In talking to friends and just in conversation with other girls about self-love, I’ve noticed that girls typically find themselves at one of two ends in their self-image. They’re either on the side of self-righteousness or on the opposite extreme, self-deprecation. On both sides, girls find themselves struggling since both have negative effects on self-perception and on how others see and treat them. But why do girls find themselves subscribing to only two extremes of entitlement or full-on selfless? I find that Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of id, ego, and superego can be used to explain the conflicting self image girl’s face within themselves as their personality changes from birth throughout life.
1. Id: “I get what I want and I can do what I want.”
Known for being the only conceptual personality that is present at birth, this personality side is self centered. Id focuses on the primitive needs of a person, making this section of your personality naturally greedy. At the time of birth and into infantry this is essential to develop into a functional and independent individual who knows both their wants and needs; but the catch is that the child is not yet able to differentiate the two, they simply acknowledge that whatever it is wanted and unconsciously take want for a need. In this stage the lines between instincts and desires are therefore blurred, only seeking the natural and sometimes selfish gratification we seek as humans. This personality is driven by pleasure and seeks immediate gratification and if not satisfied can cause anxiety or stress.
If not careful, id can evolve into our adult life and make one seem self-absorbed and seek immediate gratification, much like a child would. Id in the “grown” form comes off as us girls putting ourselves higher from other women, perhaps seeing them as competition or obstacles from us getting what we want. It also can manifest as one believing they are superior because they simply get “their way,” something that can be applied to both our sexual and aggressive behavior since those are directly influenced by our instincts in the moment. Although self-confidence is about feeling assertive and comfortable within oneself, self confidence should not be at the expense of others’ confidence or wants/needs. Our confidence should root from our own holistic person and who we are.
Related: Balancing Ego and Humility
2. Superego: “I can’t do ____ therefore I am not worthy.”
On the opposite side of the personality spectrum, superego is the personality stage in which one can discern right from wrong based on their perceived moral standards and/or ideals we inherit from our elders or parents. According to Freud, this stage of personality is entirely formed by the age of five and is what allowed us to develop a discretion to make our own decisions. Superego, though, tries to perfect and criticize our actions, prioritizing the idealistic standard rather than the realistic standard. This being the self-critical stage of personality, superego strives for perfection and therefore is persistent in conscious, preconscious, and unconscious aspects.
Superego is dangerous in different ways than the id ego personality. Superego, as mentioned strives for perceived perfection, which is subjective to the moral standard that was ingrained in one as a child. Therefore, as an adult, they will strive to achieve said “perfection” but may never be able to accomplish or reach perfection depending on if the perceived idea of perfection matches the audience. Here is where the same anxiety and stress may arise just like in the id ego personality stage. This can be exemplified in women striving for the “ideal” standard of a woman in society, which changes faster than the seasons that go by. Here is where we find women who are on the polar end of the spectrum in self-image, those who barely have a voice and don’t dare to bring more attention to themselves because of their fear to be rejected by society’s perceived ideals.
3. Ego: “I am able and will find a level compromise.”
In the median of this spectrum is ego, the personality stage that balances reality in a socially appropriate manner. More practical, ego wagers the pros and cons, or the cost and benefits, and later formulate a reasonable explanation or plan. As a middle ground of both id and superego, ego introduces the notion of delayed gratification, valuing primal wants/needs only if earned in a suitable fashion. Freud explains id as a horse and ego as the horse’s rider, saying that if the horse were to roam wildly it would be that, wild; but with the rider on it, it gives the horse a sense of direction and guidance.
After all, self-image and self-perception is a lifelong journey and one that is unique to everyone. Wherever you find yourself, whether leaning towards one more or switching between both frequently, remember that you and only you can define what you amount to. Whether big or small, you reap what you sow, so sow accordingly collegiettes.