Understanding the Question .. Who am I?
Who I am? A question everyone at some point will ask themselves, certainly a question many organizations, religions and self help Guru’s have attempted to provide an answer to on your behalf. It is my opinion that our understanding of our roles in the world and universe has come a long way in the last few thousand years of humanity. I personally choose to believe, that if the answer is a warm and fuzzy one that makes a promise that you are special but comes from philosophy from the bronze age; even if it gives you an inner sense of grandeur it is most likely not very practical or provides any in-depth understanding.
The following article will give you an understanding of who you are, it will provide a simple and basic explanation that will provide you with the ability to comprehend and formulate practical ways to accept or change who you are at your core self. So lets examine some of these constructs….
In a nutshell, who you are is your Self Identity, the way you look at yourself and your relationship to the world. Understanding this, allows you to examine who you are and more importantly create who you want to be. Lets start with a basic definition of some of the key players and then examine how to create yourself…
Refers to the global understanding a person has of themselves. Self Identity is composed of relatively permanent self-assessments, such as personality attributes, knowledge of one’s skills and abilities, one’s occupation and hobbies, and awareness of one’s physical attributes. For example, the statement, “I am lazy” is a self-assessment that contributes to the self-concept. In contrast, the statement “I am tired” would not normally be considered part of someone’s self-concept, since being tired is a temporary state.
The Self Identity is not restricted to the present. It includes past selves and future selves. Future selves or “possible selves” represent individuals’ ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming. They correspond to hopes, fears, standards, goals, and threats. Possible selves may function as incentives for future behavior and they also provide an evaluative and interpretive context for the current view of self.
Your boundary is a much the same as the boundary lines of a property. It is the clear and defined border that surrounds the house with all its treasures (your Self Identity can be thought of as your house or property) . The boundary lines let others know how far the ownership of the property goes. In a personal development sense the boundaries are more difficult to see and be aware of. But in a nutshell your boundary is your preferences or rules you have about things like
1) What you will accept in behavior from and towards yourself
2) Your ability to say either YES and NO to events or statements.
You know someone who you enjoy being around socially but they occasionally do things that are a matter of a small illegal crime – a result others are hurt in a small financial or emotional way. While your together they want you to help them out with something that you know is illegal. Do you help them because you like them even if you would not do this yourself? Are you able to be comfortable saying No to the request
Refers to the structure or framework that a person uses to organize and define what the world is to them. The World View should allow us to understand how the world functions and how it is structured. The totality, everything that exists around us, including the physical universe, the Earth, life, mind, society and culture. We ourselves are an important part of that world. Therefore, a world view should also answer the basic question: “Who are we?
The World View is our standard of how things are or should be in the world we live in. It is a global concept that makes up our values and morals, our rules of how we and others should act, relate and operate within the world. To most people the world view is largely a vague set of rules and guidelines that we have unconsciously adopted from the life experiences and influences we have. We adopted from our friends, family religious groups, and society, seldom making an active process of creating our own. We can create aspects of our world view though our intellect, using either rational and conscious decisions or emotional charged ideas and concepts. The World View is a filter which we make judgments of others and ourselves.
Refers to a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of her or his own worth at any one point in time. Generally speaking it is an emotional measure of how well we are living up to our world view. Self Esteem is perhaps the single most important emotional gauge of our ability to feel almost all other positive emotions and beliefs about ourselves. For example it affects our measure of happiness, success, well being, confidence, assurances etc, and is made up of all of these feelings in a combined sensation called Self Esteem.
While Self Esteem is a general state of mind, it is affected by changes in any one of the various feelings that make it up. For example a drop in confidence will lower Self Esteem in the short term. Prolonged Negative experience will produce a longer term reduction of Self Esteem, yet at the same time a positive emotional experience will increase the sensation. In simple terms, when you experience an event or situation that supports your world view your Esteem increases and vice versa.
How it fit’s into the Character Building Model
Now, that we have a basic definition of the various components of your Character (Self Identity, Boundaries/World View & Self Esteem); lets see how our model fits together. Your Self Identity, (the core of who you are) is surrounded by your Boundary which filters both outward and inward experience you have to the world. The resulting emotional experience you have from a situation, person or event is then determined by how well you managed the experience in relation to your world view.
For Example. You have a firm rule in your world view that “If someone respects me they will not yell at me”. In an event where someone starts to yell at you, if you have a boundary present (a firm preference to what you say yes or no too) you will say “Please do not yell, it shows me you have no respect for me” and the person will know what is acceptable to you, and you will increase your self esteem because you had integrity.
If you do not have a boundary about yelling, the person will yell at you … and you will feel according to your world view that they do not respect you and will lose Self Esteem. In addition because you are not living up to your own standards, you feel bad and lose more self esteem.
You might like to think of the boundary as being a container that surrounds you, It not only protects your Self Identity, but also acts much like a gas tank to hold your Self Esteem. Within the boundary is your measure of Self Esteem. And as we know the sense of self esteem is a measure of how well you measure up to your world view. It is determined by your actions and reactions to the world around you as determined by the rules that you have, of how the world should be.
Your Self Identity constructs and is made up from your experience through the boundaries of how well you measure up to your world view. Self Identity becomes a long lasting definition of your character.
