If there is one thing that I have realized over the course of my brief but ongoing life it is that learning is a process that never stops. When I was young I assumed that the end of school meant the end of new information, I figured graduating from college meant that one had learned all the information that could be taught and since there was nothing more to learn there was no more need for school. Now that I am getting close to that point I can see just how wrong I was; after seventeen(ish) years of formal education I know a tiny fraction of one percent of human knowledge.
While I am nowhere near where I expected to be I am not at all disappointed; much like a football game life isn’t over until it is over, the search for knowledge, meaning and truth is never-ending and that is what makes me want to keep living. While I don’t have the entirety of human knowledge on file in my head I have learned what may be the most important lesson in life; as long as I am on this Earth I have the potential to grow and as long as I keep growing I can find happiness in my life.
In order to grow I need to always have a goal that I am growing towards. That goal is self-actualization, becoming fully myself and being the best possible version of me (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 19). The person I want to be is a person who is able to help others in any way I can and I want to achieve that by being the best possible human services worker that I can be. One component of the Ethical Standards for human services professionals says, Human service professionals strive to develop and maintain healthy personal growth to ensure that they are capable of giving optimal services to clients. When they find that they are physically, emotionally, psychologically, or otherwise not able to offer such services, they identify alternative services for clients. (National Organization for Human Services, 2015).
This means that in order to achieve this goal of helping others I must also be able to take care of myself and not try to force myself to grow in ways that interfere with my own self-actualization as doing so would make me a less effective human services worker. I struggle with this because I feel that taking time for myself leads to me giving less time to others but I must overcome this and realize that to give one hundred percent to others I must also put effort into my own life.
I want to be someone who has the ability to stand by others in their times of need and offer encouragement to anyone that needs it. To do this I need to become more autonomous and comfortable in myself. “If you are an autonomous person. . . in essence, you have the ability both to stand alone and to stand by another person. You are at home with both your inner world and your outer world” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 40), in order for my encouragement or support to really mean anything I have to be both closely connected to the person I am supporting but also detached and strong enough to stand on my own so they know I really mean what I am saying and not being insincere.
One thing that I absolutely must deal with in my journey to self-actualization is my prejudice against older people. I have never thought of myself as someone who hates old people (I used to work in a nursing home and I loved being around many of the residents) I did realize that I have a lot of negative stereotypes about the aging process and fears about getting old myself that can be hurtful to older people. I have always thought, and told other people, that I do not care is I have a long life and that it would be better to die fairly young so I do not have to deal with all the problems of aging. “Ageism refers to prejudice toward or stereotyping of people simply because they are perceived as being ‘old”” (American Psychological Association, 2004), of my stereotypes come from my perspective of old people; they always seem very proper many and old fashioned, they don’t seem to keep up with culture and they are physically limited.
I want to keep being a well-informed sarcastic asshole all my life and I never want to give up longboarding, so with the mentality that aging means giving those things up it looks way to depressing to deal with. I have to realize that, at least to some extent; it is within my power to keep doing all those things as long as I want. I want to be someone who takes responsibility for their own decisions in life, that includes taking responsibility for my own health and the impact my lifestyle choices have on my own body.
Physicians report that it is not uncommon for patients to be more interested in getting pills and in removing their symptoms than in changing a stressful lifestyle. Some see themselves as victims of their ailments rather than as being responsible for them. (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 111) The effort I put into maintaining my mind and body is proportional to the performance I get out of them. I must try to be a bit more active with my lifestyle and try to keep pushing my physical limits just enough to keep things interesting.
I fear stress far more than is healthy or even rational and my attempts to avoid stress often only make things worse. As all humans do I often feel, “eustress, or good stress, challenges us to find creative solutions to the problems of everyday living” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 134) but instead of trying to work out the problem that is causing me this healthy dose of agitation I ignore it for as long as humanly possible. This causes it to become, “distress … the negative effects of stress that can deplete, fragment, and harm us, leading to a sense of helplessness and exhaustion. Distress leads to negative physical and psychological states” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 134).
When I feel distress I am angry, irritable and while it does motivate me to deal with the cause of my stress I never feel much happiness once I have dealt with the problem, only the urge to eat comfort food and sleep. I cannot be so willing to ignore my problems; I have to commit to dealing with them as soon as I can so they do not get out of control in my absence.
One thing I know I must become more comfortable with if I am to go into a helping profession is receiving help from others. I love to help the people I love, among my friends it is expected that when we are together we share freely and take care of each other however we can. I have noticed that I, “have a high need to take care of others yet appear to have no ability to make their own needs known” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 182-183), as much as I like to give I feel guilty when someone gives me anything, especially when it is something I do not need. I also hate telling others when I need something as I feel like it amounts to making a demand on them. I need to accept that leaning on others and accepting their gifts is a part of love just as much as giving is, but to make it a little easier on myself I will still strive to give more than I receive.
I want to be a good friend and a good partner to women I have intimate relationships with but I know that I have a lot of bad habits that make me fall short of the ideal mate. I know that “you should not expect another person to make you happy, fulfilled, or excited” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 198) but I still find myself thinking that my unhappiness in a relationship is a result of my partner not doing something right. I need to be able to find my own happiness and have the confidence to ask for what I want, I the relationship limits me from being fulfilled then it is a bad relationship but usually I do not want to ask for the things I need to be happy and rather expect my partner to provide them.
