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Who am I? Self Identity – How to Build Personal Character

Understanding the Question .. Who am I?

What is Self Identity and how can you create a better Personality

Who Am I? Understanding Self Identity
Who Am I? Understanding Self Identity

Who I am? A question everyone at some point will ask themselves as it relates to Self Identity, certainly a question many organizations, religions and self help Guru’s have attempted to provide an answer to on your behalf. It is my opinion that our understanding of our roles in the world and the universe, and how to influence it have come a long way in the last decades of humanity.

I personally choose to believe, that answers to the question “Who am I”? that come from religious or philosophies developed in the bronze age – are not going to be that practical to assisting you to understand and more importantly change who you are. Sure it is nice to think that everything in the Universe was created just for you because you are special – but most of us (if we have the ability to truthfully self reflect) know this is just not the case.

Life, People, Events and Circumstances are consistently random and unpredictable – and certainly not designed for your best interests all the time.

The following article will give you an understanding of who you are, it will provide a simple and basic explanation that will provide you with the ability to comprehend and formulate practical ways to accept or change who you are at your core self. So lets examine some of these constructs….

In a NutshellIn a nutshell – Who Are You?

Who you are is your Self Identity, the way you look at yourself and your relationship to the world. Understanding this, allows you to examine who you are and more importantly create who you want to be.

Lets start with a basic definition of some of the key players and then examine how to create yourself…

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The Components of Self Identity

Self Identity

Self Identity
Self Identity

Refers to the global understanding a person has of themselves. Self Identity is composed of relatively permanent self-assessments, such as personality attributes, knowledge of one’s skills and abilities, one’s occupation and hobbies, and awareness of one’s physical attributes.

For example, the statement, “I am lazy” is a self-assessment that contributes to the self-concept. In contrast, the statement “I am tired” would not normally be considered part of someone’s self-concept, since being tired is a temporary state.

The Self Identity is not restricted to the present. It includes past selves and future selves. Future selves or “possible selves” represent individuals’ ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming. They correspond to hopes, fears, standards, goals, and threats. Possible selves may function as incentives for future behavior and they also provide an evaluative and interpretive context for the current view of self.


Self Identity Boundary
Self Identity Boundary

Your boundary is a much the same as the boundary lines of a property. It is the clear and defined border that surrounds the house with all its treasures (your Self Identity can be thought of as your house or property) . The boundary lines let others know how far the ownership of the property goes. In a personal development sense the boundaries are more difficult to see and be aware of. But in a nutshell your boundary is your preferences or rules you have about things like

1) What you will accept in behavior from and towards yourself
2) Your ability to say either YES and NO to events or statements.

For example..

You know someone who you enjoy being around socially but they occasionally do things that are a matter of a small illegal crime – a result others are hurt in a small financial or emotional way. While your together they want you to help them out with something that you know is illegal. Do you help them because you like them even if you would not do this yourself? Are you able to be comfortable saying No to the request

World View

Refers to the structure or framework that a person uses to organize and define what the world is to them. The World View should allow us to understand how the world functions and how it is structured. The totality, everything that exists around us, including the physical universe, the Earth, life, mind, society and culture. We ourselves are an important part of that world. Therefore, a world view should also answer the basic question: “Who are we?

The World View is our standard of how things are or should be in the world we live in. It is a global concept that makes up our values and morals, our rules of how we and others should act, relate and operate within the world. To most people the world view is largely a vague set of rules and guidelines that we have unconsciously adopted from the life experiences and influences we have. We adopted from our friends, family religious groups, and society, seldom making an active process of creating our own. We can create aspects of our world view though our intellect, using either rational and conscious decisions or emotional charged ideas and concepts. The World View is a filter which we make judgments of others and ourselves.

Self Esteem

Refers to a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of her or his own worth at any one point in time. Generally speaking it is an emotional measure of how well we are living up to our world view. Self Esteem is perhaps the single most important emotional gauge of our ability to feel almost all other positive emotions and beliefs about ourselves. For example it affects our measure of happiness, success, well being, confidence, assurances etc, and is made up of all of these feelings in a combined sensation called Self Esteem.

