Who are we? Or who do we say we are? Who does the world see us as? Interacting constantly with the environment, do we become fearful that who we define ourselves as is not consistent with how others see us? Have you ever created an image of yourself that is more likely socially acceptable? Or have you made it known to the world that you are proud to be in your body, living your own life?
Erikson (1968) theorizes that during the adolescence stage of development, dependence and exploration begin in terms of career, family, housing and relationships pursuits. A belonging for fitting into society is also of great importance. In Erikson (1968) psychosocial stage of development, the individual encounters the identity vs. role confusion, where roles which will be occupied throughout life are learned.
A re-examination of one’s identity and trying to maneuver through thoughts and feelings of anxiety and confusion, as well as who they are being, can become especially stressful on the individual. Bee (1992) describes this stage as “a reintegrated sense of self, of what one wants to do or be”.
However, a failure to establish one’s identity within society can unfortunately lead to role confusion or identity crisis where the individual is not sure of who they are or if they belong in society. As a result, pressure from identity crisis can also end in the person having a negative identity, exhibit rebellious behaviour and feelings of unhappiness.
Loving ourselves is hard, especially if we possess traits we do not particularly like, much less what others in the society despise. It’s easier to love your communicators, your loved ones even strangers because we have the tendency to selectively pick and choose what we like about them and discard the bad – similar to the Halo Effect. Sometimes we do that to our own selves – idolize the good we hold dear to our hearts whilst we shun the traits that ‘go bump in the night’ and make us feel inferior.
“The real self is who we actually are. It is how we think, how we feel, look, and act. The real self can be seen by others, but because we have no way of truly knowing how others view us, the real self is our self-image…..The ideal self, on the other hand, is how we want to be. It is an idealized image that we have developed over time, based on what we have learned and experienced. The ideal self could include components of what our parents have taught us, what we admire in others, what our society promotes, and what we think is in our best interest.” – Manuela Heberle, MSc. In Counselling
The conflict between the real self and the ideal self causing much of an imbalance as it’s effortless to create human perfection – someone everyone adores. Inevitably, we all strive for acceptance, to be loved and coveted so we pull out all the stops to attain that sense of belonging in an unpredictable and ever changing world. The world rotates and with the seasons, people transform and evolve at the drop of a hat. We need to counteract that and strive for self actualization, increased self worth and self acceptance because no matter how hard you try you are stuck with you. Every morning you get up you have to look in the mirror at the breathing, living person looking back holding your deepest fears and aspirations.
By Alexandra Daley