Reading between the lines

16th August 2020by Arshi Alam0

It strikes me every day, if I have to define myself in one line, in one paragraph, I wonder how I would define myself. I have never really been able to define myself independent of my surroundings, my grounds of existence. In every ‘introduce yourself’, I have always introduced my self in relation to my environment. Since childhood we are being socially constructed to fit the norms of the society, we are domesticated at every point of time, what to wear, what opinion to have, what to do study, in all this we just get up one day and realise, ‘who are we actually’. Our real self has somewhere got clouded amidst the social norms. If you are lucky you might realise this early in your life,and start your journey of self-discovery.

According to Carl Rogers, the real self is who we actually are. It is how we think, how we feel, look, and act and the ideal self, on the other hand, ideal self is how we want to be, it is the representation of attributes that someone, it can be you or others believe you should possess-responsibilities, obligations, and also the representations of attributes that someone would like you to ideally possess-like our parents hope to go into a particular occupation, or even your hopes from yourself.

What happens when there is a conflict between the real self and the ideal self??

There are two types of discrepancy which may suffice if the real self and ideal self are incongruent. Firstly, if the person’s current standpoint doesn’t match the ideal state that he/she personally hopes or wishes to attain. The person might become vulnerable to disappointment and dissatisfaction and resulting in frustrations because of unfulfilled desires.

Secondly, if the person’s current standpoint doesn’t match the ideal state that a significant other expects him/her to be at, this will lead to feelings of dejection where he/she feels, that they failed the significant other’s hopes or wishes. They may start believing that the other person is disappointed and dissatisfied with them and they might be vulnerable to feelings of shame and embarrassment.

The greater the discrepancy between the real self and ideal self, the greater the intensity of discomfort the person might feel. There can be many reasons for this discrepancy. It may be due to the result of early childhood experiences like parents who criticised or punished often, controlling or intrusive parents, also parents who couldn’t satisfy the child’s needs for love and nurturance. It causes children to acquire beliefs that parent’s approval, care and affection are dependent upon pursuing their parents’ standards for them. This they tend to generalise while growing up for all kinds of relationship that they make.

Carl Rogers emphasized, on unconditional positive regard, is the basic acceptance and support of children regardless of what they do. Positive interactions during childhood, are the basis of your future interactions with self and others.

All of us, have some kind of divergence of attributes between our real and ideal self, staying in touch with your feeling and thoughts will help you be in touch with your real self. It is always healthy to question the practicality and fairness of the ideal self, it gives you a sense of direction and voice to your real self. It is important for you to feel comfortable in your own skin.

But at times, measures needs to be taken when the magnitude of this divergence is great. Psychological intervention may help modify the ideal self to be more congruent with the real self. Behavioural therapeutic approaches accomplish this by modifying clients’ persitent performance, and both cognitive and psychodynamic therapeutic approaches accomplish it by modifying clients’ interpretations of their performance and by lowering either the level or the perceived relevance of conditions of worth, by helping clients question the fairness, reasonableness of these expectations. A life long discomfort will linger with us if we are not comfortable in our skin, thus awareness of self is an important step towards a healthy and happy mind.

Your imperfection makes you beautiful, be who you were created to be, everybody else is already taken.

Arshi Alam

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