Rebooting the Self

The challenge is to re-create our self-concept in ways that facilitate what we want out of life.

We come into the world as learning machines and have an innate motivation to understand the world and ourselves, and what to expect from interpersonal exchanges. We learn and grow and make assumptions about these things, and these become the "operating system" with which we perceive, interpret, and navigate life. Irrespective of our awareness of the whole mess of these assumptions they become our self-concept. They bias our perceptions, and bias the meanings we make of our experience.

This operating system evolves as we experience life, learn, and change. Left alone, the system tends to perpetuate itself, and growth happens without intention or direction. But we also educate ourselves to intentionally foster growth, learn to understand an ever broadening array of issues that impact us directly or indirectly. We learn about the wide variety of experience possible in this world and we learn about ourselves.

Along the way we begin to gain insight into the fabric of our self-concept: our assumptions, biases, principles, expectations, hopes and fears. We see that we tend to see and do things certain ways; tend to expect things to work out, or not; tend to feel this way or that; tend to like certain kinds of people, and dislike others; tend to be comfortable in some situations more than others; tend to strive, hide, want, care...

We begin to see the tendencies at work and come to understand they are not "the real me", but rather occur among many possibilities and alternatives. If we can see the assumptions at work we can choose to let the status quo carry on, or replace those thoughts with others that might be more helpful to us. It's rather like replacing "I can't do this" with "I can do this".

There are cultural forces that lead us to believe we can't change who we are, or aren't supposed to. Some will say these tendencies are the real me so the most I can do is be more self aware and use what I have. There's wisdom in that idea, but it's not enough. Some will say we are who we are because of genetics, or by the design of our Maker; or adages like, "people don't change". It can be comforting to believe there is a divine plan, a greater purpose. It can be comforting to believe it's out of our hands; that we are not responsible. But, these notions limit or impede our free will, agency, and self-determination. If we think we are fated by genetics to be, say, an addict, we may be discouraged from making changes to minimize the associated risks or consequences. If we believe God has a plan for us, we may become overly passive in determining our own path.

Alternatively, we can acknowledge we are inherently free to influence our own development as people, and take on the responsibility of finding ways to go about it and traveling that road for the rest of our lives. Might as well not fight it, but rather, embrace it, and find the joy in discerning what is right for who we are.