If I were to ask you to tell me who you are, what would you say? Most of us introduce ourselves as:
A daughter, a wife, a mom, a sister… who can [xyz] …who does [xyz]…
We label, quantify, qualify, compare and generally grasp at words to describe who we really are.
This is our SELF CONCEPT. Self concept is defined as an idea of the self, constructed from the beliefs one holds about oneself and the responses or reactions to you by others.
Ultimately our beliefs about identity, about who we are, lay the foundation for truly just about everything in our life.
In this episode, I break identity into 2 forms and we look at how each form can impact how we feel about ourselves.
You see, we all struggle with holding onto self esteem – and we talk about why this is. (Hint- it has to do with your brain’s survival programming).
But there is a better way to anchor your esteem and it’s in finding and hanging onto something that is already within you! This is kind of like a treasure hunt.
The treasure is your essential identity and once we know to reach for it, we are on our way to living the life we want to live.
Knowing your true identity is important to building resilience.
Listen to this episode to find your hidden treasure and learn how to use it to help you see yourself and your kids as you REALLY are.
What You’ll Learn on this Episode:
- The two kinds of identity that describe who you are
- Carl Rogers 3 Parts of Self concept
- Your brain wants to compare constantly and this is one reason why self concept is often changing.
- Essential Self refers to your unchanging value and worth
- Low self esteem is a problem for many adults and a big problem for our kids
- No one can be broken, but we often feel this way.
- Separating your Essential self from your thoughts, feelings and actions can give you internal choice.
- How to start to see your Essential Self in you and in your children.
Mentioned on the Show:
- Self Concept and Essential Self exercise — Check back for this soon!
*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.
I’m Leigh Germann, and this is Leadership Parenting episode number three, your true identity. Did you know that resilience is the key to confidence and joy? As moms, it’s what we want for our kids, but it’s also what we need for ourselves. My name is Leigh Germann. I’m a therapist and I’m a mom. Join me as we explore this skills you need to know to be confident and joyful. Then get ready to teach these skills to your kids. This is leadership parenting, where you learn how to lead your family by showing them the winner. Hello and welcome.
Have you ever felt like something was wrong with you? Like your brain doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to or that you just aren’t able to keep up with everything you’re supposed to be doing. Have you ever had the thought I’m just so broken. Well, today we’re gonna talk about this because whether you’ve had any of these thoughts or even just struggle to feel good about yourself, at any given time. There’s something that all of us can do to help us understand and navigate through these feelings.
And so the topic today that we’re talking about is identity. Who you are? And it’s a big topic. It’s kind of existential, I know, but it’s so important to what we’re doing in building resilience. And I get really passionate about this because I see it come up with almost every woman that I’m working with, how she sees herself, how she relates to herself, it’s just something that’s always playing in the background of her mind. In all of our minds and it’s affecting how we feel about ourselves and about, you know, how we move in the world. Ultimately, our beliefs about identity, about who we are, they lay the foundation for truly just about everything in our life. So I want to break identity into two forms today, and I think they’re really both important for us to be aware of. The first form is our self concept, and the second is what I call our essential self.
So If I were to ask you to tell me who you are, how would you answer? What would you say? Most of us introduce ourselves as a daughter or a wife or a mother or a sister like our role. And then we’ll add what we can do or what describes maybe our training or education, we might label something about us that we think is unique or qualify or quantify something But in general, if you think about it, it’s kind of hard to describe if if if I ask you who you are, how do you answer? Well, how we answer really defines our self concept because self concept is defined as an idea of the self constructed from the beliefs that we hold about ourselves and added to that is the responses or the reactions. Of others and how they relate to us.
So Carl Rogers is one of the early fathers of psychology and probably one of the first thought leaders in this field to talk about self concept. He propose that self concept is made of three different parts, your ideal self, your self image, and your self esteem. So I wanna just briefly go over what those are your ideal self is the person that we think we should be. It’s the ideal. What we’re working for.
The self image is how you might see yourself at this moment in time. Your appearance your roles, your accomplishments, your failures, and then there’s your self esteem. How much you like or accept yourself? In general. And if there’s a mismatch between how you see yourself, so that would be your self image in any given moment, and who you wish you were, which is your ideal self, your self concept would be considered not congruent, and this could affect how you feel about yourself, your self esteem. Okay.
