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Self & Identity. Modules 10-1 & 10-2. What is the self?. Self: All the Characteristics of a Person Self-concept: Everything the person believes to be true about him/herself Includes traits, preferences, social roles, values, beliefs, interests, self-categorization

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Self & Identity

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Self identity

Self & Identity

Modules 10-1 & 10-2

What is the self

What is the self?

  • Self: All the Characteristics of a Person

  • Self-concept: Everything the person believes to be true about him/herself

  • Includes traits, preferences, social roles, values, beliefs, interests, self-categorization

  • Self-understanding develops throughout the lifespan

Development of self awareness

Development of self-Awareness

  • Dot-of-rouge experiment

    • 15-24 months of age

    • Infant looking in mirror wipes dot of rouge from his/her own nose

    • Evidence of self-awareness

Theory of mind

Theory of Mind

  • At 4-5 years of age children understand that:

    • People can have false beliefs

    • The mind can represent objects and events inaccurately

Self in early childhood

Self in Early Childhood

  • Confusion of self, mind, and body

  • Concrete descriptions

  • Physical descriptions

  • Activities – what they do

  • Overestimation of abilities

Self middle late childhood

Self – Middle & Late Childhood

  • Shift to internal traits and abilities

  • Social role descriptions

  • Real and ideal selves

  • More realistic about abilities

Perspective taking

Perspective Taking

  • Opposite of egocentrism – the ability to assume another’s perspective

  • Children who are good at this are popular

  • Development progresses through stages (Selman)

Self in adolescence

Self in Adolescence

  • Abstract-idealistic

  • Self-conscious/ preoccupied

  • Contradictions within self

  • Fluctuating picture across time/situations

  • Possible selves

  • Self-integrations as they get older

Self in adulthood

Self in Adulthood

  • Self-awareness (emotional intelligence)

    • Accept own good and bad qualities

  • Possible selves become more realistic

  • Life review – evaluation of successes & failures; more likely as you get older

What is self worth

What Is Self-Worth?

  • Meaning

  • Purpose

  • Living up to your identity & your destiny

    • Self-respect

Self esteem what is it

Self-Esteem: What is it?

  • Evaluative part of the self-concept

    • emotional

  • Difference between the real and ideal self

    • Have you realized your potential?

    • Do you value the trait, but have little potential?

    • Ideal self includes the “ought” and the “wish” selves

  • Measure of our sense of meaning in life

    • This includes purpose

    • Self-respect (Have you lived up to who you are?)

Self esteem what is it1

Self-Esteem: What is it?

  • Influenced by the reactions of others

    • Generalized other, great ubiquitous “they”

  • People are susceptible to flattery

  • It is tougher to accept criticism

  • Basis for conformity

Self esteem what is it2

Self-Esteem: What is it?

  • Self-serving bias

    • Overrate ourselves

    • Blame our failures

    • Claim our victories

    • As a rule, only depressed people truly have low self-esteem

Self esteem what s the problem

Self-esteem: What’s the problem?

“Why is being wrong so socially traumatic to students?”

The self esteem movement

The Self-Esteem Movement

Thank you to Dr. Tracey Zinn, on whose conference presentation this section is based.

The self esteem movement1

The Self-Esteem Movement

Propagated primarily in the educational system

Curricula aimed at increasing students’ self-esteem

Everyone born after 1970…

Focus has been on increasing self-esteem that is not rooted in reality

Researchers now suggesting that students need to be able to identify their talents

The Psychology of Self-EsteemBranden (1969)

What was taught

What Was Taught?

“Keep your head up, feel good about yourself” vs. “take responsibility for your work”. Forsyth et al (2007)

“You can do anything!”

No use of the word “failure”

& What Happened

Everyone got all As in HS, doing little work

Unrealistic expectations of success

Students report being bored in class

What resulted

What Resulted

What resulted attitudes

What Resulted: Attitudes

“Being happy is the most important thing”

We should always feel good about ourselves

Increase in narcissism (debated)

Don’t say “I’m a good soccer player” (Just say “I’m good.”)

Result confused parents

Result – Confused Parents

Encouraged delicate handling of children

Shielded them from negative emotions, criticism

Praised kids regardless of what they did

Carol Dweck’s research

Parents often think that helping their kids build self-esteem is done by shielding them from criticism and praising their talents

Protecting kids from hurt, failure, criticism, & disappointment has made them more vulnerable

What failed to result

What Failed to Result

[High self-esteem] Isn’t associated with improved grades, career achievement, reduced alcohol usage, lower violent behavior, etc.

Baumeister and colleagues (2003)

Educational outcomes of the self esteem movement

Educational Outcomes of the Self-Esteem Movement

Effort is considered a sign of stupidity.

When children are told that they did well because they are smart and not because they worked hard, they choose an easier task.

Panic when they are challenged or

think they are engaging in “a lot of effort”.

From Carol Dweck’s research

Poor atmosphere for learning educational outcomes of the self esteem movement

Poor Atmosphere for Learning: Educational Outcomes of the Self-Esteem Movement

Susan Jacoby The Age of American Unreason

Are our students (people) hostile to knowledge?

Self-esteem movement = I’m the smartest kid!

“I’m supposed to be happy!”

What resulted behaviors

What Resulted - Behaviors

  • Students seem to be incapable of handling negative feedback.

