Surrounded by university students all day long, I’ve been thinking about how they become themselves. What I mean is how do they make choices about life – job, hobbies, family, the whole shooting match. I wonder if we become who we think we are. Whoa. That sounds a bit obscure.
What I mean is that if we have a preconceived notion of our own personality traits, skills, identity, then our choices will be those that we think fit with this notion. If we think we are messy, and we have been told we are messy, then we will be messy.
A recent study by Teresa Menzies and Heather Tatroff at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario would certainly suggest a fit with this notion of identity. Menies and Tatroff surveyed university students to determine why they did or did not take concentrations in Entrepreneurship Studies. Men were significantly more likely than women to take entrepreneurship studies. They found that women who did not take entrepreneurship studies were far more likely then the men to indicate that it did not fit with their personalities.
The implications for educators are pretty astounding. How we conceive of ourselves will determine the choices that we make. If we believe that we can’t do something, then we can’t because we don’t try. And we have all these preconceive notions about what we are and what we aren’t, based on stereotypes of all sorts, things our families tell us (“she’s the shy one…”).
We learn to be a leader, an entrepreneur, we learn to take on any role, just by doing it. If we see ourselves acting as a leader then we are a leader in our own minds.
I’m not very athletic. My whole life I’ve been called a klutz, by family, kids at school, pretty much everyone I know. So I just didn’t bother trying in sports and activities. But a few years ago I decided that it didn’t matter that I was a klutz, I was going to do it anyway. And now, I have an advance purple belt in karate. Will I set the world on fire? No. But I’m way better than I thought I was, and more capable than I ever thought possible. So now, I think of myself as an athletic (albeit klutzy athletic) person. I have become someone else, by deciding to try.