By Diane Wing, M.A.
No one is perfect. Nor can one ever hope to be. What we can do is to become more truly who we are. We can strive to accept our limitations and to enhance our strengths. It is also possible to sculpt ourselves into an individual to be proud of, in accordance with our personal concept of success, and thereby being more satisfied with who we are. Forming an accurate picture of whom we are is difficult. Identifying the personality is different than determining an identity. We may project an outgoing personality when being evaluated by the outside world, yet could have a preference for quiet contemplation. We may be a mixture of both. Yet who we are when there is no one and nothing judging us is the core of what we must strive to uncover and to develop…and to accept.
The struggle to understand ourselves is to a large degree an exercise in discovering who we are, where we fit in, and deciding if our identities are in line with societal expectations. Many times, we define ourselves according to who we think we should be or who society thinks we should be rather than what our nature dictates. The identity is mistakenly tied to an occupation, role, or the expectations of others. We formulate a false identity by assimilating or rejecting the belief systems around us based on their prominence in the environment.
Some people tie their personal identities directly to others: I am a wife/husband, a mother/father, or a son/daughter. In this way, the individual gives up control to another’s identity and loses his or her personal power in the process. If I am an employee who ties his/her identity to his/her company and the position is eliminated, depression and loss of direction may ensue If I am a wife and I get divorced, my identity as a wife goes with the ex-husband and my world is shattered, left to rebuild my personal identity. To tie ourselves too closely to any identity that can be taken away by circumstance is a dangerous choice. Rather, to empower ourselves by building our self-image based upon our individual gifts and personal goals strengthens our ability to achieve inner stability and to minimize fear and anxiety.
False identity can also be a function of our past, present, and future: the past being a result of role models, upbringing, individuation, and child development issues; the present being our jobs, our roles (wife, mother, etc.), the expectations of others, the ideal versus true self; and the future based on the individual’s dreams and goals. Determining what our individual gifts are and deciding on our personal goals is a challenge. Wading through the jungle of psychological theory, popular opinion, religious doctrines, nature versus nurture, societal norms, cultural issues, and parental upbringing can be confusing, conflicting, and time consuming.
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