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Importance of Self-Reflection in Social Work

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 3445 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Human psychological development involves personality, cognition, emotion, and self-concept. Here you will find a complete evaluation of my childhood to adult life through the many theories, perspective theorists, and associated behaviors needed for assessment. Every child is different and develops differently with individual strengths and weaknesses; however, some principles and processes apply to the psychological development of all people. In order to assess human behavior, you must first understand human development. To accurately be able to develop a biological, psychological, and social assessment is a crucial step in social work. In order to develop a sense of self-awareness, one must first take a look at self in all aspects.

A Self-Reflection Evaluation

Family Examination

­­­At an early age, approximately around the age of 11 while in the 4th grade, was when I can recall becoming aware of the differences between my family and the families of my immediate peers. It is stated that at this age, children become more and more aware of the world and themselves (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012). Before this time, I hadn’t noticed any differences between myself and my peers only because my parents continuously stressed that every person is the same. I can recall at a young age asking my mother why I was so dark and some people were so light. She simply told me that everybody’s skin tones are a different color but, we should love everybody the same. According to Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman (2012), “Adolescents raised in different cultural environments with different experiences and treatment view their developing life, gender roles, and sexuality in very diverse ways.” (p.130). In my earlier years of life, my family moved around frequently because my father was an U.S. army soldier who would get stationed in different states coining me the term of becoming a “military brat”. Before attending middle school, I’d traveled and lived in approximately 4 different states and I mainly attended preparatory schools where the students were predominately Caucasian.

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Around the given age, I can recall being invited to a small sleepover which consisted of 4 others female student’s other than myself. This sleepover would have been my first interaction with other students my age outside of a school setting as my parents were very cautious of me and my interactions within my peer relationship, looking back it almost seems as though my peers were picked for me. During this sleepover, I quickly learned that my friends present lacked the independence that I possessed when it came to self-sufficiency when caring for myself. I was able to iron my own clothing, prepare a meal, prepare myself for bed without any assistance and being told to do so or being told how to apply a proper grooming and hygienic routine. I also learned that the others did not have the same spiritual beliefs as my family and myself. I can vastly recall how my mother ensured that I incorporated a hygienic routine along with preparing my clothing for the day because it was her understanding that as a young lady I was responsible for the upkeep of myself for the day so that I can look presentable.

As the only African American female amongst my friends, it was very clear that our walks of life were significantly different in many ways, including spirituality and religion. “Spirituality is often discussed in relation to the sacred, which is the pursuit of a divine or supernatural power” (Kobza & Salter, 2016, p. 72). “Religion refers to a set of beliefs and practices of an organized religious institution” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012, p.350). During the sleepover, I can recall kneeling down beside the bed before going to sleep and waking up in the morning to say a prayer to God and to also thank him for sparing my life. On both instances as I was doing so, neither one of my friends joined me and they were also curious as to what I was doing. At such a young age, I did not fully understand my actions of praying to God and thanking him for the many blessings that he bestowed upon me, however, I was aware that it was something my parents expected of me to incorporate in my daily routine. In my family and in my home as an adolescent, I can recall waking up bright and early every Sunday morning to ensure that we arrived at church in time to attend Sunday school before church service. I now know that my parents, my grandparents and other family members believed that both God and Christianity were their guideline through life. “Spiritual beliefs can provide people with hope, support, and guidance as they progress through life” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012, p.132). My family was very religious and my parents instilled in me at a very young age about the importance of praising God, giving him the honor and glory. “Spirituality has been a survival mechanism that has contributed to the resiliency of African Americans in coping with the psychological pain of racism, discrimination, and oppression” (Edwards & Wilkerson, (2018).

 It was very confusing to me at the time to be in someone else’s home who did not partake in the same activities and especially confusing that some of my peers were unaware of prayer. I can say that I have not transitioned away from my spirituality as I am now an adult and can make decisions for myself but they have broadened. My values have certainly changed and have changed for the better if I must analyze myself. I still view myself as a Christian; however not a conditional Christian as my parents once taught me to be. When growing up, my values’ highest point would have been God. Now I would place the highest value on fairness and honesty.

