Essay, Research Paper: Ecological Self


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Diversity is a whirlwind of color through a society. There are no two people in
the world that are exactly alike. Individuality distinguishes one person or
thing from others (Landau, 364 Ed). A person’s environment as a whole: an
interaction with others, experiences, and time, makes a collage of traits that
distinguishes someone as an individual. David Sibley’s theory of the
“Ecological Self” or Identity is bound by his determents of social,
cultural, and spatial context. Sibley believes that class, race, gender, and
nation shapes our identity, it is a single concept that is molded by our
experiences from the world. I do not agree with this claim because people are
individuals, not a development of their surroundings. Identity is not a single
concept, there are many factors that shape it, environment cannot just effect
identity. Sibley is a British sociologist that has dedicated his life to the
studies behind the “Ecological Self.” Sibley claims that the “Ecological
Self” is not internal, it cannot be separated from the physical. “The social
positioning of the self means that the boundary between self and other is formed
through a series of cultural representations of people and things which
frequently elide so that the non-human world also provides a context for
selfhood (Sibley, 250).” The “other,” that is being spoken of, is also
known as the “Generalized Other.” This is when we cannot separate from the
physical and consider it to be the norm. How do I know who I am? Where do I fit
in? Internal and external forces mold our sense of self. Heredity and personal
moral are examples of internal forces. Children are often most effected by this.
“The forces of physical inheritance takes place mainly in childhood, though
even as adults we have the possibility of dealing in our personal development (Grunewald,
2).” Environment also plays an important role in the formation of
self-identity. The surroundings, which can include people, places, and
experiences, mold an individual into whom they become. The past shapes our
identities, and builds from our experiences. “It is our memories which help us
make the connections, gives us the insights, and provides us with the sense of
continuity, which is so important for our personal identity (”
“When we go through times of crisis, massive changes, serious illness, deep
conflicts or stress, our sense of self can be seriously challenged, particularly
if we have not faced such experiences before. Rather than assuming that personal
identity is permanent, static and secure we might see it better as our
personalities are dynamic, evolving, fluid and changing. This will enable us to
grow with life’s changes as we develop new skills, insight, attitudes, beliefs
and values. We are never the same person (”
Identity is a lifelong, continual process of identification with contexts. The
final point made by Sibley was to what extent do individuals alter their
identity to conform to social roles. To most, fitting in and being liked is a
very important part of life. The way that others look at us is a part of our
social standing. Everyone conforms in some way to simply “fit in.” College
is an excellent example of the way that people conform. This is at a time that
many begin to venture out and make decisions on their own. Many college students
face the choice of whether or not they would join a fraternity or sorority. On
college campuses being part of the in-crowd means that you are in a social
organization. Students alter their identities and conform so that they are able
to fit in and affiliate themselves with others. Individualism and Identity have
many factors involved. There can not be just one cause that influences a person
so greatly. I would like to see myself as a collection of interactions and
experiences. The surroundings that I have encountered have had an impact on my
life, but it is not the single determinate that makes the person that I am
today. David Sibley’s “Ecological Self” and the other related topics
discussed, have some validity of defining the concept of self-identity. Social
and Cultural expectations are not the only dominant forces that shape.
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