Who Am I really? Good Self-Assessment Skills are at the Heart of Positive Change

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, Sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
“What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar, sternly. “Explain yourself!”
“I ca’n’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,” said Alice, “because I am not myself, you see.”

—Advice from a Caterpillar, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

Alice nailed it in her conversation with the Caterpillar. We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s true for all of us, and especially so for new college students in the throes of exciting life changes when their lack of experience often runs in direct conflict with firmly—sometimes stubbornly—held desires for personal autonomy. This conflict is exacerbated by the zeitgeist of first year college life where exploring and testing one’s self-concept is the norm.

At Focus Collegiate, one of our goals is helping young people bring their self-assessment capabilities into alignment with the demands of college life. Accurate self-assessment skills are essential to developing relationships and avoiding pitfalls. In other words, a student’s ability to accurately assess their own skills (Real Self) is foundational to growth and positive change (moving toward Ideal Self). What we’ve found is that when a student’s self-assessment capabilities are in line with the academic and social realities they face, they are better able to take advantage of the supports available to them.

Openness to support is key. But as Alice discovered in Wonderland, it is harder to be open to support when you don’t know what you don’t know about yourself. To tackle this uncertainty, we use three tools (a Life Skills Inventory, the 5 CORE Skills Survey, and the Outcome Questionnaire) along with in-depth, direct conversations to help students discover those things they might not have known or acknowledged about themselves. The development of the Student Support Agreement and resulting Learning Agenda grow from this new knowledge. Both the agreement and the agenda evolve as we work with the student to regularly re-assess progress toward the Ideal Self.

In this feedback loop of self-assessment, self-discovery, experimentation, practice and mastery, and support, we help young people bring their Real Self (talents, abilities, gaps, and development areas) into rhythm with their day-to-day challenges.

Based on their progress, we also help students develop a network of good relationships – with us and with their professors, counselors, and college accessibility services. Within the context of resonant and trusting relationships, students are better able to recognize their own abilities and gaps and start to acknowledge that their need for self-determination might just be a barrier to the realization of their Ideal Self.

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash