The Self Image (1)

Page 11 of 17

At birth we have no self-image. A newly born infant cannot distinguish anything from the confusion of light and sound around him. While the infant has instinctive reactions, as crying, reaching and sucking, apparently all else must be learned.

Gradually, from early infancy, we begin to differentiate our bodies from the environment, to develop a sense of identity, and to come to realize that we are a separate and independent human being.

We begin then to develop a conscience "a sense of right and wrong" primarily from our dependencies upon our parents for food, warmth and comfort. Further, we develop social consciousness and become aware that we live and are inter-related with other people. We begin to learn how to live. We are also laying the groundwork for our self-image.

At a very early age we build defence mechanisms to thwart the possibility of punishment and anxiety. During the first few months of babyhood we are dressed, fed, changed, and loved. As we mature, however, the necessary discipline of parents begins to "teach" the behavioural models of society.

This is necessary for growth and determines our eventual ability to "get along" with people which in turn has a great deal to do with our self-image. Basically, however, the defense mechanisms we erect are to ward off anxiety of possible punishment or pain real or imagined.

As we mature and learn how to behave in a socially acceptable manner, we shape our habit patterns, learn to control temper, and learn how to please, placate and gain approval. From this beginning we train ourselves to live with others and, in the process, gain a clearer image of ourselves, our capacities and worth.

Finally, we develop a sense of values, which is our overall estimation of our standards and worth in relation to the world around us. The sum total of these developments becomes our self-image or self-concept.

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