Advantage: Self-Concept

Can a positive self-concept help keep you safe? An acquaintance of the Institute taught a basic self-defense class to women who were staying in a local shelter. This person related that one of the things she stresses in the class is the idea of self-concept.

It appears that how well a woman defends herself depends directly on how a woman feels about herself. Specific to assault, poor self-concept means that we are likely to put others’ rights before our own, meaning that we will allow others to intrude into our territory, that we feel helpless when threatened. And since our actions typically reflect our thoughts, our walking stride will be tentative rather than confident or assertive.

Educating the women in her classes about “learned helplessness,” they understood that this is a state of mind in which we simply stop trying to change anything because we feel incapable of having any effect. Learned helplessness can be an expected result from a society where women have traditionally been discouraged from mastering their environment.

If a woman feels little control over the direction of her life, choice of employment, the number of children she will have or where she will live and travel, then she isn’t likely to be composed, quick to act, and successful in taking control of an assault situation. She becomes a prime target for predators looking for an easy mark. And this is not territory just for women, but for anyone whose self-image, self-concept and self-esteem are low.

This same logic applies to the current – sometimes loud – conversations about wearing a simple mask, to both protect ourselves and others from catching Covid-19. If we do not have a strong self-concept and a strong commitment to community, we are easily swayed to give in to someone else’s beliefs, even if we know the consequences could be deadly. We need the inner strength to make our own decisions, and hold to the actions we decide to take.

A positive self-concept and high self-esteem are not just nice to have, and they are not tired and worn buzzwords from decades past. They are necessary and essential life skills – for women, children, men, seniors – literally, they are for everyone.