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#140 Know Thyself

Educational Postcard:  "Know Thy Impact" Ken Whytock via Compfight

Socrates (469-399 BC) said “Know Thyself.” In his mind, one could not know anything without knowing one’s self. So I have included self-examination as part of the 360 degree feedback. When you are in the center of the circle you give yourself a positive self-evaluation. The circle will not be complete without it. The young children in our hypothetical family might need some explanation. But once they know what is being asked of them, they are amazingly self-aware. My three and a half-year-old granddaughter Molly said in no uncertain terms and right in front of her parents that she did not care for it when they got mad at her!
Let’s start with our hypothetical child—the whirlwind Samantha. What positive things can she say about herself? Maybe she gets mad and starts to cry, “Zak won’t let me in his room.” We remind her that her comments have to be positive. “Hmmmmm, she says” (Samantha is thinking.) “I like it when Zak reads to me.” “That’s good,” Mom says. “But it needs to be about you.” “I can make people laugh,” she shrieks! It’s so true. Her antics, her energy and her constant motion make people laugh. Okay. We did it! Samantha, who let’s face it, can be a bit of a pain, can really brighten our day! What is even better is that her family agrees.
Wow! She is only three and a half and she has already experienced in words that she can understand what it means to know who you are and how you come across to others. In my book it is the beginning of how we develop self –esteem. It means being known and being loved for who you are. We have landed on another positive benefit of the 360 degree feedback exercise. It provides an opportunity to family members to identify their strength and then have them validated by others whom they know and trust.
A child who grows up hearing primarily positive comments about herself will be immeasurably ahead in the game of life. It doesn’t mean that children never need to have limits on their behavior or that parents should give unrealistically high assessments of their abilities. But it does mean that children can learn of their best traits at a very young age. They can also learn that the way they act toward others does have consequences for good or ill.
So as we go up the ranks of our hypothetical family each will have a chance to say something good about herself or himself. Our sweet-tempered middle child might say that she likes to bake cookies for the family. She will most likely get a positive response. Twelve-year-old Zak might offer that he wants to be a composer. We acknowledge that he is musically gifted and we can cheer him on. (This is not the time to tell him that composers can starve to death without a day job or a rich wife.)
Then we turn to Mom and Dad. Both were likely raised in an era of shame-based parenting so we may guess that low self-esteem will be an issue. They will need some prompting! But we will save those conversations for next week.

#140 Know Thyself

Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellen Toronto is a licensed clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst in the state of Michigan.

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APA Reference
Toronto, E. (2015). #140 Know Thyself. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Mar 2015
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