Realistically this has been a troubling question throughout my life especially in my childhood. Looking back to my nine year old self, I could have whole heartedly said I am “no one.” Everyone goes through their own journey in life and it is important to remember that each experience is unique, and different. The experience one person goes through is going to be unique and distinct to them in the way of how it forms their identity. As to myself, my experiences with people, schools, physical appearance, languages, and interests, have all been factors in the contribution of how I identify myself today. As I tell my story you will see the development throughout my childhood within the biological, psychological, and sociological aspect. In this social work course the one theory that best stood out to me and the one I could easily compile to my life development is Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development.
Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development incorporates a great emphasis on social development in which is broken up into eight stages of psychological development (Rambles, 2017). His theory describes that through these eight stages a person progresses in a variety of ways throughout their life span. Erikson strongly believed that psychosocial principle is inevitable when shaping human development, and his argument was that “we move through each stage in a consistent manner, dealing with developmental tasks and resolving crises unique to each stage. Developmental tasks are healthy, normal activities that help promote growth” (Rogers, A.T. p. 87, 2016). His psychosocial stages begin with infancy and end with adulthood. They are structured in a susceptible manner to an environmental age-appropriate learning mechanism. Throughout the stages the person experiences a psychosocial crisis which could either result in a positive outcome or negative outcome for their personality development. His epigenetic theory states that all of the stages are implicitly present at birth but begin unfolding upon one’s up-bringing in a family that expresses the values of culture and also upon an innate scheme (McLeod, 2018). The stages are set up to be coherent one after another by paving the way for subsequent stages and are consisted of psychosocial crisis, basic virtue, and an age time frame. Outcomes that occur within a stage are not permanent and may be altered by other things later experienced. Ideally in order for development to proceed correctly the crisis involved in each stage should be resolved by the ego in that stage. A successful completion of each stage results in a healthy personality, on the other hand failure to successfully complete a stage can result in a reduced ability to complete further stages along with an unhealthy personality and sense of ones self (McLeod, 2018). The following table thoroughly portrays each stage along with its psychosocial crisis, basic virtue, and the age time frame for each stage
Who am I? I am Vanessa Arroyo Rodriguez, a 22 year old girl who was born on June 6th, 1996 in Hanford, California but raised in Crookston, Minnesota. I identify myself as Mexican-American, but from there on out I felt at loss of identity growing up. So much loss of identity that for a period of time in my life I considered myself as a “nobody.” When you have a lot of people telling you what you are and perceiving you in a certain way, it’s extremely difficult to find your own identity let alone your own happiness. My family moved from a small town called Corcoran, California to another town called Crookston, Minnesota. I was the age of seven when I moved to a town where it was only my mother, father, and baby sister. Later after us my aunt and her family moved there too but things felt so different. I was used to being with a big group of family, which consisted of my mothers side of the family. I remember how sad it was leaving my grandparents and not knowing the reason why I was leaving them behind. The reason was that there were better working opportunities for my parents in that town and they felt that they would prosper a better future for us there.
Growing up in Crookston was a both good and bad experience. Crookston is a slightly bigger town than Corcoran, and have total opposite climates. I enjoyed living in the snow as it gave my childhood that adventurous joy of building snowman’s and riding sleighs. That was my first enjoyable memory upon arriving to this new town. As I began the second grade I realized something very different. I was surrounded by classmates who were much different than to what I was used to. Corcoran had the vast majority of population consisting of Hispanics and Mexicans, in contrary, Crookston had the majority population of Whites or Caucasians. The first language I learned was Spanish because my parents both only spoke that at the time. In the first grade I only spoke Spanish, but this was not the case in the second grade. I am the oldest in my family so I had to learn to speak English on my own and had no one in the family to guide me along. I had to attended a class in addition from my regular one to learn English. Learning this language was very difficult for me but luckily I had wonderful teachers who were very helpful. Fast forward to the fourth grade, where I encountered the beginning of what I call my tortured childhood.
It was a new school year, which meant a new teacher and new classmates. I was the type that looked forward to going to school and learning new things but encountering the fourth grade that changed drastically. As we began reading the first book in class as a whole I was chosen to read out loud. I was still learning to read, speak, and write English and my trouble was reading the words and speaking them in a clear manner. As I read out loud in English you could hear how my Spanish accent was very strong. I read to my best of knowledge and ability, but as I read the words I did not know, I began to hear a lot of laughter in the background. I am a very emotional person, and hearing the laughters as I was trying to read broke me down inside and I began to cry. I froze there in my seat and cried. My teacher that year wasn’t helpful to say the least. He did not make me feel any better as I felt no support from the situation that had occurred. I clearly recall all that was said was “kids stop the laughter, and someone else continue reading!” From this situation on things went downhill. I was called names such as “baby cryer,” “brown girl,” and “loner.” It was a specific group of kids that bullied me, made me feel worthless, and at a point would steal my belongings from my personal desk.
I was afraid of going to school, and no longer wanted to take part in any activity. My parents started noticing the changes in my eating pattern, physical appearance, social behavior, and my speaking. I fell into depression not knowing what that meant at the time. I started eating once a day, no longer showed interest in socializing, and spoke very minimal. They clearly knew something was wrong but I never told them what was going on in school. I knew if I would have spoken up they would have contacted the school and got to the bottom of it. I feared what would happen if the kids who bullied me found out I told my parents. Therefore they noticed I wasn’t social anymore so they forced me to take part in ballet and take piano classes. My piano teacher was named Sister Virginia, who was a nun at my Catholic Church. Sister Virginia had came to my life at a perfect timing.
