Now, let’s reset quickly a social construction, shall we? Here we go.
noun /ˌsəʊʃl ˈkɒnstrʌkt/
A concept or perception of something based on the collective views developed and maintained within a society or social group; a social phenomenon or convention originating within and cultivated by society or a particular social group, as opposed to existing inherently or naturally.
Difference, then, is a concept or perception based on the collective views of a society or social group, which does not exist naturally.
Right, so difference does not occur naturally. However, the word difference is used constantly. Really. Think about how often you say that word. Now, think about how often you hear that word utilized. Often, I’m sure.
Yet, according to social constructionism difference is all created in language. All of it. Meaning that difference is only as real as long as we continue to create it as real. Think about that for a minute.
Difference is only as real as long as we continue to create it as real.
Phew, that’s pretty powerful. Why? Well, before we get to that question, there are two new aspects to social constructionism to introduce here. Ready? Good. Here we go.
The first? Yep.
Habitualization describes how “any action that is repeated frequently becomes cast into a pattern, which can then be … performed again in the future in the same manner and with the same economical effort” (Berger and Luckmann 1966). Not only do we construct our own society but we also accept it as it is because others have created it before us. Society is, in fact, “habit.”
For example, your school exists as a school and not just as a building because you and others agree that it is a school. If your school is older than you are, it was created by the agreement of others before you. In a sense, it exists by consensus, both prior and current. This is an example of the process of institutionalization, the act of implanting a convention or norm into society. Bear in mind that the institution, while socially constructed, is still quite real.
Now, why are habitualization and institutionalization important to the discussion of difference? Good question.
Because, essentially, society is in a pattern of continuously creating difference, which has thus become institutionalized and generally accepted as fact.
Even though difference is not a naturally occurring phenomenon or fact. Difference is still real in accord with the consequences that stem from such socially constructed differences.
Yep, that last part, that these social constructions are real in their consequences is another sociological theory. Here you go.
Another way of looking at this concept is through W.I. Thomas’s notable Thomas theorem which states, “If [people] define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas and Thomas 1928). That is, people’s behavior can be determined by their subjective construction of reality rather than by objective reality. For example, a teenager who is repeatedly given a label—overachiever, player, bum—might live up to the term even though it initially wasn’t a part of [their] character.
Now, what happens when you take a concept such as difference, defined as separate and not the same, and you habitulize and institutionalize that concept? You get the Thomas Theorem. Meaning?
That now you have a socially constructed concept, difference, and have created a reality that continuously creates difference each and every day. Yep. And, who does this you ask?
Well, everyone does. Remember, based on the definition, a social construct is a concept that is agreed upon in a society.
There is, of course, a spectrum here. Meaning, that some people are aware of how difference operates, and some are not. The former people may have noble intentions, and might not.
And, the latter, well, they are in habitualization without awareness. And, that happens too. It’s not a judgment, or justification, it just occurs that way.
And, what does this mean to individuals? Right, another good question. Here we go.
Like Berger and Luckmann in their description of habitualization, Thomas states that our moral codes and social norms are created by “successive definitions of the situation.” This concept is defined by sociologist Robert K. Merton as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Merton explains that with a self-fulfilling prophecy, even a false idea can become true if it is acted upon.
There we go. And, let’s have one more important quote here to assist in our discussion.
“Most (and probably all) societies exist with systems of social division and social stratification, through which entire categories of people are elevated above others, providing one segment of the population with a disproportionate amount of money, power and prestige” (Macionis and Plummer 2012:232).
Because difference is not wielded within a vacuum. Nope. Difference is wielded though very distinct power structures, which continue to perpetuate that difference. Important.
Yet, what is really different? Not much in fact. Facts? Sure.
People are more similar to each other than they are different. Biologically, we are more homogenous than we are heterogeneous. That is the bottom line. Biologically we are very much alike. Almost identical, in fact.
What does this mean?
That all of the difference we ascribe to individuals and groups of people are created in language and acted out through socialization, creating habits that are continuously repeated, which are then institutionalized as factual, and affected to and by each and every one of us on some level.
Phew, that was a lot. Hm. Right, so where do we go from here?
Awareness and Resistance
Yep, awareness and resistance. And? Well, awareness is first.
When we are aware of how these concepts function in language and are codified in social structures, we can choose to let them go and create a new way of thinking and acting. Truth. And?
It all starts with us disrupting our patterns and habits. Really. All of them. Questioning why we do the things we do, and then looking internally to find out if those habits or patterns make sense any more.
If they do? Okay, keep doing them. If they don’t? Let them go and create something new.
Every time we create a new pattern or habit, we are actively releasing the continuation of what was, or the status quo, and that? Well, that is an act of resistance. Social resistance, if you will. And?
Well, often people mistakenly believe that the only social resistance that leads to social change must happen on a grand scale right away. There was a time I thought this way. Really. And?
It’s just not so. Social change more often happens within small actions that lead to larger actions that then lead to large-scale social change.
