Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Self Awareness assignment

I have mentioned before that one of the classes I am taking this semester is Interpersonal Communications. One of our assignments was a series of worksheets centered around our self awareness and self concept. We then were to write a 2-3 page essay summarizing what we learned/gained from the assignment. As a lupus patient and being a bit older than the average student I probably had a different experience with the project. Here is what I wrote.

The activity on self awareness and self concept reinforced what I know about myself. At 36 years old I have been to hell and back. In the process I have learned a lot about myself, how others see me, and who I want to be. I have had a lot of the time to realize what really matters to me and what doesn't.

I think that as a non-traditional student I approach an assignment like this from a different perspective than an 18 or 19 year old student would. That means, in my opinion, that my outcome is probably a bit different than most students would have. That, I feel, is the inevitable result of life experiences. As somebody who has had "everything"- house, new car, 10 year relationship, good job, and good health- and lost it all I have had to figure out who I am and what I truly value in my life.

I am a proud aunt, a dog loving pit bull defender, a great friend, a sports fanatic, and as one of my best friends put it, a collector of diseases. I am an intelligent, outspoken, curly girl. I am 100 percent me.

Are there things I would change if I could? Yes, of course. Everyone has something they would change if they could. For me, it would be my teeth and how shaky my hands often are. When I finish school I can fix one of those and the other may give me more patience in interpreting what others say or write- especially what doctors write on a prescription pad.

One thing I knew on some level but that this assignment reinforced for me is that my perceived self and my presenting self are, at times, different. I tend to present myself as confident and organized, more "together" than I really feel. I am often unsure of what or how much I know or that my ideas are good ones. I present myself as much more self assured most of the time, or at least I try to.

I do this for a couple of reasons I think. First I do it almost out of necessity. Having been in the workforce for many years in jobs that involved dealing with the public, and especially from being in management positions, I learned that it is important to appear confident and organized in order to succeed. The second reason I do this is that I have realized, for me at least, that if I act confident and "together" I start to feel that way. By changing my "self talk" I can change how I feel in a positive way and I start to become more confident and organized. I can talk myself into the fact that I am generally better prepared and informed than I give myself credit for being. This, to me, is the best use of self talk.

This assignment also reminded me of something else very important. It reminded me how I feel about living with lupus and how that affects my life and my interactions with others. I hate lupus. That is, I hate the disease. However, I am also grateful for it. I am thankful for everything I have learned and all of the people I have met because of my diagnosis. I am a better person because of the experience of living with a chronic illness. I have made wonderful friends who I never would have met were it not for my lupus. I have seen how sometimes those who seem to have the least give the most. I have learned to be more patient and kinder in how I interact with others and also with myself. If it weren't for my lupus I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be part of bringing the first treatment ever developed specifically for lupus, hopefully, to market by the end of 2010. I also may not have realized my desire to go back to school and complete my degree studying chemistry and pharmacology. Most people in my place probably would have answered the question about what I'd like to change or what I dislike about myself with something about not having lupus anymore. I have learned that it is a part of who I am and has had positive effects on who I am as a person almost as much as it had a negative effect on my physical health.

This assignment and each of the activities were interesting to me in how they reinforced my "self concept" and in how I rated different aspects of myself in their importance. I think it would have been interesting to do this same assignment at a younger age as well and see what you would learn about yourself from it. It is something that would be interesting also to revisit at different points in time to see what, if anything, changes over time. It is definitely something I will keep and look over again as I learn to see if I still feel the same later and something I would encourage others to use as a way to examine who they are and gain a better understanding of how they present themselves.