While Self Esteem is a general state of mind, it is affected by changes in any one of the various feelings that make it up. For example a drop in confidence will lower Self Esteem in the short term. Prolonged Negative experience will produce a longer term reduction of Self Esteem, yet at the same time a positive emotional experience will increase the sensation. In simple terms, when you experience an event or situation that supports your world view your Esteem increases and vice versa.

How Self Identity fit’s into the Character Building Model

What is Self Esteem
What is Self Esteem

Now, that we have a basic definition of the various components of your Character (Self Identity, Boundaries/World View & Self Esteem); lets see how our model fits together.

Your Self Identity, (the core of who you are) is surrounded by your Boundary which filters both outward and inward experience you have to the world.

The resulting emotional experience you have from a situation, person or event is then determined by how well you managed the experience in relation to your world view.

For Example. You have a firm rule in your world view that “If someone respects me they will not yell at me”. In an event where someone starts to yell at you, if you have a boundary present (a firm preference to what you say yes or no too) you will say “Please do not yell, it shows me you have no respect for me” and the person will know what is acceptable to you, and you will increase your self esteem because you had integrity.

If you do not have a boundary about yelling, the person will yell at you … and you will feel according to your world view that they do not respect you and will lose Self Esteem. In addition because you are not living up to your own standards, you feel bad and lose more self esteem.

You might like to think of the boundary as being a container that surrounds you, It not only protects your Self Identity, but also acts much like a gas tank to hold your Self Esteem. Within the boundary is your measure of Self Esteem. And as we know the sense of self esteem is a measure of how well you measure up to your world view. It is determined by your actions and reactions to the world around you as determined by the rules that you have, of how the world should be.

Your Self Identity constructs and is made up from your experience through the boundaries of how well you measure up to your world view. Self Identity becomes a long lasting definition of your character.

Where problems arise in Self Identity

Each person view of the world is unique to them, and no one has a perfect world view. In fact most people do not have a clear or conscious understanding of what their world view is, they are vague on their rules to live a good and productive life. This vagueness about their rules of how to live a good and productive life is reflected in broken boundaries or a lack of preference for who they are, what they like and what is appropriate behavior. Sometimes there is no preference at all which creates gaps in the boundary.

Explaining Self Identity
Explaining Self Identity

A gap can be defined as a hole in your boundary. It is a lack of a preference or rule you have about yourself or your behavior or your place in the world. At a basic level, it is your inability to say or hear the word ‘No’. For example, you might not be able to say no to a family members request’s or allow them to get away with something unacceptable for you, if done by someone outside of the family

A vague preference or rule is something that you are a little wishy-washy on. It is a concept or situation where you have an idea of what is acceptable to you (in your world view). For example, you may define yourself by a particular religious faith, but live in sin according to that faith and be able to justify it to yourself

A well defined section of your boundary is a preference you have and stick with. It is a clear statement of who you are that you can express to yourself and to those around you. Examples might include a political view, your stance on abortion, or any strongly held belief about something

When your Boundary (the container that holds your self esteem) has gaps or vague preferences (rules) in it, you lack control in your decision making. You are in a position where people or situations can reach in and press your buttons. This is a situation or event that will create stress, where your lack of a clear preference can cause you to feel confused. Without a boundary filter for your Identity you are in a position where you will drain your sense of Self Esteem.

And when you do not have a clear sense of your preferences, or a lack of self esteem to act on them, people are able to manipulate you, or they are able to annoy you, or your able to get annoyed with yourself, but most importantly because you are unable to present a clear concept of who you are to those around you, people will not be able understand where you stand on something which makes it difficult for them to develop respect or trust for you.

For example…. Let’s assume someone you know asks you for a favor. They need to borrow $300 until payday because there was something they absolutely needed and spent all their money on. You already know this person lacks self discipline, they never have any money but are always showing you their new shoes (if fact lets assume that this is what they ‘needed’ so badly).

If you have Clear Boundaries

If you have a clear preference for yourself, a clear and well defined rule of your world view, that you (and others) should live within their means and new shoes are a luxury not a necessity. About this world view rule you have a define boundary preference, you are able to say “No” to this request. The person may attempt to manipulate you or push your buttons by saying something like “You know last weekend I brought you drinks, and you can’t do me this little favor”, and you will not be effected.

