Who Are You?

25 Jun

Before you read ahead, ask yourself this question: “who am I” and write your answer down. You don’t need to spend a lot of time. Just jot down what first comes to your  mind.

Did you immediately jump to answers such as “I’m a mom”, “I’m an athlete”, I’m a student”, “I’m a secretary”? Perhaps you leapt into a more descriptive stance: “I’m a hardworking, single female that desperately wants to be in a relationship.” Like a personal ad of sorts.  Regardless, you have attached labels to yourself that 1. describe who you believe you are and how you see yourself; and 2. serve as reinforcements for how you will behave and the manner in which you carry yourself. A self-fulfilling prophecy?

In her new book, Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine demonstrates how as humans, we do not  just fall into categories. We create them for ourselves and think of ourselves as being these types of people.  With each category comes assumptions, roles,  behaviors, expectations, and personality traits. But each of us may define the category differently.  My definition of “mom” might be very different than my best friend’s.  But it’s this definition that governs how we behave within that category.

A study conducted at Northwestern University revealed that when participants were asked to imagine themselves as both a “cheerleader” and a “professor”, profound differences came to light regarding the characterizations of themselves. “After the exercise…those individuals who had imaginatively adopted the perspective of the professor were more likely to describe themselves as clever than those who had been assigned the cheerleader persona. And those who had adopted the cheerleader perspective, were correspondingly more likely to describe themselves as gorgeous.”

Taking this a step further, when participants were given a test of analytical intelligence, those who identified with the professor performed better than those who identified as the cheerleader.  What does this mean?

It’s more than biology and genetics that account for personality differences, behavior, and cognitions between men and women.  This isn’t big news– you’ve heard me repeat over and over again how crucial our thoughts are to the manner in which we feel and act.  But what is most interesting is that without a point of reference….without a concept from which to classify yourself, you don’t have any  basis from which to decide who you are or who you want to be.  In essence, you need the category to decide if you want to fall into it or construct a new identity altogether!

Now go back and reread your first answer. Are you who you want to be within your self-instituted categories? How is your category determining your performance and the way you see yourself?

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2 Responses to “Who Are You?”

  1. Jami Kruger Kotera June 26, 2011 at 7:31 AM #

    I can’t answer this Kori. I understand where you’re going with thisk, but I still can’t answer this about myself. What is wrong with me??

  2. kpropst June 26, 2011 at 8:48 AM #

    Haha. Jami, the way you talk is exactly why I appreciate you so much! 😉
    You said you get where am I going with this? If you get this piece of it, tell me how you understand it.

    You “still” can’t answer this about yourself? Have you been trying to? Perhaps you’re more enlightened then the rest of us. 🙂
    Maybe you’re trying too hard to do the very thing that I suggest is what we might want to step away from– categorization.

    I ask you to identify your categories so that you can begin to ‘de’ and then ‘re’ construct them.

    If you find that there are no categories that you’re attached to (which would very much surprise me– I mean, you’re a “female”, right?
    Female: your beliefs/assumptions/roles about identifying as a female might include being “soft-spoken”, in a place of servitude with your husband, speak when spoken to (these would obviously impact how you handle yourself, especially in your previous line of work as a probation officer). Or “female” for you may mean “strong”, “intelligent”, “creative”. Likely, there is a combination going on for you. Either way, your definitions influence who you believe you are and how you act.

    Maybe I’m assuming you identify yourself as such when you don’t; perhaps you’re “Jami.” ), then ask yourself “who do I want to be?”

    You said “what is wrong with me?” Does that mean you’ve categorized yourself as someone who “Just doesn’t get psych stuff?” or “Lacks a strong level of personal awareness” ? Even if that’s what you hear, you’re pushing past that and asking questions…that’s the first step to revamping who you are and who you want to be. 🙂

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