The great motivational writer Orison Marden once said, “Deep within man dwell those slumbering powers…that would revolutionize his life if aroused and put into action” (Marden, n.d.). The evolution of my young adult life has been marked by words such as these. During these past few years, I have been struggling with identity versus role diffusion in an effort to move towards self-actualization.
During this course, I believe that I found George Kelly’s theory of personal constructs to be the most informative to my life. According to Kelly we, as lay scientists, seek to predict and even control our futures through the mechanism of personal constructs (McAdams, 2006). Personal constructs are basically the way in which we use comparison to categorize things in our lives (i.e. social interactions, expectations, objects, etc…). The specific dichotomy that has evolved in my life over the past few years has been my perception of successful/unsuccessful. Growing up I always thought that success was defined by family relationships and religious achievement. After I entered my young adult years I realized that money also played a part in success; that without money I could not provide for my children the way that I knew was needed. Hence, I began my journey through college to become a teacher; something that I always wanted to be, but couldn’t be without a degree.
I completely agree with Carl Roger’s humanistic perspective that self-actualization is the overarching motivator of human behavior (McAdams, 2006). In my own experiences, I can see how my life has been one expansive journey towards actualization. Self-actualization is highly influenced by our ideal self and self-concept, and in turn, both are highly influenced by our religion, race, culture, family, and gender. At a very young age, I set up an ideal self that lined up well with my religion but did not line up well with my culture, gender, or race. I wanted to be the bond-servant describe in the Bible. The monk, the slave, the disciple that the Bible holds in such high regards. As I have gotten older now I have realized that the bond-servant is only part of the picture. Humility is an admirable quality and should be pursued in order to enhance self-respect. However, when humility is taken too far a feeling of helplessness or hopelessness can follow. I am learning to temper my humility with a healthy dose of self-esteem and self-efficacy.
As I have described in many of my posts, I dropped out of school in the 10th grade. There were extenuating circumstances which precipitated such a rash course of action, but I have regretted it for the rest of my life. I did not start college until I was almost 23 because I had to work to support my family. Looking back now I can see how my life could have been different. How I could have completed high school and immediately enrolled in college. If I had done that I could have had my Masters degree by now. Nevertheless, this episode in my life is not so much a regret, but a continual reminder. It is this one lament which motivates me to continue my college education in earnest. It also motivates the way in which I relate to my children. When I was in school my mother did not monitor my grades closely. I always passed, but I never brought home exceptional grades. Consequently, because of my experiences in school, I expect all of my children to bring home straight A’s without fail. I understand now how big of an impact a high school GPA and SAT scores have on a college education. It can be the difference between paying for all of a college education through government debt like I am doing or getting a free ride through scholarships. At any rate, if I could go back and change one period of my life it would be my high school years. I would have stayed in school, gotten my high school diploma, and went directly into college.
Lastly, from my early adolescent years until the beginning of my young adult years I have experienced high levels of role confusion. I always knew that I wanted to be a father, but I never gave much thought to what should happen after that. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a Sunday school teacher or just part of the congregation. I did not know if I wanted to brave college or continue in the security of the low-paying retail industry. I did not even know what place I should have in my own family. I have recently gone through a period of self-exploration and discovery and hope to come out on the other side in the identity achievement status. Before this stage, I would have described myself as in moratorium. I was always exploring myself and the options for my life but was unwilling to make any commitments.
In conclusion, because of the failure of my high school career, role confusion, and a lack of self-actualization in my life I have begun the journey towards more secure attachment styles, an identity achievement status, and self-actualization. I know who I want to be and how to get there. I want to be a high school teacher, don’t really care what subject in a local public school district. I want to develop secure attachment styles with my children and family. I want to accomplish these tasks through commitment, perseverance, and hard work.
Marden, O. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2008, from Quoteland Web site: http://www.quoteland.com/author.asp?AUTHOR_ID=622
McAdams, D.P. (2006). The person: A new introduction to personality psychology. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.