You have a solid rule about this, when they push you, they feel the resistance, your firmness and your resolve (your boundary) and while they may not like your decision, they will ‘respect’ you for it, and know they can not get this favor out of you. You will because you have encountered a situation that you remained true to who you are, will feel good about yourself. You will because you followed your world view rules, fill your tank of self esteem a little more which strengthens your Self Identity.

If you have Vague Boundaries

If you only have a vague rule in your world view about this, you might need to think about it for a moment. You may have the world view rule that it is OK to lend money to friends and family to help them out because they are your friend or family and it is only right to help out people you love. It might depend on the situation and the person asking, and perhaps if they just promise to be more careful next time you will give them the money.

In this situation, you have doubts about yourself and who you are and what you believe, and while you may make someone else happy by doing them a favor, you are unsure it was the right decision to make. You may feel a little confused afterwards as to why you gave money away you needed, or you may be happy to help a friend. Because your boundary here is vague you have no measure to affect your self esteem and you are subject to seeking external confirmation you did the right thing.

If you have gaps in your Boundaries

Now let’s assume you have a gap in boundary about your world view rule, a hole when it comes to people asking for money. The person asking is telling you they are in need, they would not ask otherwise, and you want them to like you so you give them the money they ask for. Come payday, they are out with their friends having a great time and they don’t even offer to pay you back. You ask them about it and they make an excuse and promise next week. This person knows you are weak, there is no respect for you or your needs, they can get what they want and you offer no level of value to them because you’re so easy to manipulate.

You on the other hand feel betrayed and left out, your control of your sense of who you are and your place in the world is conditional on someone else and what they do. You begin to suffer because you think they ‘should’ behave a certain way and they are not. You are in a situation where according to your world view, according to your rules about life, people should not spend money on things they don’t need and can’t afford, but because of the gap in your boundary you did not live up to your expectations of how you should live your life. Your sense of self esteem drains as you spend your time and energy worrying about something that is now outside of your control.

Controlling the Controllable Situations and Events in your Life

Controlling your Self Identity
Controlling your Self Identity

When you have a clearly define world view, one where your rules are known to you (and remember not very many people have any idea of what their world view is) you can create preferences or boundaries around yourself. Then as life experiences come around you make decisions based on your boundaries, it increases your sense of self esteem and makes a stronger character of who you are in your self identity. You are able to clearly define the limits of the extent of your control.

In the case of psychological feelings, you understand that you are the only one who can make you feel a certain way. You understand that things outside of your Self Identity, can only affect you with there is a gap in your boundary about a world view rule.

Others may attempt to control the outcome of a situation or your feelings, but your boundary will bounce off and protect you from any attempts to manipulate or control you. You will know how to act to have integrity with your self identity and character. You will know what requests, events and situations you say No or Yes too. They are unable to push your buttons and make you respond in a way that gets them a result.

You also understand that you are only able to control who you are, and that while you can make a good judgment on how others might behave, you are unable to determine their world view or what boundaries they might or might not have and how they may act. You do not make the mistake of attempting to get results by controlling another person’s World View and Self Identity.Part Two: Who Am I? Self Identity

Attempting to Control the Uncontrollable Situations and Events in your Life

However, If there is a gap in your boundary, or a lack of conscious knowledge about an aspect of this part of your world view, it allows a situation where you might see your Self Identity or the influence of it extending outside of what is really within your control. You might be in a situation where you become dependent on being able to control, or being part of someone else or an external situation. This is often the situation in codependency, where you believe that someone else ‘should’ act in a certain way and when they do, there actions increase your Self Esteem. When they do not act as they ‘Should’ or things do not turn out the way you hoped, the external actions affect your sense of who you are and decrease your self esteem.

Attempting to Control how others
Attempting to Control how others “Should Be”

For Example, If you’re in a relationship and you have an idea in your world view that trust is important, but you are not consciously aware of how you know when you are able to trust someone. There will be a gap in your boundary under the preference of trust. In this case you may unwittingly play games with your partner, setting up little tests and attempting to get feelings of being able to ‘trust them’ by seeing how well they do at your tests.

In this case you setting up an idea that “If they are trust worthy they should do ABC when I do XYZ” You are attempting to control the uncontrollable (anything outside of your awareness of your boundaries). This will result in either a pass or a fail which will affect your sense of trust and self esteem.

