Who Are You Really? | KCUR

Who Are You Really?

May 4, 2012

Are you who you say you are? Do other people see you that way? Can you be one person at home and another person at work? Is that ideal?

On Monday's Central Standard we speak with KU Professor of Family Medicine Dr. Bruce Liese about identity and sense of self. He says the way our of most personal crisis is simply asking yourself who you are, and who you want to be. Join us for these and more insights into your real and ideal self.

Who are you, and who do you want to be? Send us a note.


I. What's meant by "identity"?
    A. The concept of "identity" can be found in many contexts (with many meanings) across disciplines (philosophy, psychology, law, math, business, computer science, culture and the arts).
    B. We will focus on the PSYCHOLOGY of identity: the sense of self.
    C. Self-knowledge and self-evaluation are important facets of identity
        1. Self-knowledge involves "who I am"
        2. Self-evaluation involves the "how much I am worth"
    D. Humans have been interested in this topic since the beginning of time: "Know thyself"

II. Why does identity matter?
    A. A cohesive sense of self enables us to organize our world
    B. Without a cohesive, congruent sense of identity/self we are lost
    C. Our daily choices are determined by our sense of self/identity
    D. Mental illnesses typically involve identity/self problems, for example:
        1. People with depression have a diminished sense of their own value/worth
        2. People with borderline personality have identity disturbance
        3. People with dependent personality look to others for their identity
        4. People with OCD have an extremely narrow sense of self/identity
        5. Narcissists elevate their own sense of self to hide and protect a fragile sense of self
    E. Problems with identity lead to problems in relationships

III. Some interesting and important concepts
    A. Identity cohesiveness, consistency, congruency
    B. Real vs. ideal self
    C. Self-consciousness, self-awareness, self-esteem, selfishness, selflessness,

IV. The development of self/identity
    A. Early in life those around us influence our sense of self/identity
    B. Subtle and not so subtle communications from significant people are important
        1. Subtle: Being over-accommodated (i.e., "spoiled") results in an exaggerated sense of entitlement.
        2. Not so subtle: Being abused gives a sense of self/identity as worthless
    C. Educational institutions effect sense of self
    D. Social (including cyber) networks
    E. The media:
        1. Historically it was thought that advertising/marketing was the most salient influence on viewers' identity (clothing, health, other materials needs)
        2. Now the media tells its us how we should think about everything (politics, economics, and many very basic life choices)

V. Subtle dynamic processes associated with identity
    A. Aging and life experiences influence our evolving identity/sense of self
    B. Most often this evolution is subtle and dynamic
    C. Throughout the lifespan when faced with challenges we may:
        1. Change our sense of self to conform to reality, or;
        2. Modify our view of reality to conform to our sense of self

IV. Identity and Mental Health
    A. A mentally healthy person has the following characteristics:
        1. Accurate, consistent views of self and identity
        2. Open, honest, positive, healthy relationships with others who provide a "mirror" of self and identity
        3. Openness and receptivity to life's challenges and a willingness to learn about self/identity from these challenges
        4. Accurate views of discrepancies between real and ideal self
        5. A willingness to admit to one's own fallibility without becoming defensive - resulting in more congruence between real and ideal self
    B. Those who struggle with emotional problems will benefit from:
        1. Accurate, non-judgemental self-reflection
        2. Healthy relationships with others who will be "real" with them
        3. Study of the self and psychology (e.g., self-help books)
        4. Taking healthy risks (vocational, interpersonal, educational) that expand sense of self
        5. Active, directive, challenging psychotherapy that directs consideration of self (i.e., addresses the questions: "Who are you?" and "Who do you want to be?")