Where problems arise in Self Identity
Each person view of the world is unique to them, and no one has a perfect world view. In fact most people do not have a clear or conscious understanding of what their world view is, they are vague on their rules to live a good and productive life. This vagueness about their rules of how to live a good and productive life is reflected in broken boundaries or a lack of preference for who they are, what they like and what is appropriate behavior. Sometimes there is no preference at all which creates gaps in the boundary.
A gap can be defined as a hole in your boundary. It is a lack of a preference or rule you have about yourself or your behavior or your place in the world. At a basic level, it is your inability to say or hear the word ‘No’. For example, you might not be able to say no to a family members request’s or allow them to get away with something unacceptable for you, if done by someone outside of the family
A vague preference or rule is something that you are a little wishy-washy on. It is a concept or situation where you have an idea of what is acceptable to you (in your world view). For example, you may define yourself by a particular religious faith, but live in sin according to that faith and be able to justify it to yourself
A well defined section of your boundary is a preference you have and stick with. It is a clear statement of who you are that you can express to yourself and to those around you. Examples might include a political view, your stance on abortion, or any strongly held belief about something
When your Boundary (the container that holds your self esteem) has gaps or vague preferences (rules) in it, you lack control in your decision making. You are in a position where people or situations can reach in and press your buttons. This is a situation or event that will create stress, where your lack of a clear preference can cause you to feel confused. Without a boundary filter for your Identity you are in a position where you will drain your sense of Self Esteem.
And when you do not have a clear sense of your preferences, or a lack of self esteem to act on them, people are able to manipulate you, or they are able to annoy you, or your able to get annoyed with yourself, but most importantly because you are unable to present a clear concept of who you are to those around you, people will not be able understand where you stand on something which makes it difficult for them to develop respect or trust for you.
For example…. Let’s assume someone you know asks you for a favor. They need to borrow $300 until payday because there was something they absolutely needed and spent all their money on. You already know this person lacks the self discipline, they never have any money but are always showing you their new shoes (if fact lets assume that this is what they ‘needed’ so badly).
If you have a clear preference for yourself, a clear and well defined rule of your world view, that you (and others) should live within their means and new shoes are a luxury not a necessity. About this world view rule you have a define boundary preference, you are able to say “No” to this request. The person may attempt to manipulate you or push your buttons by saying something like “You know last weekend I brought you drinks, and you can’t do me this little favor”, and you will not be effected.
You have a solid rule about this, when they push you, they feel the resistance, your firmness and your resolve (your boundary) and while they may not like your decision, they will ‘respect’ you for it, and know they can not get this favor out of you. You will because you have encountered a situation that you remained true to who you are, will feel good about yourself. You will because you followed your world view rules, fill your tank of self esteem a little more which strengthens your Self Identity.
If you only have a vague rule in your world view about this, you might need to think about it for a moment. You may have the world view rule that it is OK to lend money to friends and family to help them out because they are your friend or family and it is only right to help out people you love. It might depend on the situation and the person asking, and perhaps if they just promise to be more careful next time you will give them the money. In this situation, you have doubts about yourself and who you are and what you believe, and while you may make someone else happy by doing them a favor, you are unsure it was the right decision to make. You may feel a little confused afterwards as to why you gave money away you needed, or you may be happy to help a friend. Because your boundary here is vague you have no measure to affect your self esteem and you are subject to seeking external confirmation you did the right thing.
Now let’s assume you have a gap in boundary about your world view rule, a hole when it comes to people asking for money. The person asking is telling you they are in need, they would not ask otherwise, and you want them to like you so you give them the money they ask for. Come payday, they are out with their friends having a great time and they don’t even offer to pay you back. You ask them about it and they make an excuse and promise next week. This person knows you are weak, there is no respect for you or your needs, they can get what they want and you offer no level of value to them because you’re so easy to manipulate.
You on the other hand feel betrayed and left out, your control of your sense of who you are and your place in the world is conditional on someone else and what they do. You begin to suffer because you think they ‘should’ behave a certain way and they are not. You are in a situation where according to your world view, according to your rules about life, people should not spend money on things they don’t need and can’t afford, but because of the gap in your boundary you did not live up to your expectations of how you should live your life. Your sense of self esteem drains as you spend your time and energy worrying about something that is now outside of your control.
Controlling the Controllable
When you have a clearly define world view, one where your rules are known to you (and remember not very many people have any idea of what their world view is) you can create preferences or boundaries around yourself. Then as life experiences come around you make decisions based on your boundaries, it increases your sense of self esteem and makes a stronger character of who you are in your self identity. You are able to clearly define the limits of the extent of your control.
In the case of psychological feelings, you understand that you are the only one who can make you feel a certain way. You understand that things outside of your Self Identity, can only affect you with there is a gap in your boundary about a world view rule.
Others may attempt to control the outcome of a situation or your feelings, but your boundary will bounce off and protect you from any attempts to manipulate or control you. You will know how to act to have integrity with your self identity and character. You will know what requests, events and situations you say No or Yes too. They are unable to push your buttons and make you respond in a way that gets them a result.
You also understand that you are only able to control who you are, and that while you can make a good judgment on how others might behave, you are unable to determine their world view or what boundaries they might or might not have and how they may act. You do not make the mistake of attempting to get results by controlling another person’s World View and Self Identity.