We have a lot of self going on here. And it can get kind of confusing. But basically, what these psychologists are saying is that our identity is determined by how we see ourselves. And how we see ourselves as kind of this moving target. It changes depending upon the kinds of experiences we have in our lives or how we’re treated when we were kids or how we even compare ourselves to others. And definitely, it’s determined on whether we’re meeting our own expectations of how we think we should be. Over the years, I’ve observed that how we see ourselves, this self concept, is gonna determine how resilient and happy we become because we link it to our core value, like basically whether we’re good enough or not.
And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been all over the map in these three areas of self consent. On a good day for my ideal self, I’ll show up in my life pretty close to the way I want to. And I might like how I look, my self image, and I can say I’m a good person. And generally, I like myself. That would be my self esteem. But on a hard day or a bad day, I might feel like I miles away from my ideal self. Like, I don’t love how I look in the mirror. And it, on that day, it would be really hard for me to think or say that I’m a good person or a good mom or a good friend, let alone to say that I really like myself.
So what makes the difference between a good day and a harder or a bad day? So many things. Right? Like it could be feeling overwhelmed, having sick kids, not getting enough sleep, affects how we look at all those things. It could be that we’re feeling especially hormonal. With menstrual cycles, or pregnancy, or goodness, paramedic pause, it it could be feeling hurt by somebody else’s actions, something someone said to us, feeling like we got let down. And it also could just be that for some reason we wake up one day and we have some old thoughts come in our mind or some some memories or things that kinda keep bothering us. It’s really easy actually to feel like we’re out of control when it comes to our self concept because there’s so many things that affect it and so many moving parts to those things.
You know, I think about ideal self, the that vision or that ideal of what we think we should be, our identity, who we should be, where do we get that criteria? I think that’s a really fair question. So here’s something that popped up on my news feed recently. It’s estimated that roughly eighty five percent of people worldwide, adults and teenagers. I don’t know if they measured kids, but adults and teenagers have low self esteem. So think about that. That’s how someone feels about themselves, particularly whether they think they match what they think about themselves now matches their ideal self. And the stats on children’s self esteem is not really much better. In a recent study by the dev self esteem project, By age seventeen, seventy eight percent of girls say that they’re unhappy with their body, seventy eight percent. Of our teenage girls. And more than ninety percent of girls admit to feeling pressure to look a certain way. And Many of those say they would change something about how they looked if they could. Seventy five percent of girls with low self esteem report engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating.
Okay. As a mom, looking at our kids, isn’t this so hard? Don’t you just wanna wrap your arms around your child and around other kids and tell them that they’re okay and that their bodies are alright and that they don’t need to change anything about themselves. My goodness. They their bodies are still changing, and they’re already feeling so less than what they want to be. It makes me want to just like fight for them, let them know how valuable and precious they are. And I want you to think for a minute what you want your daughter or son to know about themselves, how you want them to be able to have this flexibility to look at how their body is and feel okay about it and not feel like it’s being measured or that they have to compare it all the time. Don’t you wanna just tell them that you see them, you see who they are, that you’ve got them, that they’re safe? You know, I just think, I’m telling you right now after working with women for so many years, we moms struggle with the same thing in some form.
In some form, I think all of us struggle once in a while or a lot with the same thing. And it’s the cause of what undermines our efforts to feel good. Because self concept is always changing. Our value or our worth is seen as, you know, changeable. It’s conditional. Meaning meaning that it depends upon something. And there’s just so many measurements and comparisons and opinions out there. That more often than not we slide into thinking that we’re not good enough.
So I think it’s important to recognize that on the surface all of us are going to have a self concept. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing. That it’s and and that’s going to shift with our circumstances. But at the deepest level of belief, we need a whole lot more, something much more stable, to build our emotional well-being on. So I’m gonna ask the question, if that’s our self concept and it’s changing and moving and we don’t like that as a definition for our kids. We want something deeper. Right? Let’s ask the question, who are we really? Who are our kids really? Who are you really?