  • New hires are asking for raises and promotions almost immediately after being hired.

  • When students with high SE are criticized, unfriendly, rude, and uncooperative.

  • Entitlement regularly cited as an issue in college.

When instructors that provide too much guidance too much structure too much availability

When instructors that provide too much guidance, too much structure, too much availability . . . . .

Are we setting up our classes to suggest that:

  • All students should be successful at everything?

  • Failure or struggle is not to be expected?

  • Learning should be easy, comfortable, or fun at all times?

  • Students don’t need to solve their own problems?

Can teachers give realistic feedback

Can Teachers Give Realistic Feedback?

What happened to constructive criticism?

Students say, “I don’t believe a lot of feedback from my teachers.”

Teachers say, “How can we give appropriate, contingent feedback without punishing class participation?”

What failed to result1

What Failed to Result

[High self-esteem] Isn’t associated with improved grades, career achievement, reduced alcohol usage, lower violent behavior, etc.

Baumeister and colleagues (2003)

What self esteem cannot do and we predicted it would

What Self-esteem Cannot Do (and we predicted it would)

  • Improve school performance

  • Improve social relationships

  • Guarantee good leadership

  • Prevent risky behavior such as drinking

  • Promote health

  • It is defined in more than one way.

  • It may simply be a marker or indicator variable.

Backlash against self esteem

Backlash against Self-Esteem

John Hewitt’s

The Myth of Self-Esteem: Finding Happiness and Solving Problems in America

“Why do you feel good about yourself?”

“Because of self-esteem”

Backlash against self esteem1

Backlash against Self-Esteem

Generation Me

Risk of depression & anxiety higher for young people today

“Our growing tendency to put the self first leads to unparalleled freedom, but it also creates an enormous amount of pressure on us to stand alone.”



  • Students experience more stress & are more depressed than in the past

    • Frequently feel overwhelmed

    • Pervasive concerns are pressure to succeed in college, get a great job, and make lots of money

  • In 1998, 24% of the population aged 25 and over had completed four or more years of college.

Are negative emotions normal

Are Negative Emotions Normal?

  • Today, the lifetime rate of major depression is 10 times higher than for people born before 1915— 15-20% higher, some say

  • Some argue that it’s not just an increase in diagnosis or acceptability of depression/anxiety, but a real increase in the disorder

  • “Normal” schoolchildren in the 1980s reported higher levels of anxiety than child psychiatric patients in the 1950s (Twenge)

Are negative emotions normal1

Are Negative Emotions Normal?

Focus on the self and independence: “Our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on.”

Generation me has been taught to expect more out of life at the very time when good jobs and nice houses are increasingly difficult to obtain.

  • We are supposed to be able to do and be anything; any disappointment suggests that we will not.

Are negative emotions normal2

Are Negative Emotions Normal?

Against happiness: In praise of melancholy

Eric Wilson

Loss of sadness:How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder

Alan Horwitz & James Wakefield

The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders Peter Conrad

What is identity

What is Identity?

Components of Identity

  • Career

  • Political views

  • Religious beliefs

  • Relationships

  • Ethnic identity

  • Personality

  • Body image

Career identity

Career Identity

  • Intrinsic Motivation

  • Job Satisfaction

  • Role Conflict

  • Burnout

  • Unemployment

  • Underemployment

  • Age Discrimination

Erikson identity achievement vs identity confusion

Erikson: Identity Achievement vs. Identity Confusion

  • Identity crisis - exploration

  • Identity commitment

  • Problems:

    • Weak sense of trust

    • Little autonomy or initiative

    • Lack of industry

Paths to identity

Paths to Identity

Marcia’s Four Identity Statuses

  • Identity diffusion

    • No crisis/ commitment

  • Identity foreclosure

    • Commitment/ no crisis

  • Identity moratorium

    • Crisis/ no commitment

  • Identity achievement (goal)

    • Commitment following crisis

Are we having an identity crisis

Are we having an identity crisis?

  • Sources of identity –

    • Parents

    • Extended family

    • Religious

    • Political: national, regional (state), local

    • Ethnic, racial

    • Work, occupation, profession

    • Group membership: gang, school, club

    • Military

    • Fan(atic): Trekkie, sports team, music, idol

Changes at midlife

Changes at Midlife

Research findings for midlife

Research Findings for Midlife


  • General increase in introspection.

  • Increased self-acceptance.

  • Greater autonomy, less concern with the evaluations and expectations of others.

  • High environmental mastery.

Erikson generativity vs stagnation

Erikson –Generativity vs. Stagnation

  • Generativity: reaching out to others in ways that guide and give to the next generation

    • Mentoring

    • Parenting

    • Teaching

    • Writing

    • Building businesses

    • Political Activity

    • Leaving your legacy

Erikson generativity vs stagnation1

Erikson –Generativity vs. Stagnation

  • Self-absorption

  • Self-indulgence

Levinson seasons of a man s life

Levinson: Seasons of a Man’s Life

  • Cycles of transition & stability in 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s

  • By 40’s mortality is realized

  • Levinson: Some are disappointed in not having realized their early adulthood dream; some question the value of their accomplishments to society

Is there a midlife crisis

Is there a midlife crisis?

  • No, not necessarily during the 40s.

  • Most adults reach points of questioning what they are doing and considering the need for a change.

  • This is usually brought on by life events.

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