A member of a social collective defines 'self' in terms of a social context: the person they’ve shaped themselves into in order to fit; the face they show the world. A true sense of self is almost non-existent, because they've fashioned their persona using a menu of parts deemed familiar, appealing and/or useful to the collective. This is Social Self-image.
Even the classic idea of a social 'rebel' has a menu from which a dissatisfied individual might build their social self-image, often cannibalizing bits of familiar mannerisms and fashions that characterize other 'downtrodden' groups.
Our sense of self-worth plays a large part in the way we approach life. Our choices of partner, diet, general health, etc.; our ability to love and respect another, all reflect what we feel about ourselves.
My own family have always given me love and respect, but a careful upbringing doesn’t necessarily equal a healthy sense of self-worth. Many parents have expectations that reflect their own self-image, and correspondingly there are a lot of people who feel trapped in a sense of duty to their parents and society in general.
Even the pampered child who goes through the current education system is moved to discard their sense of self in favour of social approval, and is left dependent on social consent in all choices they make. This disempowers, and crushes self-worth: a state of affairs that frequently leads to unhealthy life choices.
Often what stands in the way of improving our day-to-day lives is an underlying doubt that we really deserve improvement. If we believe we don’t deserve to achieve the best version of ourselves we can imagine (you might be surprised to learn that this is par for the course), we’ll find ourselves regularly confronted by our fears while on the journey to selfhood.
There’s no way around this one, either: When our aim is to achieve something that we have learned we shouldn’t have, we have to unlearn the stuff that’s blocking the achievement.
An integral part of my personal challenge on the journey to selfhood was some serious realignment of my sense of self-worth. It was scary! To achieve the picture I was creating that was representative of my best self, I constantly had to reach higher - higher for things I actually didn’t feel I deserved, because my stunted sense of self-worth didn’t readily embrace such seeming beauty and wonder.
Often I didn’t get what I’d hoped for – these were usually hopes that harboured hidden social agendas, like a need to be approved of – but there was always something in the aftermath that offered encouragement; something that showed I was on the right track: not the least of which was an enhanced sense of self-worth that resulted from simply having given things my best shot in the face of my own doubts.
And the track was ever-shifting; zig-zagging constantly into areas of life that I needed to redefine because of my attachment to a social idea of achievement: recognition, success, approval.
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