Just take a look around the United States right now, and you will see a legacy of active social resistance in the streets right now. Yep.
And, that started with various individuals actively disrupting and then releasing an old pattern or habit, and creating a new one. Just like that. Beautiful to see, and even more beautiful to be a part of.
Now, I have more to say, however, this is a series, therefore we will get to continue our discussion of social constructionism in the near future. Until then?
Question the concepts you hold and the habits you have and see if they still work for you. And, if not, release them, and create something new. That’s pretty much it, and that is powerful. You are powerful.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ― Brené Brown
Alright, now, let’s take each of these quotes, one at a time, and work through why authenticity is so important to all of our lives, your life. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Think for Yourself
Right, so what is good old, well, not old anymore, Socrates talking about here? You may ask yourself, I think for myself every day, that’s self-evident, so? Yet, do you?
What Socrates is pointing to in this quote is the awareness of the realization that oftentimes we think, and make decisions, about our life predicated on something that someone else taught us. Yep. Truth.
Meaning, that in order to live an authentic life, and to be who we really are, we must let go of all of the ideas, concepts, and notions of who we think we are, and create ourselves as we want to be.
What does this mean? Good question.
It means learning to let go of outdated ideas and concepts about ourselves, which were handed to us during our childhood. Yep.
Socialization is powerful. And, unless we do the internal work necessary to let go of these concepts, we will continue to make decisions about our life from these standpoints. And?
We will continue to live a life that someone else has created for us. Yet, it need not be that way. Nope. Being you, the you that you know yourself to be is most important.
In sociology, there is a theory that basically states that part of how we know who we are is by the confirmations we get from others about how we present ourselves (Goffman, 1959). The issue?
When we present ourselves as others would like us to, we are not being authentic. We are being a version of ourselves that other people would like us to be. Not authentic.
What Thoreau is saying is to let go of the need we have, a compulsion if you will, to please others, to be as they would like us to be. Instead, Thoreau is tasking us with being true to the person we know ourselves to be.
Further, to create ourselves again and again, as we want to be, not as someone else expects us to be. That is authentic; and, that is being you.
Alright, so what is Brené talking about here? What does it mean to show up and be real? Right. Here we go.
When we are authentic, we are authentic in all aspects of ourselves. We own and stand in our strengths and weaknesses. Both. We show up just as we are. Important. Why?
Well, to do otherwise is not being authentic. When we are being inauthentic, we are trying to conform to an idea. An idea of what or whom we are supposed to be. And, that is, well, painful. Really.
It is painful to deny aspects of ourselves under the guise that they don’t exist. Whether that is a strength we are hiding or a weakness we are hiding. Either way.
When we hide aspects of ourselves, we limit ourselves, and we limit the context we are in. Why?
Because we are human. We are supposed to have strengths and weaknesses. That’s part of being human.
However, if we perform, for instance, as if we don’t have a weakness, or an opportunity to develop, we are, at that moment, literally limiting our developmental potential. And, guess what?
It’s totally avoidable. We can choose to be the authentic-self we know ourselves to be. Full of strengths and weaknesses. Both fantastic and boring. Both. And, that is perfectly okay. Why?
Because we are human, and being both fantastic and boring, for instance, is a part of our shared humanity. Better to embrace it and be the authentic-self you know yourself to be. And?
When you are true to your authentic self, and you embrace all aspects of yourself, you get to choose how you create yourself next. In each moment, every day. And, guess what else?
When you live your life that way, you are now living the authentic-life you’ve always dreamed about.
Live well. Live authentically.
Citation: Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Doubleday.
I’ll have more to say about the book at a later date. For now, insights abound inside of the discussion created by the narrator, and Ramana. It is beautiful.
Well, in no way could I have foretold earlier this year, that I would have 200+ of you with me on this wonderful writing journey. And, you know, it’s more than that.
More than writing that is. Much more. How? Yep. Here we go.
The experience I’ve had this year has been unlike any I’ve had before. Why? Well, yes, part of it is the writing. Being back at my computer writing from both my head and heart is, for sure, a wonderful experience.
And, yet, you know what I’ve enjoyed most? Connecting and interacting with each of you. Really. I’ve had such a wonderful time reading all of your work. Such an inspiration. All of you.
From the exposes on spirituality, leadership and self-development, to the wonderful poems, fictions, artwork, pictures, challenges, recipes, and book reviews. All of it. Every single ounce of it. I love it all.
Know this. Ready? Good.
You are very much appreciated. Each of you. For being with me on this journey. From my heart to each of yours, thank you; and, thank you for allowing me to read about you and your life. A wonder.
I look forward to continuing this journey with each of you. As a matter of fact, it’s just about time to go check out what all of you have been up to. Fun.
Right, well that’s about it for this entry. Well, just a minute, one more thing, okay. Ready? Here we go.
Remember, when things get tough, and goodness knows we’ve had a lot of that this year, keep breathing, keep doing, and keep moving yourself forward.
