“My claim is that people are not wrong about their true selves.  A related claim is that to encourage someone to doubt his or her true self is to do them the gravest psychological disservice.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to extrapolate from someone’s appearances—their words and actions—to their underlying true selves.  Until my psychoanalysis began at age 22, for example, no one had ever confirmed my perception of my true self.  I saw myself as someone who could potentially think originally and deeply about psychological issues.  Being me meant trying to understand mental functioning.  But no one else saw me that way.  My teachers and friends interpreted my symptoms, such as not going to classes and not studying, incorrectly.  They questioned all the components of my self-concept: my motivation, my commitment, my choice of subject matter, and my ability.  So did I.  How could I have done otherwise?  With no alternative hypotheses of how to interpret my behavior, I unwillingly made the same inferences they did, contradicting my self-knowledge.”

Virginia Valian, “Solving a Work Problem.” Scholarly Writing and Publishing: Issues, Problems, and Solutions.  Ed. Mary Frank Fox.  Boulder: Westview Press, 1985.  101.

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4 thoughts on “Perception of self

  1. Very interesting! I’m gonna read the whole thing. (I never went to class or studied in high school, and only started doing those things sophomore year of college, after nearly getting thrown out for bad freshman grades.)

  2. Yeah, there are people who come along pretending to be realists and asserting that you are obviously not the sort of person you claim to be as you have not actualised what you perceive to have inside yet. They say you never will and you should accept more modest stakes. But that is a sure recipe for destruction, because if you do not aim to be what you have inside of you, and to bring it out, you may as well die.

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