As a social worker, understanding and appreciating diversity is an essential portion of your position. “Understanding that people have different worldviews involves looking beyond the narrow boundaries of our daily existence…it means developing an openness and awareness of life in other neighborhoods, counties, states, and countries (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2012, p.131). According to the (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 2017), “Social workers should have a knowledge base of their clients’ cultures and be able to demonstrate competence in the provision of services that are sensitive to clients’ cultures and to differences among people and cultural groups; Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical ability.” It is my belief that an exceptional worker should not only gain the needed knowledge of different cultures to be more cognizant but to also have a sense of self and your own values and beliefs. This is so that one will know and understand their triggers and what they can or cannot handle regarding their clients for all ethical purposes.

In the African American culture, females are required to be strong and independent beginning at an early age, therefor, while my 9 to 11-year-old peers were being dressed and groomed by their parents so their focus could be on baby dolls and any other toys, I was taught to focus on my education, cleaning the home, how to care for my younger siblings all the while maintaining the upkeep of myself. Between the ages of 9 to ll years old, children will experience both physical and mental growth while becoming more independent. My father spent most of my childhood being absent from the home as he was being deployed to different parts of the world while my mother worked as a full-time dental hygienist and attended evening classes for her education. This meant that I was a “latch-key” kid and I was to care for my siblings in my mother’s absence during the evenings. According to Rajalakshmi & Thanasekaran (2015), “Latchkey kids are kids between the ages of 5 and 13 who take care of themselves with no adult supervision before and after school on a regular basis.” It was in my duties to prepare breakfast and lunches for me and my siblings, make sure that I had my siblings dressed and groomed for school and lastly awaiting the arrival of the bus that would take us to school because my mother had to leave home early mornings daily. During the evenings, after school I would prepare dinner for me and my siblings and ensure that they completed their homework until my mother arrived home from school receiving an education. All of my habits and routines were a learned behavior strictly derived from my mother.

Lev Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development proposes that cognitive development proceeds through three main elements: culture, language and social interaction. As opposed by Vygotsky through theory of cognitive development, children’s thinking does not develop in a vacuum, but is influenced by the sociocultural context in which children grow up (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2013, p.16 and Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2012, p. 141). This theory simply proposes that we are a product of our environment and children’s behaviors are directly learned through observation and directives through their immediate caregivers. This process is known as socialization. According to Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman (2012), “Socialization is the process whereby children acquire knowledge about the language, values, etiquette, rules, behaviors, social expectations and all the subtle, complex bits of information necessary to get along and thrive in a particular society. Socialization occurs mostly in childhood but is expected to span throughout one’s life.

Developmental history

Personality theorist Sigmund Freud believed that people develop their personality in 5 succeeding stages. Those stages are oral, anal, phallic, latency and the genital stage. The oral stage spans over the course of an infant’s birth until he or she reaches about 18 months old, and the anal stage extends from 18 months old up to 3 years of age. I cannot remember much about my life before the age of 5 during what Freud theorized as the phallic stage, however, I am told by my parents that I have always developed rather quickly in comparison to others in my age groups. For example, I was told that by the time I reached 10 months old I had begun standing and by the time I reached 12 months old I was already walking on my own. Typically, a 1-year old should only be crawling or standing with support to walk and it is normally not until a child reaches 18 months old that he/she is able to walk without any assistance (Zastrow & Kirst Ashman, 2012, p.80). At 5 years old during my phallic stage, I can recall being very shy and quiet. I loved flipping through my personal book-shelf filled with an array of books and singing songs that I had learned through my many days spent going to church on Sunday mornings. It was at this time and stage in my life where I was most attached to my father, giving me the title of “daddy’s girl”. As mentioned earlier, it was at the age of 11 years old when I realized how my family and culture differed from my immediate peers. According to Zastrow & Kirst Ashman (2012), “Children become more and more aware of themselves and the world around them between the ages of 9 and 11 years and they become more independent.” Currently I am experiencing what Freud theorized as the genital stage.

Current Stage of Development

Freud proposed that the genital stage takes place between the ages where a person reaches puberty and death (Zastrow & Kirst Ashman, 2012, p.117). Freud also theorized that it was during this stage where a person will be fully able to experience love, be able to work and experience traumatic events and/or internal conflicts (Zastrow & Kirst Ashman, 2012, p.118). I find this theory to be true as I am engaged to be married in the Summer of 2020 and sadly have also experienced my fair share of troubling events resulting in an anxiety and depression diagnosis.

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I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in a time of my life where I was unemployed, feeling unloved and attempting to find my permanent position in the world. Abraham Maslow proposed that humans have the potential for personal development and to strive for self-actualization. Maslow concluded that certain needs have to be met in order to reach the next level of needs, those levels are as follows: Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and love, self-esteem and lastly self-actualization (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012). During my period of life which was in despair, my safety nor my needs of belongingness were being met leaving my once homeostatic life to be in shambles. At this point, my eating habits began to change and I found myself overeating and quickly gaining weight. “Compulsive overeating is the irresistible urge to consume excessive amounts of food for no nutritional reason,” (Zastrow & Kirst Ashman, 2012). Not only was I overeating, I began to isolate myself from friends and family members. I did not want to attend functions in shame of the weight I had gained from my overeating habits thus leading a deeper spiral into the land of anxiety and depression.

Instead of seeking professional help for the distress that I had been feeling, I would attempt to cope through reading or simply ignoring my feelings, however, those two coping mechanisms were not working because I soon found myself hospitalized and forced to accept my need for professional intervention after nearly a year of attempting to cope with my anxiety alone. Coping in this way can place African American women at risk for psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression, which may intensify when coupled with negative attitudes toward seeking professional psychological services (Watson & Hunter, 2015).

Another developmental theorist, Erik Erikson, who shared some similarities as Freud also developed several stages of development. Erikson developed an eight-stage psychosocial development theory explains life-long growth and change, concentrating on social interaction and disputes that occur in various phases of development. Of Erikson’s’ eight stages I am currently in his proposed generativity versus stagnation stage. During this stage of life, people are concerned about the world around them rather than themselves in an attempt to preserve the future (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012).

Self-Awareness and Social Work Practice

 Entering into college at the age of 18, was when I became more self-aware of myself and what I wanted to accomplish out of life. Personality theorists, Carl Rogers theorized that “self-concept is a persons’ perception of and feelings about him- or herself, including his or her own personality, strengths weaknesses, and relationships with others” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012). It was at this age that I knew I wanted to become an advocate for others, others who did not have a voice for themselves.

 It wasn’t long before my two-parent home dwindled into a one parent home once I became a freshman in high school. My parents decided to divorce after many years of subjecting me and my siblings to domestic violence and verbal abuse in the home between the two. There were many nights where I attempted to hide my younger siblings from the harsh reality of the verbal and physical abuse displayed by our parents. I didn’t know it at that time, but my experiences would soon light an inspirational flame for me to become an advocate for children growing up in situations as my siblings and myself.

 Becoming a social worker is very important to me. The one thing I have always known I would like to do with my life is help people, especially those who do not have a voice or are too afraid to use theirs for many understandable reasons. Helping people overcome obstacles, difficulties and making the most of themselves is a very rewarding career to me. With social work, I believe I can do this in a caring and supportive way. My main motivation for wanting to become a social worker stems from my experiences in life as a child as mentioned earlier and also my father. My father was forced to retire from the United States ­Army National Guard due to health issues and was left with next to nothing. Even though he was indeed a veteran, the things that I witnessed him go through to get the accurate help and benefits that he needed were infuriating, stressful and time consuming. After witnessing many domestic altercation altercations between my parents and witnessing my father battle daily to receive the help that he needed to just survive fueled my aspirations. These personal experiences instilled in me further the desire to become a social worker.




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