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35. Regarding Self-care pt. 2

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Good Morning Families, today is Tuesday May 12th 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.

Today, we continue focusing on self-care by remembering or learning about the principals of self-concept! And remember, self-concept is about how you think about yourself, how you perceive yourself, or how you evaluate yourself.

To start, we are setting the way-back machine to when you were first born. There you are, a baby. One day you realize you are a separate entity from the person who birthed you. The rest of your life is set in stone, the end. May your thoughts and feelings be with you.

Just kidding. You are in fact quite malleable. Now we’re setting the way-back machine to the 1950s, for the new cool in jazz, beat poetry, and humanistic psychology pioneer Carl Roger’s and the publication of “On Becoming a Person”.

Rogers claimed that a self-actualized, fully functioning person had seven key traits:

1. Openness to experience and an abandonment of defensiveness.

2. An existential lifestyle that emphasizes living in the moment without distorting it.

3. Trust in oneself.

4. The ability to freely make choices. Fully functioning people take responsibility for their own choices and are highly self-directed.

5. A life of creativity and adaptation, including an abandonment of conformity.

6. The ability to behave reliably and make constructive choices.

7. A full, rich life that involves the full spectrum of human emotions.

What are we talking about? Oh yeah, self-concept. Set the way back machine to sometime when you took Psychology 101. Remember all that? Me neither, I’m 11. But here’s what my dad says they say in those classes.

You have an existential self and you have a categorical self. The existential self is there the minute the baby recognizes it is separate from the mother. Which can lead to an immediate existential “cry-sis”. And you have categorical self/selves. Although, to be fair, those categories don’t start to develop until you’re a little older, say around pre-school.

The existential self is the self that has a sense of being separate and distinct from other things and other folks. And just FYI existential crisis happen when we perceive threats, real or imagined, to our existence and just so you know, those threats do not have to be threats to our physical existence, they can be threats to the frames we hold in our minds. If you recall the story from Mr. Manzo and his buddy Danny, the “Oh. My God” moment is that moment of existential crisis. Really, dad? I’m 11. Whatever.

Right so you have your existential self, and you have your categorical self. The categorical self is much easier to see, but no less treacherous to navigate. For many folks in pre-school common categorical self-awareness revolves around age, gender, or size. As in, I’m 4. I’m a girl. I’m big now because I’m in school. Those are all categorical selves. Age, gender, size, being a student.

And it is the combination of that existential self and those categorical selves that can promote healthy or unhealthy self-concept. Because self-concept is about how you think about yourself, how you perceive yourself, or how you evaluate yourself.

As we get older, we start to use social comparison as we develop further categories for ourselves and others.

Humans categorize things in order to try to understand and identify them. If you look to your surroundings right now, you could probably start to put everything you observe into categories. Right now, I see a coffee mug, a phone, a computer, a guitar, and synthesizer. As I name those things, I can start to see categories. Musical instruments, tools for work, coffee-delivery systems. Those are specific. They could be even more specific as in Fender guitar, Ensoniq ESQ 1 or the could be larger. I could think of them all as material things.

Set the way-back machine to 1979 for Henri Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory.

Humans also do this categorization with other humans. We have created social categories we put people in. Gender, race, culture, age, occupation, skill set, socio-economic status, religion, education, you name it, humans do it.

Is this still about self-concept?

Yes, we’re getting there. Social identity theory offers us a frame, in 3 steps, to help our understanding of how this process may impact us by helping us recognize that as we put people in categories, ourselves included (step 1) we adopt the identity or identities of the categories we share attributes with (step 2) and we don’t tend to do that with the categories we don’t share attributes with (also step 2). Then, we tend to compare the attributes of the groups we share a sense of belonging with to the attributes of the groups we don’t share a sense of belonging with. The comparison piece would be step 3.

What about self-concept?

Well remember Carl Roger’s 7 steps to self-actualization. Openness to experience, abandonment of defensiveness, creativity, adaption, abandonment of conformity; all of those things can be difficult when we are simultaneously working to share a sense of belonging in our groups because often to belong, we must do the opposite of that.

And here is where self-concept comes in. Finally. Because there can be a disconnect between the ideal self and that actual self. Whew. That was a lot to get to that. So, again, from Carl Roger’s, a great quote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

So, there it is, finally. What is your concept of your ideal self? What is your concept of your actual self?

Who knows; well, you do. And here’s what you can do today. Try to recognize if you are open to experience, particularly this new experience we are all…experiencing. If you are feeling more worry and fear than not, ask yourself if you are living in the moment or if you are living in a future fear or past regret. Don’t judge yourself, just try to recognize what’s happening for you.

Ask yourself, what groups do I share a sense of belonging with? What do I do in continue to share a sense of belonging with these groups? How does this sense of belonging and the behaviors I choose to either increase or decrease this sense of belonging shape my thoughts about myself?

You’ll want to have some idea about this as we move into self-talk tomorrow because that self-talk will be a big part of what is informing us about our self-concept.

And remember, self-concept is how you think about yourself, how you perceive yourself, or how you evaluate yourself. We look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can, tomorrow. Until tomorrow, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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