Who am I

“I would often tell my friends that it was okay if their girlfriend had a male friend, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are too close or that their friendship would affect your relationship. However, being jealous of him will most definitely affect your relationship.

This was until I fell in love. When the love of my life was close to someone, I didn’t even realize when I started fighting with her only on the days she met him. I made some or the other excuse (not to give her- she had nothing to hide, to give myself) to check her phone for messages from him. I found some or the other reason (not very urgent or important) to call her after every 10 minutes when she was with her.

My friend saw me doing the same one day and pointed it out. I understood and accepted that I was jealous; and that the jealousy did not have a legitimate reason. I worked on accepting my real self (I’m a human being- I can be jealous, it’s very natural) and changing my behavior.”

Psychoanalyst, Carl Rogers, believed that we all own a Real self and an Ideal self.

What/Who one is intrinsically (the Real Self)- one’s attributes, characteristics and the entire personality. It may not be perfect (It contains both negatives and positives), but it’s the part of us that feels most real and comfortable.

One could be happy-go-lucky, anxiety prone, always willing to help others, selfish, self-centered and/or non assertive. The Real Self can be reflected through behavior. In psychoanalytical language the Real self is also called the “Ego”

Who I want to be (the Ideal Self) is what one feels they should be like (are supposed to be/ like  to be). For example: “I should be honest, independent, logical, etc.”. It is what we think we want to be, what we strive to be; and what we feel we are expected to be and is in accordance with our morality and their values.

We believe we will be more loved and accepted if we are our Perfect selves.

As humans we all strive that the Real Self (Ego) and Ideal Self (Super ego) are mirror images of each other (absolutely same). However, It is healthy to some extent to strive to be the best that we can be.

The problem arises when there is a huge discrepancy between what we are (our Real Self), and what we think we should be; what we feel compelled to aspire to (our Ideal Self). This discrepancy can cause dissonance which can lead to stress and anxiety

The real self never seems good enough and the  ideal self seems impossible to attain.
The larger the gap between happy & unhappy self, the unhappier we are.

Influences

  1. The values of our parents (primarily), and our family tend to give shape to the values we hold. We grow up, innocently absorbing and latching onto their values, hopes and aspirations, unwittingly making them our own.
  2. But it’s not necessarily just our parents. We can sometimes form relationships where we unconsciously weave the others’ values and expectations into our own.
  3. The society and religion also strongly influences our values and the way we choose to live our lives.
  4. Those who suffer from low self esteem, or self worth, feel they should think and behave in a particular  manner, however this turns out to be a vicious cycle.

They have a low self esteem or self worth which increases their need to achieve the Ideal and since they cannot, their self esteem and self worth further decreases, which in turn creates an even stronger need to be the Ideal.

Excessive controls, restrictions, interferences, norms, conditions, manipulations, insinuations, etc, can lead to low self esteem.

Positive v/s Negative coping mechanisms

 Intolerance for anything NOT ideal.
People strive to better their real self. They feel that it is necessary that the Real Self matches the Ideal Self. Some individuals do not have a tolerant view of the world. For them there is no flexibility and they look at things as either good or bad- black or white.

Positive Coping- However, the world is shades of gray, there is both good and bad in everything. The fact that there will be failures as well as success, has to be accepted. But those who suffer from low self esteem, low self confidence, depression, etc, suffer from their two selfs not matching.

Guilty for NOT being like what one wants to be
As children we are all told “honesty is the best policy”, “respect the elders”, “do not steal”, etc. And we do tend to follow all these to the best of your ability. But if someone is willing to tell a lie to protect their best friend, most probably he/she values friendship more than the policy. Here that person would not have any qualms about choosing a friend over a policy. One accepts the real self, though ideally he/she wishes to follow the elders’ lessons.

Negative Coping- But if someone is to lie, for whatever good it were to do, and if he/she starts feeling bad about it because it goes against their ideals, then one can end up feeling guilty (leading to self blame), sad, upset, disappointed. It can also affect one’s self confidence, self pride, self respect, self esteem and self worth. Sometimes our moral values (the ideal world) tend to overcome our practical life (the real world). And we start hating our real self.
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There is nothing wrong to strive to be better, but punishing yourself for NOT being one only takes you away from your goal.

According to developmental psychologists teenage is the phase of our life when we start to wonder “who the hell am I?”, “What do I really want in life?”, “What makes me tick”, “What makes me happy”, “What makes me passionate?”.  The journey to self-discovery is a life long process. The earlier you come to understand who you really are and the sooner you will aspire to be, accept, and embrace that person.

You can only grow when you know where you stand.

As long as we know and accept our real self, or try to refine it as much as we can, it will not lead to any major issues. And we can have an ideal self, and sometimes fantasize about achieving it. As long as we are aware of these realities, we will be mentally healthy. But when we get consumed by our ideal image- we try to reach and maintain the ideal self, and we do not reach our ideal self, it can lead to despair and depression.

It can be difficult to identify your ideal self. It helps to be in touch with and to trust one’s feelings. If you let your feelings guide you in an honest way, you will eventually find your real self.  The more you get to know that self, the more you will come to appreciate it and love it for what it is. The real – perhaps less than perfect – but lovable, one and only you.

A healthy mind accepts itself as it is. It does try to improve in all directions, but basically is aware of the negatives and positives. And any criticism, rejection is handled as an opportunity to learn as opposed to an attack on our personality. Though the ideal self is present, which is the ultimate goal and a motivator to perform, there is no clash between the real and the ideal self. As long as the real self means moving towards positive growth, it should be encouraged.
There is no such person as a completely physically and psychologically healthy person. It can be helpful, therefore, to study and understand one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and work on improving them in order to attain Self-Actualization (one’s potential).

Know Your Counsellor

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