Self & Identity

Topics: Identity, Conceptions of self, Self-concept Pages: 12 (4043 words) Published: July 26, 2010
Self & Identity -
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Throughout your life you meet people and often need to introduce yourself. The way in which you identify or introduce yourself depends on the situation or context you are in. Maybe you will describe yourself as the daughter of..,, or a pupil of…, of maybe an employee of… You might even describe yourself in terms of a group, or skill, or race. The list of descriptors is almost endless. At the same time this description may be an indication of what you aspire to be, or despise about you, similar to an ideal self. Often an ideal self can motivate you and impact on your behaviour.

Self and identity
Baumeister cites that a full understanding of the self encompasses several things. First, it includes the body. Second, it includes the social identity. Third, self is the active agent involved in making decisions. (Baumeister, R.F. 1995). Your identity can range from a personal to a group identity. Your personal identity deals with yourself as an individual. While your group identity sees how you fit into a social group. This group can be a race group, religious group, educational group etc (Baron, R.A., Byrne, D. & Branscombe 2006).

The first level of self to emerge is subjective self-awareness, which allows the organism to differentiate itself from its physical surroundings. So even an animal can tell the difference between its own body and its owner's body. Human beings (and primates) also develop objective self awareness; the ability to be the object of its own attention and recognise the self. Only human beings develop symbolic self-awareness - the ability to form an abstract representation of self through language. Self-awareness makes humans aware of the inevitability of death and creates existential terror. Terror management theory suggests that we attempt to assure ourselves that we have value in our society and the resulting self-esteem acts as a buffer against the anxiety of our demise; those with higher self-esteem show less anxiety when mortality is made salient.

There are a number of functions of the self. These include:
a) Interpersonal tool. In order to interact with others we shape ourselves so as to attract and maintain relationships we want. b) To make choices. Our ideal-self assists us in making choices as it assist us in meeting the ideal self. c) Self-regulation. In order to function on the interpersonal and choice level of your identity you need to manage yourself.

These functions of the self are what motivate us to act. And it is this action that leads to our behaviour.

Culture, History, and the Self
Your identity is “very much a product to culture and society. The self will therefore have a different nature as a function of the social context in which it evolves” (Baumeister, R.F. 1995). Western cultures emphasise an independent self-concept whereas collectivistic cultures emphasise an interdependent self-concept. Someone from a collectivistic culture living in a western country tends to emphasise their individual self-concept when in a westernised environment and emphasises their collectivistic self-concept when around others from their culture. In terms of cultural aspects of the self certain concepts become evident and can be summarised in the table below

Individualistic Collectivistic
Dependence Independence Interdependence
Tight Support diversity and self expression Support conformity Private and individual aspect of self Public and collective aspects of self Complex Belong to many groups Belong to a smaller number of groups Elaborate-self: changing jobs and areas. Leads to identity crisis Less complex-self: holding the same job and live in the same area Meaning in life Uncertain, changing, lack of firm moral unchanging values. More certain, less changing, firm moral unchanging values.

Conceptions of Self
Our belief as to who we are or what we are is based on our own best knowledge and ability....
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