the cultural context of the self

Studying the nature, meaning, and functions of various self-related phenomena, researchers have found that culture plays a pivotal role.

Our sense of identity (as well as other self-related attributes and processes) is influenced by the culture we live in.

For example, some cultures tend to encourage interdependence among people, while others favor independence.  The resultant shaping of identity and behavior is evident in the different mannerisms and meanings displayed in cross-cultural encounters.  “Am I too being shy and not assertive enough?”  “Am I too brusque and not deferential enough?”

Where is our common ground as human beings?

We are, at this point, a global community with a global economy and an increasingly shared global culture. We share common concerns. This offers hope for a peaceful and prosperous path forward.

*   *   *

Culture affects both the level and the degree of any given self-related phenomenon.

For example, the relevance of notions such as self-esteem, self-consciousness, shame-proneness, etc. can affect us in a deeper (personal) way, or at a more superficial (social) level of the self, and at the same time, to a greater or lesser degree.

And yet, we are all individuals, and thus within any particular cultural context, there will be substantial individual differences on any given spectrum.  Such differences will likely have culturally specific antecedents, consequences, and meanings, as well as differing from other cultures.

For example, how does a parenting style that emphasizes an aggressive, competitive spirit fit in with a culture that has evolved to value cooperation?  And how does enculturation that yields a quiet, thoughtful approach to problem-solving fare in a world where loud extroverts tend to dominate leadership?

These types of questions can be posed in reference to most self-related phenomena.  And these are important questions.

Because as we continue our journey toward an increasingly homogenized, multi-cultural global village, we would benefit from considering how it is that we are co-evolving – how our composite cultural context is evolving, where we are heading as a species, and how we will all get there together in a way that honors all past cultures.

Fortunately, as human beings, we have the potential to rise above our past conditioning and to consciously choose a direction, and a way of being in life, that is congruent with our deepest-held values and our highest aspirations. This is conscious evolution in action.

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How would you say that your sense of identity was influenced by the culture into which you were born?  How would you say that your identity is being influenced and shaped by your current cultural context?

Is this who you want to be in life?

Is this who you want to become in life?

Are you heading in a direction of your own choosing?

Or are you playing out a script based on past conditioning?

It’s all good. No blame. No shame. We’re just going for self-awareness here.

But then, if we want to experience self-direction in life, then personal responsibility is involved.

This is where the self and culture meet.  This is the juncture at which culture can either be an asset or a limiting factor on our aims and efforts to reach for our full potential in life.

You are the only one that can really know how this is going.

And, as always,…it’s your choice.

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