Disclaimer: This series is about identity/the self in life’s various spheres and through a Western lens. You are all of these things. You are pieces and you are the whole. You are a system, biologically and otherwise. You cannot change a part of you without changing the entirety of the system. Now, let’s break it apart.
Vocabulary to note:
Self-Concept is a cognitive process in that it is simply describing what you are (think: mindful practice of describing your environment without judgement).
Self-Esteem includes your emotional evaluations/judgements
Let’s explore this aspect of your life using some guiding questions.
How do you value spirituality?
Do you feel that spirituality is important to you. Note: I’m not saying your spirituality, just spirituality in general. And within this generality, it’s probably important to figure out what spirituality means to you. Again, not what your spirituality is or isn’t. Instead, what you believe is incorporated in the term ‘spirituality.’ Maybe spirituality simply means religion to you. Maybe it includes the universe. Maybe it includes astrology or tarot or the paranormal or nothingness...the list goes on. And is it important to you that these ideas are carried with you throughout your life?
How is your self-esteem when it comes to spirituality?
For the following two questions, I will use a traditional religious example. You may have learned to believe that as long as you go to Church and are devout, you are a good person. You continue to go to Church but feel that you have been straying from what you thought you believed. This may make you feel that you are ‘bad’ at spirituality. This may make you hide from others during Church services because you feel ashamed of your curiosity.
What is your self-concept around spirituality?
Maybe you believe yourself to be a Church go-er. This is the message you received from your family— this is who you are— you are Christian and you go to Church. This can be a way that you conceptualize yourself regardless of how often you go to Church, and possibly how much you believe in what you’re learning from Church. If there is a conflict that manifests in which your spiritual beliefs begin to stray from what you believe is yourself-concept, some discomfort may arise.
What value do you place on yourself when it comes to spirituality?
Maybe you believe that spirituality is important in general, but that you don’t need to be in a spiritual world. You may be happy to see that people have certain beliefs, but feel that this does not work for you. Contrarily, perhaps you struggle in your community which values secularism and while you value some secular ideas, you believe that you are your best self when moving toward your value of whatever spiritual concepts you abide.
What level of satisfaction does your spirituality bring? How is it related to your self-concept/self-esteem?
If you value spirituality, including your own version of spirituality, and feel that you practice or acknowledge it according to its own or your own beliefs, chances are, it will feel satisfying to you. However, it is possible that you may feel conflicted around being a lapsed Catholic, a non-practicing Jew, a former Wiccan, a new Buddhist; which leads you to devalue yourself, struggle with role-confusion and possibly incur feelings of guilt.
How did you learn your point of view about spirituality?
We are often taught about spirituality when we are children as we have BIG QUESTIONS and many families or communities look to a higher power to answer those questions. This has been practiced for centuries. More recently (in contrast to centuries ago), families have raised their children in a secular world. Maybe you watched your parents argue over attending religious services. Maybe you saw one parent attend religious services and the other stay home and work. Maybe you saw one parent exploring their spirituality— either giving you permission to do the same or leading you to rebel and move toward a more traditional route.
How can you manage mixed feelings, continue to raise awareness, and incorporate insight?
Traditionally, spirituality has been the guiding force for a community’s way of life. The way we live—and this cultural shift away from that world can rock one’s core self. As highlighted in examples above, many people struggle with mixed feelings, or ambivalence, around the ways in which they should go about their lives in the realm of spirituality. What is the best way to live? This is something that is difficult to talk about because there is a possibility that there are no answers. Unanswerable questions usually bring up some discomfort. Within this discomfort, there is much to explore.
We’ve come to the end of this series (for now!) You don’t need to know a whole lot about a subject in order to look inward and guide yourself toward answers. The best thing you can do is get curious without judgement!