By Ashley Eugene Fall 2018
In life we are unconsciously molded. We are molded by our family, our environment, and these then create our subconscious mind. I was raised in the inner city by a mother who was brought up in a family where love was ever present however communication as not. And to a father who communicated his love with yelling and anger to cover his underlying fear.
In this essay I will dive into my self-concept vs self-esteem and how they came to be, the becoming of my presenting self, the ultimate discovery of my perceived self. I will review the influences of the significant others in my life which created the reflected appraisal that I formed in response to the reference group I was surrounded by. My unlearning, finding and discovering of the who that I’ve always been.
My mother, the most significant of the people in my life was born and raised in rural South Dakota near Sturgis. She was the oldest of 5 children born to my grandmother and grandfather who have been married since 1964. She grew up in a farm house that was built by my grandfather’s father in the early 1900’s. My grandmother was a stay at home wife who made 3 meals a day from scratch for her family and the farm hands. There was order, love and a bit of chaos. With this love there was no communication. No discussions of mental health or feelings, no hugs and I love you’s. Love was expressed through food and there was always an abundance of it.
My father was born in metro Denver and was somewhere in the middle of 12 children. His father was not present however my grandmother remarried when he was a teen. My grandmother ruled with an iron fist and highly relied on corporal punishment to run her household. Communication was had at a minimum and when necessary but when it happened to be heard you had to yell and that worked only if you were lucky. And if you were heard you usually were not payed attention to for the opinions of children were not valid.
My parents met while working together in 1985 at the YMCA in Denver after my mother took a bold leap to move to Colorado on her own. Six months after I was born my parents married and by the time I was one they had divorced.
My earliest memory was that of my father yelling at 4 year old me to walk faster because we had experienced car issues and had to walk to a payphone to call for help. Just like that one of the first reflected appraisals that occurred in my life. At the tender age of 4 I believed I was slow and caused problems in my father’s life
When I was 5 I remember my father yelling at me for telling my stepmother about a beautiful necklace that we had just got for her. He told me I have a big mouth and couldn’t keep a secret. The second consciously recorded reflected appraisal letting me know that I talked too much and was incapable of being trusted.
At 6 I was molested by my father’s brother while at my grandmothers home. Being young and confused I wasn’t sure what happened. I told my mom and she quickly reacted with love for me and a phone call to the police and then to my father. He told my mom that he was sure that that hadn’t happened and that I was confused. My grandmother said the same thing. Another appraisal completed, this time the message received this time was that I was not important enough for others to care about what happened to me.
At 7 I realized that I was unlike those around me. My skin color was the most noticeable difference. The cultures that I was submerged in while blended within me were very different and I didn’t quite fit into either. That pattern continued throughout my twenties. The reference groups that I was surrounded with were african americans whom I was raised with that felt I didn’t belong because my skin was too light. On the contrary the caucasian reference group was not better in fact many were more outwardly biased based on the color of my skin. I was always assumed to be of some exotic ethnicity but never fathomed I was half caucasian.
As I went through my teen years mostly keeping to myself as I never quite fit in. I always had just one to two friends one of them possibly close to me. But always at a distance as I was unwilling to self disclose, when I did it was often built on my presented self rather than my perceived self because it was safe. I knew how to be accepted. I knew my past was not the most pleasing so I chose to hide it away in a safe place.
As an adult while working in the emergency room of University Hospital after many years of carefully forming my face and creating a carefully formed impression management skills to help me to assimilate in this curious world I had a eye opening experience. Nurses asked me if I spoke spanish. I told them that I did not and one said well at least her parents taught her english. I was appalled but not surprised because I knew that these were not just the isolated opinions of one but the wide spread biases in the world. No matter the presenting self I created I was still a brown face in a white place and no matter where I was from people would see me however they chose.
Within my own social group there was little difference. My “friends” who were now my reference group for my presenting self. I was considered “white washed” due to my proper grammar usage and annunciation. No matter where I was I just didn’t seem to fit.
In my late 20’s I went through a series of traumas in relationships and in life. I experienced a unbecoming of who I had thought I was. A letting go of the thoughts and ideas that had been imprinted on my subconscious. I was thrusted into a discovery of Ashley. It was a learning of what I always knew but had somehow been lost.
After many days and nights spent alone, many many self help books and podcasts for days. I had to release all of the negative reflective appraisals that had been stored in my subconscious that were offered to me by the significant others in my life. I finally was able to catch a glimpse of the woman I truly was my.. perceived self. She is a glorious being who I cannot wait to continue diving into and exploring further. I have begun the process of accepting my perceived self and the merging of my presenting self into the same being. This is a process that has taken courage beyond imagination. But the reward has been great. I am now able to fully self disclose in all relationships because I now accept myself. I now have the self esteem that I lacked for so many years. This is the key to unlocking my life and creating a life that I can be proud of and that can inspire others.