You are an inspiration. You are beautiful. You are loved.
Meditation is and has been an experience that, well, quite frankly, has transformed my life. How? Yep. Here are three ways.
Increased focus – the focus you develop in meditation, focusing on the breath, or some other object, carries out to every area of your life.
Developed patience – sitting for any duration of time, free of people and distractions, can be difficult, thus, doing so, greatly develops your ability to be patient. Both with yourself, and, of course, with others.
Greater presence – when you sit in deep concentration, you also get to know your own mind much better. Meaning, that you can see your mind as your awareness grows. And, with a more expansive awareness comes an ability to shift your attention from yesterday and tomorrow to today.
When we intentionally create quiet time for ourselves, to be with ourselves, away from all people and distractions, we are able to breathe, reflect, and just be.
It takes time and assistance to develop a meditation practice. I mean to really develop a practice that is sustainable.
Meaning, learning from someone that has been schooled in the art of meditation is helpful. I still see someone regularly about my meditation practice, and, well, as I’ve written before, about all of life.
Remember, it takes time to develop a meditation practice. Example? Sure, here you go.
My initial meditation practice, what I then called breathing, was only once or twice a day for 2 to 5 minutes at a time. I could literally only sit still for that long. Yep. Today? Well, today, my meditation practice is much longer.
It just takes a dedication to practice. Practice daily, get some coaching, and it will come. Really, it will.
Someone once told me, we are what we put into our bodies. I know, I know. A very common saying, and you’re right. Yet, it is also very true.
I spent a lot of years putting very unhealthy things into my body, yet have learned the truth of the aforementioned statement.
It’s really about energy and clarity. When you eat more whole foods and put less refined sugars into your body, you do have more energy, and equally more clarity.
What does that look like? Well, there are countless iterations of healthy diets. Really. What does mine look like today? Sure. It’s pretty simple.
Fruits and veggies
Beans, nuts, and some grains
That’s basically it. Now, there are other things I do eat, for instance, I removed dairy from my diet about a year ago, so I now eat a dairyless oatmeal yogurt product. However, the core of my diet is listed above.
Now, also know that diets iterate. For instance, though at the moment, I’m not eating eggs, for example, eggs have been in and out of my diet several times in the past three years. Yep.
Well, when you combine eating healthier with meditation, guess what? Your ability to be present also increases. And, there is another benefit. What, you ask? Yep.
Clarity. With a healthier diet and regular quiet time for ourselves comes more clarity. Fun.
This is a fun one, as there are two ways I think about exercise today. Ready? Here we go.
Cardio and exercising to exercise – sounds funny, maybe? Well, what I mean is exercise, such as running, jogging, or hiking, lifting weights, if you like, and biking.
Contemplative exercise – yep, really. What I mean here is taking a walk, by yourself, no headphones, phones, or other distractions, and just walk. Just like that. Contemplation time, just for you.
Both are important. Why?
Well, being active, and in motion, is good for the body and mind. It gets all of your muscles and joints moving, and gets your heart rate up.
And, spending time with yourself on a walk, for instance, is very healthy for your mind, and yes, your body too.
We all need time by ourselves, to contemplate, to just be present to all that’s around us, free of the myriad of distractions that typically hold our attention. Very helpful.
Okay, this is a very important one for me today, and, well, it is also important for you, and for everyone.
When we spend time inquiring into why we feel the way we do, we gain insight on what’s happening with ourselves, yes, true, and we also gain a better sense of our own humanity, and our shared humanity. Truth.
When we ignore our emotions, regardless of the type, guess what? They just sit under the surface, and sort of fester, if you will.
They don’t just go away, especially those emotions we would associate with “negative” experiences, thoughts, or feelings, such as sadness, worry, or anxiety. Yep.
Spending time writing out how we feel daily, if possible, has been a helpful practice for me. When we do this, we can ask ourselves questions, such as, why did that incident or situation, bother me?
We can then trace it back to where the originally thought, experience, or feeling originated. Takes practice, yet is a super helpful and therapeutic experience. And?
As we work through our emotions, we become lighter. Really. We end up carrying less emotionalness inside of us. And? Yep, we also become more present. True.
Alright, so we’ve covered 4 areas that contribute to our overall well-being, and presence. That was fun.
Here are some closing thoughts to round out our discussion.
Meditate, or create quiet time for ourselves
Watch what we eat, reducing our intake of refined sugars and increasing our intake of whole foods
Get exercise, including contemplation time
Work on our inner-selves and our emotional well-being, well?
We understand ourselves much better. And?
When we understand ourselves better, guess what? We know when we are present, and when we are not; and, when we catch ourselves being distracted, we can let go of that distraction, regardless of what it is, and refocus on the present moment.
After all, it is really only the present moment that we ever have. Yesterday and tomorrow do not exist. Really. And guess what?
The more present you become to yourself, the more present you become to everyone and everything. It works that way; and is presently beautiful that way.