Contrast this with having a clear idea of your rules about trust in your world view and boundaries about what is and is not acceptable. Here you can clearly say to your partner, If you do ABC I will know I can trust you, if you do XYZ I will no that I can not. Here your partner knows your rules, they know your boundaries, they know who you are and your character.

Another common occurrence when you have a gap in your world view is that you can extend your Self Identity outside of the present moment and place it in the future somewhere. You are then unable to clarify within yourself that this is a future Self Identity (for example you may believe yourself to be how you might after 3 months of diet and exercise. Or maybe see a future successful you making lots of money; or the way your relationship should be).

When this happens there is a conflict in your sense of Self Identity and the amount of Self Esteem relating to it. You think that reflection in the mirror is not you, or that by now you should be making twice what you’re making or that your partner should not be acting in this way. You are living in that future moment and dissatisfied with where you are in reality. You’re expecting to feel the benefits of planning without having to put any work into it, because you’re extending your Self Identity through the gap beyond the present moment and what you are actually able to control.

Your sense of who you are, is your Self Identity, it is your assessment of your personality and attributes. Your Identity is who and what you present to the world through the behavior you have according to your boundaries, in relation to your world view (rules you have about leading a good and productive life). And how well you measure up to that world view is reflected on your sense of self esteem. Each component works together, to define your character.

The goal of this article and to an extent any form of therapy or change/growth is to develop the character of your choice. Think of your life as a movie, you are the main character and throughout the movie you are put into situations and experiences that develop and grow your character. Why not make your life the best movie you can make? Why not become aware of the gaps in your world view, and fix them? Making your character stronger, your sense of who you are to yourself and the world clearer more defined and through that have more and more moment of peak experience.

The Benefits of Creating Character

When you have a solid, clear and concise awareness of your world view, you can consciously make solid and clear preferences of what you say yes and no to (your boundaries). You know who you are, and it becomes easier to act and behave in a way that is in line with how you want to be (Integrity). With integrity you are controlling how you act and feel about your actions.

From a psychological prospective when you are able to define a preference or rule in your world view; you become aware of your limit of control. You know and understand that you can only define yourself through who you are. You can only control yourself and how you choose to act. When you do this, you stop allowing you’re expecting another person who ‘should’ act a certain way to affect who you are and how you feel. You know what you can and cannot control, and you let go of controlling the uncontrollable. Attempting to control the uncontrollable is called suffering. You suffer because you think someone ‘should’ comply with your wishes, desires or commands.

By the same token, having clearly defined preferences, knowing the rules of your world view and creating boundaries, allows you clearly be aware of what you say yes or no too. You are not influenced or controlled by outside factors, people or events. And the sense of being in control increases your level of self esteem, which generates greater confidence in your self identity. In addition, while you let go of the need to control the uncontrollable, you build within you the resources and character that is likely to make you more attractive to the things that you desire.

How to Create your Self Identity

“Life is not about finding yourself … Life is about creating yourself”

The major ability to create your life is to develop Mindful Awareness. Mindful awareness is your observing self, that part of you that runs the commentary of your life as it plays out. It is the conscious voice in your head, that most people completely ignore. We have some 60,000 thoughts a day! That is an average of 3 a second, yet at the end of the day most people will find it difficult to remember 10 thoughts they were aware of during the day. We usually run on auto pilot, and it is becoming aware of our mental processes that allow us to create and change who we are.

Through mindful awareness you will establish consciously your world view, which will make you a stronger person. You will develop your decision making abilities which allows you greater freedom. You will use your intellect which develops wisdom and you will use your emotional energy more effectively which increases your self esteem and happiness.

Step One Your World View

You can identify your world view, the rules you have about what it means to have a good and productive life by asking yourself the question “How do I know”. For example your rule/perception of attractiveness can be found by asking yourself “how do I know I am beautiful”. The answers provide you with your rules.

At this stage you have a decision to make. Is your rule an empowering and realistic rule. If for example you base your rule of attractiveness on looking like a model (as society tends to tell us) then it is an unrealistic rule, one you will never attain and therefore constantly drain your self esteem because you will never measure up. If your rule on attractiveness is based along the lines of “being well groomed”, you can obtain that quality and feel good about who you are.

What is your World View?
What is your World View?

Your world view rules, are either empowering ones to have, and if you don’t measure up it is a guide for what skills and abilities you can work on to improve yourself, or they are unrealistic and once you consciously become aware of what it is, you get an understanding that you do not need to accept this unconsciously learnt aspect of your world view, you can reject it and create your own more empowering one.