I’d like to offer you a two pronged way to look at identity. One that includes self-concept that we just referred to, but also includes something much more stable and in changing. And this I call your essential self. And I describe it this way. You and your kids, but let’s let’s just talk about you right now. You and me, we have value simply because you’re a human being. At your essence, hence the essential self, at your essence, your whole valuable, and ultimately wise.
Now, I know in our world today this can sound a little hokey. I don’t know, simplistic or oversimplified. But I want you to just go with me on this for a minute. And consider the importance of pointing this out. Our essential self is deep deeper than most of us think about. It’s the you, it’s the me, in our most whole and unalterable form. It’s the you beyond your control or your choice, meaning it’s who you are at your essence. Without you having to do anything. It’s the you who came to live on this planet, innocent and whole and full of light, and that there’s no one, no one on earth who doesn’t have an essential self. Even when we can’t see it, it’s there. And it is easy for us not to see it sometimes. In fact, I think most of us forget that we have an essential self. Because we’re so focused on our self-concept, that ever changing set of things that we measure ourselves by.
Women often tell me that they believe they’re broken. I hear that so much. You may hear it too. You may feel that. And honestly, I felt that way myself. But the more that I’ve studied this, the more that I’ve really, really pondered it, I have never met a broken person. We feel broken. And we’ll talk more about that in our time together, but it’s my belief that no one is broken. I think I think that this is the feeling that can come when we feel so far away from our our ideal self when we feel so hurt, and our brains are trying to make sense of what’s happening. And it just seems like all the evidence points to something being wrong with us. So we just go with it.
So when I first start working with a woman, no matter what they might be experiencing no matter how afraid or guilty or sad or or just even broken they may feel What they don’t see that I see is that they are very deep down inside really okay. Their whole, not broken. They’re valuable and enough, and they have within them a deep, knowing, and wisdom that they can trust. And That is so important for me to know because I need to hold that space for them. They’re coming to me because they’re not feeling so whole right now. And that’s okay. That’s my job. In that moment, my job is to hold that space for them because they’re hurting. The space I’m holding is the belief that there’s resilience built into each one of us. And then when I hold that in my mind and I offer that to the woman I’m working with, we find together the steps to finding that wholeness where she has the ability to know what she’s feeling and how to handle it.
And figure out what it is that really matters to her and how to act on those things. You know, her value is unchangeable no matter what others have done to her or what she might have done. All of it hurts, but it can’t change the core value. So Isn’t this what we’re trying to teach our kids? Like, this is the vision we have for them in their life. Right? So I tell every person I meet this, first time, I tell every person this very thing. In fact, it’s part of my first session with, you know, how and I go over my philosophy. I just tell them upfront so they know what they’re getting into. And, okay, I know.
People look at me like I’m crazy sometimes, like I didn’t hear how they’re feeling, or I didn’t hear what they just said they’ve done, or how they acted, or what someone did to them. I know. I heard. I see their suffering. The pain is real. But the conclusion that they are not good enough that’s a lie. As a therapist and as a coach, if I see someone is broken, then I’m gonna be looking around find the thing that’ll fix them, and that’s just a waste of time. It’s a waste of our precious time.
It’s a really important principle I want you to consider you can be entirely valuable and whole and have wisdom within you and not feel connected to it. But it’s there. It’s there because it came with you when you were born, and it stays with you forever. And I I I wanna convince you of this because I think it’s so valuable. So think of your babies. Think of any baby you’ve ever seen, especially any little baby that is yours that you’ve loved. Have you ever met a baby that you thought, this one is a total loser? Like it doesn’t matter what they look like or how much hair they have or the shape of their face or if their ears are too close to their head or they stick out, it’s like they’re very clearly precious.
