Construction Of Self Essay, Research Paper
Construction of the Self
How does one create the “self”? How do we form as individuals? Whether a person is male or female, white or black, rich or poor, tall or short, pretty or ugly, fat or skinny, the most important factor is the development of the “self”. The self refers to the unique set of traits, behaviors, and attitudes that distinguishes one person from another (Newman 283). To distinguish between oneself from others, one must be able to recognize their unique traits and characteristics. One must be able to differentiate between one’s own physical appearance and another’s. There are many components such as gender, race, ethnicity, and social class, which shape and influence our values, beliefs, and impression of life. Understanding the difference between sex and gender allows one to grow into their own masculinity and femininity. Recognizing the history of one’s past in regard to their ethnic backgrounds and struggle will shape the development on one’s self. Having the luxury of money and power will affect the self and the way that one appreciates the value of the dollar or lack thereof. One of the most important factors may be one’s physical features which will eventually influence one’s self-confidence and affect the self as a whole. Once an individual has acknowledged the traits of their “self”, they’re in control of either maintaining their self, or changing their self to satisfy their standards.
A baby is born and the doctor looks at the proud parents and says three simple words: “It’s a boy”, or “It’s a girl!” Before a newborn child can even take his or her first breath of life, he or she is distinguished and characterized by its gender. One important factor to know is the difference between gender and sex. Sex is typically used to refer to a person’s biological maleness and femaleness. Gender designates psychological, social, and cultural aspects of maleness and femaleness (Kessler & McKenna 289). The differentiation between sex and gender are important because it reminds us of the differences in actions and/or experiences one may have between males and females. It allows us to separate “masculinity from maleness and femininity from femaleness, which makes it possible for people to stray from cultural notions of gender without having any impact on their sex (Newman 289).” An analysis of socialization would be incomplete without examining the process by which we develop ones gender. Our health and our career choices are linked to gender in someway. When individuals present themselves to society, they are instantly associated by assumed gender roles. People act in a certain way to give an impression on society. For example, when infant girls are born, they are wrapped in a pink blanket to exemplify their femininity upon the public. When infant boys are born, they are wrapped in a blue blanket to show society they are male. This is the gender that they wish to convey to society, because that is what is deemed to be correct.
Society is very apt in recognizing images seen in commercials and printed ads and accepting these images as standards of social behavior. It is easier for society to construct their view on life based on images presented by the media rather than taking the time to analyze the bias and untrue nature of these images. Societal ignorance clouds the mind and allows the media to continue to influence what one considers to be accepted by society. When society is presented with something or someone out of the ordinary that is believed to be incorrect, we rebel and try to modify it to our socially acceptable standards. Experts estimate that one baby in 2,000 is born with sex organs that don’t fit either of the standard sex categories (Cowly, 292). Many times when people stray from what is politically correct, their gender behavior is perceived as deviant or abnormal. For example, gays and lesbians are viewed by the majority of society as leading a sinful lifestyle simply because they are straying away from what society considers as normal gender roles. The male-female dichotomy in our culture is so essential to our way of life that those whose biology challenges it must be ‘fixed’ and those who suggest that there are more than 2 sexes are considered either crazy or cultural heretics who are being disloyal to the most fundamental of biological ‘facts’ (Newman 292). Do not label a person as “male or “female” when they may be threatened by it.
Race is an ever-prominent issue in one’s society. Controversies focusing around race are commonly seen smeared across the front page of the newspaper or headlining on the evening news. Race is typically viewed as a category of people labeled and treated as similar because of common inborn biological traits, such as skin color; color and texture of hair; and shape of eyes, nose, or head (Newman 277). In other words, race is used as a “means of ranking groups of people in terms of superiority of inferiority (Newman 277).” Race can be characterized as a social category, rather than a biological one. Race is visible, but it is not chosen…(Fussell 469). Many people have more than one race. One may have up to 40 different races in them. It all depends on their traits and what the self believes in. Society tends to see race in categorical terms: “black or white, red or yellow, brown or black (Fussell 118).” Race is based on one’s exterior looks, however one’s culture goes beyond their physical appearance. Culture is what one is brought up with based on traditions.
Ethnicity is tied into race and culture because one’s ethnicity is the “learned cultural heritage shared by a category of people (Newman 281).” There are far more important indicators of your identity other than your skin color. These days, one must become knowledgeable of different cultures as well as their own, simply to get by. In the new American Structure there seem to be an almost infinite number of classes (Newman 475). But only a few of them are used on a normal basis. The differences are that in the uppermost classes, regardless of money, occupation, or education, people are distinguished by their values, ideas, style, and behavior. Middle class however, is where people feel that money is important within their social structure. But at the same time believe that education and the career you do is almost equally important. On the other hand, people of the lower class tend to believe that class is defined by the amount of money you have. We have been constructed to believe that money gives rise to power. However, money isn’t everything. It doesn’t bring happiness, love, or even for this matter, class. Unlike gender or racial stigma, however, individuals often adjust to class stigma by learning to conceal their uniqueness (Fussell 509). Class should not be based on wealth, but based on how an individual is different and how unique they are in their own way.
Social class consists of people who occupy similar positions of power, privilege, and prestige (Newman 276). Social class has an impact on one’s significant aspect in life. Class remains to be a constant distinction between the “self” from one generation to another. For example, one’s parents’ class may be influenced on their kid’s class. One’s class may lead others to judge and stereotype a person’s self. For example, you would most definitely be able to tell one’s class by the way they talk, dress, and present themselves in society. Yet throughout time, material objects have classified and stereotyped one’s self in community. One is likely to treat an individual who doesn’t have “class” like an insignificant person. But on the other hand, when they come across an individual who does have “class”, one is likely to treat them with the same or even more respect that they would like to be treated. How many classes are there? The only expected right answer is two, the rich and the poor. But that statement is not true. Class constructs the “self” in how you feel about yourself. It makes one feel good about them when they know they have class. One may not know they have class, but others who do know it, sometimes take it a little too far. They think that there is no one in the world who can be at the same level as they are.
There are an abundant number of characteristics that form an individual. Such traits include: looks, personality, shape, and size. Gender is a factor that initially shapes ones character as a person within a media affected society. Gender then in fact plays a major role in one’s decision on their sex. Because of this unavoidable connection between sex and gender, one’s “self” may be limited and refrained from fully developing. Race and ethnicity help form a strong, steady foundation to lead one into the future. Although one cannot change their race or their ethnic background, there are only left to acknowledge it or ignore it, but it will eventually affect one’s self. Class brings about the way you are viewed by others and the approach you take to value your surroundings. These characteristics are important in shaping a person, yet there are many other factors that help one be distinguished from every other person in this social-structured society. Who we become is influenced by the behaviors and attitudes of important people in our lives. Humans must acquire certain cognitive capacities through interactions with others, including the abilities to differentiate between self and others, to understand and use symbolic language, and to take the roles of others (Newman 284).