Strengthening Your Inner Self

Each of us has a desire to understand who we are as individuals and many of us hope to strengthen our inner selves as we age. This article is an analogy I use in my college classes to describe the strength of that inner self, known as ego in personality psychology.

Bubbles, Bouncy Balls, and Baseballs

Three childhood objects can be used to represent our inner selves and outer beings: bubbles, bouncy balls and baseballs. Every area of our life whether that be school, work, exercise, family and friendships are impacted by who we are on the inside and how we represent ourselves on the outside. These three objects are therefore symbolic representations of the self, the ego, the individual engaged in living and attempting to be successful and happy.

Bubbles are free-floating, pushed by outside forces, and quite fragile.

They may bring along a friend in that bubbles tend to float with other bubbles until their mutual demise, though often one lasts just a bit longer than its friend. Bubbles are fun and bring great joy to the young and the old, for who can resist chasing after to pop a bubble in the air? Are you now not smiling while contemplating running after a bubble?

Every now and then there might be a very long-lasting bubble, one that floats much longer than its friends, or one that when poked does not seem to pop but incorporates the object doing the popping. Think about being a kid and slowly pushing your finger into a bubble, sometimes it would pop, other times your finger would get incorporated into the bubble!

When it comes to making new goals or acquiring new skills or trying to change parts of ourselves, most of us likely function as bubbles. We are not sure of ourselves so we let ourselves be moved along by outside forces, we are fragile in this process and can easily be popped. And yet behind one bubble often comes another bubble. Perhaps this is us trying again at our failed attempt, or perhaps it is us trying out something new.

Bubbles are forgotten soon after they pop. While they might leave a wet, soapy mark soon after they pop, that mark is soon washed away with the next rain, leaving no trace behind.

Bouncy Balls are more solid than a bubble but can be deflated easily.

A child's Bouncy Ball can pop but not without great effort and a sharp object. They can be deflated, true, and yet inflated once again with some amount of support and effort. These balls come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and can be bounced, hit, kicked, sat on and yet they retain their shape and bounce.

Bouncy balls can cause some amount of damage to others, for who does not remember getting pegged by one in playground fun as a schoolchild. For in fact, many of us still play "ball tag" with our own kids in the backyard, running around laughing and screaming at the joy of hitting someone and getting hit by a bouncy ball (though not at times without a few tears as well). So bouncy balls may leave a mark, a place, an effect. Bouncy balls may hit one's nose when it bounces back from the sidewalk, they may give a type of skin burn when hit upon a bare leg, may break one of mom's beloved objects, thus the often yelled "Don't play ball in the house!" These bouncy balls may leave their mark, but this mark will fade with some amount of time -- one's nose will stop bleeding eventually, one's skin will heal the "ball rash," mom will replace her beloved object.

Their strength has potential as you can see. Their strength is dependent upon the amount of force applied to them, unlike bubbles which in fact need a much gentler force to even exist. What might cause that stronger force within the life of a bouncy ball? For starters, that bigger kid on the playground, or dad versus mom in the backyard. Or something within that bouncy ball that once started, keeps on going ... for we have each had to at one point chase down that favorite purple ball that seemed to have a life of its own.

Most of us as we age, I believe, function within our lives as bouncy balls. Not easily broken or deflated, yet can be popped like a bubble. We may have a sense of where we are going but we need some outside action to get us there. We may have an impact but that impact may not be long-lasting. We may give up too soon because it all seems to much to handle, we get dizzy with the effort.

Baseballs are different.

Baseballs are hard and fast and a bit scary. Baseballs have an assured purpose to them. They do not float freely nor do they bounce at will. Baseballs hurl through the air with wonderful purpose, the purpose of being struck by a bat to get to fly even further in the opposite direction. If a baseball does its job, it can set records.

Baseballs are not easily made. Baseballs take much longer to manufacture than a bubble or a bouncy ball. Bubbles are just air blown into water and soap. Bouncy balls are some combination of chemical compounds added together to make some form of plastic that is shaped and then blown up, again with air. Baseballs require much more! Many layers are added before the final baseball is ready to play.

Baseballs are solid by nature, they cannot be destroyed without worldly effort. Baseballs unlike bouncy balls which tend to hold their shape and texture and color, can get scarred and discolored with more use and playing time. They do keep their shape and their solid status despite outward signs of marring.

Obviously the impact of a baseball is much greater than that of a bubble or a bouncy ball. They too need some amount of force added to them to get moving. But once moving, they have a decidedly obvious purpose for which they will not be deterred from. In fact, others will be supportive of the direction of a baseball, cheering it on. A bubble just begs to be chased after and popped, a bouncy ball intercepted and kicked out of bounds. A baseball is awe-inspiring. It is driven, focused, unflinching.

Becoming a baseball takes time, years, practice, and certainly much more energy and focus than a bubble or a bouncy ball. While no judgment is being made about the three, bubbles, bouncy balls, and baseballs are different. I liken a fully functioning ego, a healthy personality, with a baseball, it is so solid it does not need to deflect criticism and stress with defensiveness for instance, it seeks out more varied and challenging experiences for it has strength to learn from them. Both bubbles and bouncy balls are fragile, they both pop under pressure, they seek to deflect criticism and stress with defensiveness for ultimately they know their insides are hollow, not yet solid. Becoming a baseball is the model of growth for our human existence. It is the one thing we can strive to become in order to live as happy, healthy, and flexible individuals who serve to support and inspire others.

Play Ball!

So go on your way, work to fill in your bubble or bouncy ball, strive to become a baseball! Batter up!

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