And we seem to have this more much more open attitude about seeing babies without comparison or judgment. And I really do believe that’s programmed into us because it allows us to stay open to them and listen to their needs and take care of them and help them develop. And when that baby grows up in a few years, she’s gonna make some mistakes. She’s gonna get judged and compared with others, but nothing’s gonna be able to change that base core value. So at what age does this valuable and precious little human being lose her value? Our ten year olds are precious, or twelve year olds are still precious and when they’re twenty four years old, they still come from the same foundational place. The years that we live can’t change this and mistakes have no power to change the core nature of the state of each baby. So if we can agree that every baby born is precious, then we all start on the same page. And if you’ll recall, every single one of us started out as one of those precious babies. So we’ve been born into this same perfectly whole and valuable state no matter what your age or your mistakes or how you think you measure up compared to someone else, your natural state is enough. And this is your home base, where you came from, and where we’re headed back to. So I know this might be challenging to take in, but for now I just am begging you to consider accepting this concept that all human beings including you are valuable.
We might not have had a family that made it easy for us to believe this. Sometimes our religious experience can teach this and it is helpful or sometimes it doesn’t teach it and it’s not helpful. Think it’s a truth that can be very hard to argue with though because I haven’t met a baby that I thought didn’t prove the theory and my guess is neither have you. So we’re gonna start from this place of wholeness. And it’s awesome if you’re like, okay, Leigh I get it. I agree. Let’s move on. It’s also okay if you don’t quite believe it yet for yourself.
I think it’s very normal to flip flop back and forth between these two where It comes into focus and we can sense it and we can feel it and accept it. And then we lose we lose connection with it. I think that’s part of being human. It’s something that I’m still working on as well, but it doesn’t change the truth. That we have that core place of safety that it’s important for us to look for. It’s important for us to believe that it’s there. So I think many of us don’t feel connected to this core version of ourselves because as human beings, it’s really normal to be focused on our self concept.
And all of these things affect our thoughts about ourselves. It can feel like you know, the things that happen to us or the thoughts we have or the actions that we things decisions we make can actually change us from being the perfect whole little person we were when we were a baby. And and I think that just comes from living in our self concept. Sometimes it’s matching up to how we think we should be and sometimes not. So I don’t think self concept is enough. I think we also have to focus on the other part of our identity, which is your essential part. And the key to strengthening your essential self lies in separating out all the elements that make up who we believe we are. So that’s really probably the first task of becoming resilient. It’s it’s what I do in my work with women and It’s what I wanna do with you. It’s to help begin to separate all the dimensions of yourself and your experience. So for instance, let’s start separating these things out.
You have a body, but you are not your body. You have a weight on the scale, a hair color, you might have injuries or sickness, but those are just descriptors. Of your body. You have thoughts, but you’re not your thoughts. You’re the thinker of your thoughts and just knowing that gives you freedom to work with your thoughts rather than be defined by them. You have feelings, but you’re also not defined by your feelings. Feelings come and they go and they give you body sensations, which influence how you think and what you feel and what you do, but they keep changing. And so You can’t be your feelings. You have feelings. But you can’t be your feelings. You make choices and you behave in certain ways, but your essential self isn’t defined by your actions. And you’re not defined by the actions of others. Now you experience all the effects of actions and you have choices. But you can always make changes and learn from your choices. You have successes and failures, but these are just actions and accomplishments, and they don’t define who you are either. And if someone hurts you or treats you unfairly or even obusively, it helps to see that behaviors can’t change your core value because they are also separate from your essential self. So in essence, you’re much bigger than all of these separate elements of our life experience.
So I want you to kind of imagine a paper doll. Do you remember ever playing with paper dolls as a little kid? I’m thinking of one you know, like like we had one at our house that was a wooden paper doll. It was sturdy and strong and she had on this like, funky little bathing suit that was painted on. And then we had all these clothes. And some of them, you know, were wear shorts and shirts and dresses and hats and and purses and and I think it’s easy to view ourselves as a paper doll. Who gets defined by the kinds of clothes or the stories that get put on us.
So our thoughts and our feelings are those clothes. We get stuck in our thoughts and our feelings, and it can feel like we fuse with them, meaning that we kind of get glued with them and lose sight of that basic true identity or our essential self. So all these things are part of us, but they’re not us. And the word for this in my field is called flexibility. It allows you freedom to work through the complexity of things. Without getting stuck inside this belief that having thoughts and feelings are defining us, like that it’s rigid, that we’re it’s glued to us. And this is the foundational first step in healing because it puts us on the right track. It means that we’re gonna be working with the right problems. Thinking that at your core, you are the problem is is a red herring. It sends us on a wild goose chase. And it’s why we don’t move forward, why we don’t progress. It doesn’t it doesn’t get us anywhere.