Something I have struggled with throughout my life is how stack up against society’s idea of what manliness is. “Traditional male roles certainly pose problems for those men who are not in agreement with what is now considered to be truly ‘masculine’ in our society” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 228), I have never questioned my straight male identity and I do fit into a lot of the roles society has laid out as masculine, being strong-willed (or stubborn if you please) sarcasm for example. However I am not too socially assertive, I’m not interested in many ‘guy’ things like hunting or sports, I wear some clothes people find feminine and I have a lot of plutonic friendships with girls that I really enjoy. This leads to a lot of people assuming that I am gay and while I have no problem with gay people it is frustrating to be called something you are not.
I have tried forcing myself to better fit societies expectations of what a man is and generally I do not like it, dealing with ‘bros’ or ‘man’s men’ is the worst I have no idea how to interact with them. I think in my journey to self-acceptance I will need to just get over the opinions of other people and be comfortable with myself. After all, other guys might think I’m gay but there the ones sitting with a bunch of guys at the bar.
“Examine where your views about sex come from and the meaning you attach to sexuality. Knowing where you stand can make it easier to make choices about what you want sexually” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 270), I have never really examined my views about sex or thought about what kind of value I place upon sex in my intimate relationships. I know that I enjoy sex and I pursue it often, I do not feel like I have ever hurt anyone with sex or used it to shame people but I have some internalized guilt about my sexuality as most Catholic school graduates do. I think that to really grow as a person I need to fully examine my sexuality; what my views are, why they are that why, what is it that I want and how important is sexuality to me.
I am someone who needs a fair amount of recreational time to really feel fulfilled in like but sometimes I am guilty of trying too hard to do “fun” things regardless of what I actually feel like doing. “Recreation can lose its benefits if we ‘work hard at having a good time”” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p.307, generally I love going out and being around my friends but every so often I need my alone time or just something different and feel like sitting out a party, however I feel guilty for doing so since it is something that I generally love. I need to just accept that I should listen to myself and do what I want to do in the moment, not conform to my own ideas of what is a good time, there will always be more nights to go out with my friends sometimes I just need to watch Monty Python and go to bed early.
I have always defined my status and success in life by the number of people I am able to call my friends and by being around them as much as possible. Normally this is not a big deal but because of this I tend to view any time spent alone, even if it is by choice, as something of a failure on my part. “In solitude, we make time to be with ourselves, to discover who we are, and to renew ourselves” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 316) which is something I have never really considered or thought to be true. I do try and take some time away from others if I am angry or upset but I have never thought of it as renewing myself, I thought of it as hiding from others.
Taking solitude has always been a shameful and embarrassing thing to me; the only times I have wanted it is when I lose control of my emotions and lash out, I try to remove myself from the situation rather than hurt someone or do something I would later regret. Taking time out for myself when I need it is something I must become comfortable with and learn to accept.
One personality trait that I have tried very hard to overcome and shut down is my spiteful nature, when I was younger I held grudges over anything and I would carry them for years. I had an overwhelming desire to punish people who I perceived as having wronged me even if my methods were self-destructive. I often contemplated suicide partially because I was sad but mostly because I wanted to cause others pain. I wanted my death to be, An act of hostility: ‘See what you made me do.’ An attempt to control and exert power over: ‘I will make others suffer for what they did to me.’ and I was came close to ending my life just to screw over those around me.
I need to continue working on this spiteful nature and try to be more forgiving and understanding of others and also reexamine my view of suicide, I do think there are times where it is morally acceptable and in the end everyone has a choice about their own lives but it is not something that should be thrown around lightly.
“Sometimes we may decide to go against our cultural upbringing to create an identity that is congruent with our own values” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 374). I have never felt very close to my parents because we have different values. My parents are very conservative Catholics; they are really reserved, place a lot of value on respect for authority and hierarchy, have traditional Catholic views on marriage, sex and people of other faiths and they expect a lot from others.
For some reason I turned out pretty much the polar opposite of that. I value free thinking, being aggressively different and outgoing, progressivism and I have come to view my close friends as my real family because of this. I think that everyone should get to decide their own values and be whoever they want without getting saddled with the insecurities of those that came before them. I have always felt some shame and guilt that I am not a “better son” to my parents and try to downplay my own personal identity around them or lie about my life to make them feel better but really I have embrace the person I really am and not care what others, even my parents, think about it.
I think one of the hardest things about committing to your own personal growth is that it is not always easy to see that you are making any progress. It is hard to tell if you are fully comfortable with yourself as a person and there are no physical indicators that you are really progressing, it can seem like focusing on being a better you is just a bunch of buzzwords and a waste of time. It is important to remember that, “growth has no small steps. Every step is significant because it is a step in a new direction” (Corey and Corey, 2010, p. 408). Everything you do that makes you feel even a little bit better about yourself can have a profound impact on your life if you really think it’s a step towards become the best you that you can be.