Each of us, whether we realize it or not, has a self-image. We see ourselves in some way – smart, slow, kind, well-intentioned, lazy, misunderstood, meticulous, or shrewd; we all can pick adjectives that describe ourselves. This is the “I” behind the face in the mirror, the “I” that thinks, dreams, talks, feels, and believes – the “I” that no one knows fully. In this month’s column, I will explore the meaning of the self-image, and how changes in self-concept come about.
The self-concept is important because everything we do or say; everything we hear, feel, or otherwise perceive, is influenced by how we see ourselves. One reason this self-concept is crucial is that it has a great deal to do with manager development – with being a growing person and eventually realizing one’s self-potential. Note the term “manager development,” along with the purpose of such development, is to help individual managers to grow. After all, they have to do most of the job themselves. No one can tell managers exactly how to grow. Rather, the most one can do is to help managers understand themselves in their own situations, and then trust them to find the best directions themselves.
“Taking on a disposition of humility keeps us open to changing ourselves…” – Bill Welter and Jean Egmon, The Prepared Mind of a Leader (2006). Rather than see ourselves as we truly are, we see ourselves as we would like to be. Sometimes self-deception can be more comforting than self-knowledge. We like to fool ourselves because confronting our failings can be too painful.
As Robin Puanani Danner of SCHHA (Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations) states, “The Western tool of hoarding dollars and building financial strength is not the endgame – that is not the reason we seek to build wealth. We build it for the Native endgame: to spend it on, and to invest it in, Native goals to achieve language revitalization, to attract our Native youth and immerse them in Native cultural values that will serve them to be economically self-sufficient…”
The inability to see ourselves clearly can be described by an economic term called “behavioral economics.” This is the intersection of psychology and economics, a field that challenges the strict rationality of most modern economics according to Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations.
Consider Polonius’ famous quote:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day.
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
I want to wish you and your ʻohana a very Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou!
A hui hou,
Trustee Leinaʻala Ahu Isa