The work is not to fix the essential self because the essential self isn’t broken. The work is to find our way back to the essential self. Because it’s the very best source of wisdom and healing and problem solving, and it’s the whole reason you’re safe enough to make all the changes you want to in your life. It’s the thing that allows you to rise above the trauma and the hurt. That that beats us up in life because it can’t get all the way to our core. It can hurt us for sure. But it can’t change the core of your value. I have to remind myself this all the time. And it has made a huge difference in my life. I just feel safer inside. I can try new things without feeling like I’ll get destroyed if they fail. I can pull my power back from people who’ve hurt me. I can’t take back their actions or the words they say, but I get to decide what they mean. And I get to choose to go to my essential self for truth rather than rely upon their words to define me. And this is what I want you to remember.
The closer our self concept is to our essential self. Rather than our ideal self. You know, that’s that image that we pull together of how we think we should be. The closer our self concept is to our essential self. The more peace we’ll be at, in. And I use the word peace on purpose because it’s solid and steady and it means we’re not threatened. We’re not gonna feel like we’re in danger. And this is because we can see ourselves as separate from the ever changing labels. We can see all that changing stuff, the thoughts, the feelings, and the actions, and we could see that paper doll, that’s essential self, who’s having all these thoughts, feelings, and actions, and knowing that your essential self is intangible, and therefore the deepest and the most real you cannot be threatened. So just like a body who’s strong and healthy at the core, it can fight off invaders because of that internal strength and balance.
My favorite part of this concept is that there’s plenty of room to be human. I’m not saying we should walk around thinking we can be totally oblivious to the changing influences of self concept. That’s unrealistic and probably not very healthy. We’re going we’re going to have thoughts and feelings that are all over the place. And a lot of times we’re gonna act in ways that don’t match our values. And this doesn’t get us off the hook for being responsible for that stuff because no one’s ever gonna be perfect. But you don’t need to be perfect because your core value is determined already. It isn’t even in the equation. You don’t have to earn it. Just like your babies don’t have to earn it. They just came with it. And they’ll keep it with them until they’re grown. And then all the way through their life. So knowing this anchors us enough to do the hard things that we’re gonna be asking ourselves to do as we’re learning resilience, like looking at our thoughts and dealing with our feelings and changing our actions if aren’t what we want to be doing because they’re all optional. And I don’t know if if if you know what I mean when I say that, but I really believe we’re gonna learn that they’re all optional. We can choose how to work with all those thoughts, feelings, and actions. And they aren’t coming from a broken person. Who can only put out broken stuff.
So here’s your challenge. I want you to write out yourself concept, description of yourself today. Write in this moment that you’re listening. I mean, maybe you can’t write it right now, but sometime soon today. When you get a chance. Write out how you see yourself. Throw in a few labels. Throw in your roles. What you think about your appearance. How you think you’re doing at what’s important to you. Okay.
Here’s an example of writing out a self concept from a mom I’ve been working with. I’m a wife. I’m a mom. I’m a sister. I’m good at pickleball. I like to teach. I sometimes lose my temper around dinner. I feel like I’m not getting everything done. Most of the time, I love the rain I love my husband, I like my hair, I think I way too much, and I’m terrible at getting the laundry done. That was her self concept in the moment when we did it, when we worked together. And I want you to take a second and and write that out. And then, so that’s, you know, it’s just self concept. And it’s interesting you could even write this out every day for the next month and notice how at any given moment it might look a little different. So we’re not judging this. We’re not gonna turn this into something good or bad. It’s just it’s just illustrating how to identify how we might be looking at our self consent. Okay.
Then the next step is to add the second part of our identity or our essential self to your self concept. So it would go like this. I’m a wife, I’m a mom, It’s good at pickleball. I like to teach. All of that. I like my hair. I think I weighed too much. I stink at keeping up with the laundry, and I am whole. Valuable and wise. So we’re not eliminating either. We’re being honest about what we see and how we feel about ourselves in our self concept, but we’re adding to it the essential self, I’m whole, valuable, and wise. Okay.