Learning to play the piano gave me a piece of mind because I found peace and tranquility. The piano classes were one on one, so throughout the time spent I felt that I could truly confide in her. She was the only one I confessed to about the bullying I encountered at school. She guided me out of my depression and made me feel that I had a purpose in life again. She wanted me to tell the school about it but I was not ready. She taught me to stand up for myself, and not be afraid to speak my voice. Being bullied from fourth to fifth grade made me feel hopeless, depressed, and at loss of my own identity. By the sixth grade this began to change, I found a talent in me, I had became a good pianist. Quite good that Sister Virginia encouraged me to try out for the annual sixth grade Christmas Talent Show. Of course I denied the thought because I had no social interaction with students at school and being in front of a crowd of people scared me. To my surprise my confidence in playing the piano veered me to doing the Christmas Talent Show. My family was there for support along with Sister Virginia, and I remember the tremble I felt throughout my legs as I stepped on stage. My hands trembled as I played the Christmas piece but I played the notes with my heart. Concluding the Christmas Talent Show I was shocked to find out that I had won 2nd place. This accomplishment gave me a sense of being, an accomplishment. Suddenly people started being nicer and began to socialize with me. Barriers I had in school were broken and I began to feel like I belonged there. My weaknesses became strengths and I was able to find some identity within me. I spoke out more, and in this year I participated in basketball, soccer, and orchestra. I found a group of friends that motivated me to become myself, with them I realize that I was funny, adventurous, and charismatic. Characteristics I had no idea were within me came to light. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. My past defines a part of me and has a significance in the way I have grown to the person I am today.
Being bullied growing up in school made a major contribution to my biological, psychological, and social development. In the biological development aspect bullying caused me changes in my physical health. I started having poor eating patterns which caused a significant amount of weight loss in my body. I would hyperventilate when the bullies approached me, and to avoid going to school I would pretend to be sick. Although due to my minimal eating and weight loss change I did miss a couple of school days which I felt very content of because anywhere away from school made me feel safe. By the sixth grade positive changes occurred as I gained back some of the weight I had lost. I still had times where I struggled with hyperventilation but it was more of stage fright from performances.
On the psychological development side I developed anxiety while attending school, and fell into depression. I also had very low self-esteem and became purposeless. The place where I used to enjoy became the place I feared for the most. I used to be confident, especially as I was learning to speak English. I gave it my all to speak, write, and read it but when the bullying began it shut me down and I would hardly speak out loud. In those two long years I learned to cope with the bullying and became “used to it.” When Sister Virginia came into my life she unleashed characteristics within me that I was unaware of. My self-esteem became important when I won second place in the Christmas Talent Show. That rewarding feeling of being recognized for my talent was what initiated the positive change of my identity thereafter. I no longer felt depressed and hopeless, and my anxiety wasn’t as persistent as before. I actually began to look forward to going to school, and took part in different extracurricular activities. I enjoyed attending my basketball, soccer, and orchestra practice. The group of friends that I became close to also made a positive change within me, they made me feel like I belonged somewhere, and I began to feel more like myself.
Furthermore amongst my social development, I went from being a very isolated person away from school, peers, and family to being a social charismatic individual. I was starting to get low grades in school because I had no effort in trying and didn’t take part in any activities. Through this rough time in my life the support I had from my parents and family was always there. I just never acknowledged it and to a point ignored my parents and became rebellious at home. My biggest peer was Sister Virginia, because through her help she veered me into the right direction. She motivated me to come out of my shell and through her piano class my social traits became important. Playing the piano gave me confidence because it was something I was good at and therefore my social development improved. I learned to speak up for myself and took initiative in group work.
In conclusion I found Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development most relative to the way I grew up and how I identify myself today. By experiencing certain life events experienced in specific personality traits, it explains why there is flux in the personality someone experiences later in life such as middle adulthood and adulthood (Sneed, Pimontel, 2012). The stages that I incorporated through the time frame I shared were Stage Three: Initiative vs Guilt, Stage Four: Industry vs Inferiority, and Stage Five: Identity vs Role Confusion. Since stage three consists of how children can learn new concepts introduced in school and are expected to practice these lessons in real life, I related it to how I was exposed to a new environment in which I had to learn a new language (Psychology Notes HQ, 2017). With initiative I was developing a new identity, throughout the English language. I felt a sense of guilt when I wouldn’t pronounce the words correctly, or when my strong Spanish accent came out.
The next stage I associated myself with was stage four as my peers played a great significance to my self esteem. I went from a very low self-esteem to showing value and importance within the pianist talent I attributed. I felt the sense of pride and accomplishment when I won 2nd place which is related to the industrious aspect of this stage. Lastly I felt relation to stage five as it consists of the level of self-awareness increased and the development of self-confidence. I related to this stage when I grew out of my shell and flourished into more of my social identity and confidence. I was in a physiological crisis, in which bullying took a major health drawback in my personality development. Through the positive factors in my life, I reached this stage as I went from role confusion to understanding some of my identity. Bullying in my childhood revealed those harmful biological changes that I was unaware of at the time. By becoming educated on Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development I found understandings of the childhood I lived through. I lived through some of the stages in Erikson’s Theory, but not specifically during the ages he specified with as I lived them at different periods of time in my life. The things you live through make a contribution to the way you identify yourself, and I use it as a motivation that I learned and grew from being bullied. I feel since I overcame that I can overcome anything. As a resulting factor from being bullied I struggled to speak in public, and still do today. I do feel like college has helped me overcome this struggle, but sometimes it is still difficult. I now identify myself as a strong individual who uses her past as a powerful tool in life. We are all humans in which we all deserve equal treatment, no matter the race, gender, or sexuality of a person.
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