Many times you will have an emotionally charge rule or preference in your world view, without knowing exactly what that rule is, just that certain things set you off. Certain things just get you going, or are totally unacceptable to you, and by extension anyone you choose to associate with. The emotional intensity of a preference is not an indication that it is a beneficial one to have. You ask yourself “How do I know” for example “How do I know if someone loves me they need me to be with them all the time” and if the answer is “Because my father was never with me and I felt unloved” then once you find the rule you have despite the amount of emotion attached to it, you can use logic and reason and your intellect to decide if this is really a rule you would choose to have as an adult.

Step Two Fill in the Gaps

Filling in Self Identity Gaps
Filling in Self Identity Gaps

By monitoring your Mindful Awareness, you will at times become aware that you are not feeling a positive emotion in reaction to a situation or thought process. This is your indication to consciously realize where there is a gap. Is it someone making your angry or upset? Is it a feeling of being in a situation that you do not feel comfortable in? Find out what the situation is and then sort though any vagueness to get a clear rule or preference to your situation. For example, Your putting off going to the bank because a friend is coming over to borrow an item. It is beginning to annoy you that they are late and not answering the phone, when you try to call to see if they will be any longer. In this situation you have a gap in your world view about deadlines for friends, You are looking through that gap and out into the future hoping you can control when they will arrive, which is allowing annoyance to come into your awareness and drains your positive emotional energy.

Now you have the opportunity to give a label to the aspect of the situation that is causing you suffering. Granted it is not a huge suffering, but all preferences and rules you make will increase your character and be able to be used in many situations. You can decide now that you will fill in that gap with a preference, something along the lines of, “When I am doing someone a favor, there is a time limit on them getting the favor”. From this point on your can express that rule when you offer the favor, giving the person a deadline to take it. If your friend has problems with their character regarding their sense of deadlines more than likely they will in future find your not there when they decide to turn up. They may even give you a little grief about it, BUT you know your limits, you know that this is your preference, and that you are not responsible for how they feel about it, you have let go the need to try to control their feelings. You know who you are, you know your preferences and your rules regarding them, and you are living your life true to yourself, not allowing others to control or manipulate you.


This process is similar to wisdom. As you become more aware of your self identity, more aware of your world view and your rules, your ability to say (and hear) the word “No” you are gaining wisdom. You are building your character, that creates control on what and when you do things and what is acceptable to you. This comes from life experience, it is how our lives provide an opportunity for us to define who we are, and then live by that definition.

Another easy way to gain wisdom (and hence define your rules or fill in the gaps) is to collect ‘sayings’. The classic pieces of wisdom that have stood the test of time. The little statements that when you hear them, you process them on many levels before understanding them. These little gems provide your world view with strong and clever rules, saving you having to learn though life experience the lessons they teach.

If you hear the saying “being lenient on the guilty punishes the innocent”, and you can see how for example, that the guests in your house with your children are breaking a rule you set as a condition of them being able to stay there. The saying provides wisdom for what to do. You have certain standards that you teach your children, and yet as a good host you do not want to seem picky or a killjoy.

By being lenient on the guilty, your children suffer the consequences of you not staying firm to your Self Identity and the World View you have. Often in these times we ‘seek the courage’ to make a stand, when in reality courage is nothing more than making the right decision. It is not a feeling you need to get in order to take action, it is making the right decision for you.

Sayings that strike a chord with you provide you with valuable rules and preferences without you having to live the situation to build your character from experience.

Having Doors

Using your Boundary Doors
Using your Boundary Doors

Creating preferences and rules with openings in them (much like a door) with the door handle on the inside under your control gives you flexibility. There will be times when circumstances and situations will require flexibility and choice on your part, and times when you can bend your rules, without it effecting your Self Identity or Self Esteem.

For example, You may be an Atheist and have a rule that attending church is hypocritical. But your Niece is performing in a play and you really would like to go to support her despite you dislike of the parents choice of World View for her. By having a door to your preference you can have the flexibility to attend without it effecting your sense of Self Identity.

Always ensure the handles are on the inside and that the choice is always yours. You do not want handles on the outside where others can open you up and manipulate your choices and decisions.

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