Home ยป Identity-Sense of Self

Elizabeth Lacey specializes in Counselling for Women and women's mental health, relationships, boundaries and Identity or Sense of Self.

This page is about: Women's Identity or Sense of Self

sense of self, woman looking at self in mirror ask "Who am I?" what is my sense of self

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Identity-Sense of Self

Generally speaking a woman's identity or sense of self, refers to how she sees herself. It asks and answers the question "Who Am I?" Her answer might be a description of how she sees herself and how she is with other people. She might talk about her roles and relationships saying I'm a wife, mother or daughter. Or her behaviour saying, "I'm a good nurse, a people pleaser, a loyal friend, too emotional, a hard worker or highly sensitive."

We use a model called Internal Family Systems to help women better understand themselves and their many parts.

Many parts of who you are

You may have come to this page from somewhere else on the Oakridge Counselling website. Welcome, we're exploring Women's Identity, sense of self and the question "Who am I?"

Inner Critic as a part of who you are

coming soon

Wounded as a part of who you are

coming soon

Feelings as a part of who you are

When counselling women, especially those that have a strong sense of their feelings, I help them understand who they are by looking at all of their ways of knowing. For example I might ask, "what else can you tell me?" We explore feelings as part of who a woman is, while not allowing their feeling parts to take over, as if they are the whole story.

How a part becomes "Who Am I"

It is normal and common to get "over identified" with a part without even knowing it. Especially strong parts and to allow that part to be in charge or to "drive the bus" as I like to say.
(See Blog post "Who is driving the bus")

Follow the leader

Once a woman is aware of her parts and the ones that take over, I ask, "who decides which part is in charge?" The quick answer is usually some version of "I do." To which I ask, "can you tell me who "I" is?" Confusion may show on her face in response, followed by a look of sadness when she realizes that "I" have somehow gotten disconnected from the "I" that decides who's in charge of my life and who I am.

Parts as your internal family

This can get confusing especially when reading it, instead of talking about it in person. It might help to think about the parts you identified as your "internal family" like the IFS Model suggests. Then to go back to my earlier question "who decides who's in charge?" You can think of the parts, take the feelings parts for example, and think of them as a group of children and the one who is in charge of them as the parent.

You can take this a step further and think about a child having strong feelings, like anger, or anxiety for example. What happens if you as the parent or the one in charge allow the child having the strong feelings of anger, to become the strong feelings? No a good situation right?

As the leader, the one in charge you have to find a way to stop the strong feelings from over taking the child. In whatever way you do it, you help him settle, or find his calm part. You teach the child that his feelings are part of who he is, but not "who he is." And the child learns how to connect with "who he is" as the one in charge and not let any of his parts be in charge.

Reconnecting with your SELF as the leader

Oops this page isn't finished yet - please check back soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Home ยป Identity-Sense of Self

Brene Brown: Shame vs. Guilt

Brene Brown

Social Worker, Brene Brown has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Her article Shame vs. Guilt gives readers an understanding of the difference between Shame and Guilt and how shame can change a woman's sense of self and who she is.

She explains it like this, Guilt says "I did something bad" while Shame says, "I am bad."

A phrase that has become popular in recent years makes this devastating shift, in a few seemingly innocent words. I'm sure you've heard it, "I don't wanna be that girl." Oh come on, what's wrong with that, you might say. Please hear me out and I think you'll see for yourself.

Imagine letting yourself in through the gate and into your best friends backyard, when through the kitchen window you hear her say, "I don't wanna be that girl." Your mutual friends are all there and they're talking about "that woman yelling at her kids at the park last week." You pause for a moment, not to listen, but because "that girl" they don't wanna be - is you!

You were exhausted, you'd had a horrible day at work and had promised your three kids you'd meet these friends at the park after dinner. They fought all the way there. When you got a foot in the mouth getting the youngest out of the car seat, you lost your cool. You felt horrible about it - still do, but you didn't think anyone heard you.

Your friends know you're a good person, that you seldom ever yell at your kids. They know that you'd be beating yourself up for it too. And they would all be horrified if you came through the back door crying because you heard them. But you don't do that, do you? No, you put on a brave face and act like nothing happened. You don't wanna be "that girl" either.

"I did something bad" versus "I am bad"

You see, what's wrong with the phrase is that it takes the guilt you feel when you "do something bad" and turns it into "I am bad." I am "that girl." Do you see how those few words reduce a good person that did something bad, into a bad person, into "that girl" that nobody want to be.

When we unpack statements like this one in counselling, women recognize how much words like this affect them. And when they see that a lot of their anxiety is about what others think of them, especially if they do something bad as a mother, they are devastated.

Oops this page isn't finished yet - please check back soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Read More About Elizabeth Lacey MSW RSW here

Oakridge Counselling offers in-person, phone, online, Walk & Talk Therapy, Walk & Talk for Wellness Group, Supervision & Consultation and Counselling in London Ontario.