on other people’s opinions and learned to focus on things that make me truly joyful such as going with the crowd that I share similar core values with and stop fitting in to groups that I do not really feel any sense of belonging. Because of this mindset, my personal identity is in a close relationship with my social identity – no pretending in front of other people, no wearing of mask – my life is an open book. The only distinction between these two is openness since I tend to share more about my personal thoughts to people, I trust and feel comfortable with. With this in mind, I would like to continue maintaining this balance between the two identities for my own personal growth and development.

Over the course of my life, I have had many experiences that molded me into who I am today. At my early years, my life experiences played a vital role in shaping my concept of the self. Even though my memories of the past might not have been lovely, as I got older, I began to gain awareness and decided which memories are worth remembering to continue having an effect on my life. Akin to a reflection in a mirror, the self is virtual yet seeing it cannot be prevented.

Furthermore, in today’s world, deviance of society’s rules, standards, and ideals is frowned upon yet obedience results to repression and lose of individuality. Hence, like an earthquake-proof infrastructure, my identity must have a firm foundation in order to withstand the portentous conditions of the world. When obstacles and issues loom to crush my identity, my foundation must stand its ground. Ergo, I would like to end my reflection with this quote, “Pay no mind to what other people say; whatever makes an individual happy is what he or she should do”.

References

  1. Callero, P. L. (2003). The Sociology of the Self. Annual Review of Sociology,29(1), 115-133. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.100057.
  2. Gecas, V. (1982). The Self-Concept. Annual Review of Sociology,8(1), 1-33. doi:10.1146/annurev.so.08.080182.000245.
  3. Mcvittie, C., & Mckinlay, A. (2017). The Self. The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Social Psychology,389-408. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-51018-1_19.
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