So now let’s try it for your child. My son is four years old. He still has potty accidents. He sometimes hits his little sister. He has gorgeous eyelashes, still has temper tantrums, and he is whole, valuable, and wise. Very simple. This is your understanding of your child at his essential self and your concept of him. So do you see how self concept is gonna change with time? His age is gonna change? His behavior is gonna get better sometimes and sometimes slide back. To something that you’re expecting him to do, circumstances and comparison, all of that’s gonna change, and that’s okay because that’s how life is. But the essential truths about the self will remain solid.
Just knowing this can help us see our kids as their true selves no matter what they might be struggling with at any given time. And honestly, this is probably my greatest tool when I’m dealing with a mom who’s struggling with a child and something she’s worried about with her child. She is looking so closely. That negativity bias is identifying all the things that she’s worried about and she’s seeing that aren’t right and that are wrong. In her mind and needs attention. And I have found that by simply adding a holistic viewpoint of this child’s identity can calm her down enough to start problem solving. It holds her to be able to see her child’s true essential self in addition to all the other things she’s concerned about.
Well, I want you to do the same for you, and I’m trying to do the same for me. I want you to Allow yourself to put down roots of belief deep into the knowledge that at your core, everyone is whole valuable and inherently equipped with wisdom. I know easier said than done. But if it were easy or if it were even possible, it would be pretty life changing, wouldn’t it? I’d like to try to convince you that it’s true because it’s the exact thing that undermines most all the work we try to do. Especially if you’ve ever had a painful experience in which you didn’t feel valued or important. And honestly, all of us have had experiences like that. Everyone needs a home to go back to each and every day and your essential self is that home. And I want you to know where your home is when you’re off balance Because if you don’t feel good or your thoughts are flying around telling you things that are making you feel anxious or depressed, you wanna know the truth about your worth and value so that when you lose your temper or you’re feeling so discouraged or someone lets you down, you have a place to go to recover.
When you’re feeling that way, something’s going on in your feelings and your thoughts and your body that needs attention. Instead of going to self blame, we want to go to problem solving because knowing there’s nothing inherently wrong with you lets you go to solving the problem. If you’re the problem, which I’m hoping to convince you you’re not, if you think you’re the problem, then we’re stuck. Because you can’t fix something that’s not broken. So look, the world is better when you show up fully embracing your wholeness. It lets you focus on things you may wanna change without being threatening.
And this is just the beginning of the journey. It’s just the beginning to start to consider that you’re so much bigger than all of the things that we use to measure ourselves by. So be gentle with yourself as you consider this. If you already know this and it’s in full application in your life, then It’s awesome. It’s a great reminder. And if you’re new at it, hang on because it’ll grow. It’ll get stronger within you and we’re going to do something with it.
You know, what we’re doing right now is in this podcast is walking through a really deep steps. This isn’t superficial stuff. This is really deep research, serious information. And I commend you for your interest and for your curiosity and your desire to learn the things that are going to build your confidence and give you the strength that you need to lead your family. So consider those two elements of your identity. Play with it. Don’t judge it. Just let it be. Learning resilience is fun and I hope that you can enjoy it and relax with it and just let these ideas settle in and make your life better.
Thanks for spending time with me today, and I look forward to talking with you next time. Take care. Thanks so much for listening. You can always find me on Instagram at LeighGermann or on my website at LeighGermann.com. Thanks again, and I’ll see you next time. The Leadership parenting podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness, or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal, medical, or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again, and take care.
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This podcast is not intended to provide mental health treatment. Leigh Germann is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and not a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. She does not provide diagnosis nor offer therapy through the TakeCareofMom and Leadership Parenting websites or in the information offered on the websites. It is important that you do not disregard professional medical or mental health advice or delay seeking professional medical or mental health treatment because of any information on the TakeCareofMom and Leadership Parenting website including but not limited to blogs, newsletter, videos, podcasts, e-books, programs, webinars, courses and other services. TakeCareofMom, and Leadership Parenting and Leigh Germann are not providing legal or financial advice, business advice, psychotherapy, supervision, religious advice, or medical advice. The information contained on these Websites have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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