Kimberly Dewing Robbins is a 2012 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara


self-esteem, phenomenology, sense of self, women, body image, self-efficacy, empowerment, gender identity, parenting, values, boundaries, sexuality

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This phenomenological study focuses on how a strong sense of self in women changes social precepts and gender stereotypes empowering women to define themselves instead of being defined by society. A sense of self may be defined as the ability to distinguish one’s own values from those of any outside persuasions, and to do so well enough to be able to protect those ideals from unwanted external influence. Is a sense of self, realized at a young age, an innate feeling or developed over time through adversity and the maturation process? This study will specifically look at what influences can be attributed to gaining a strong sense of self. For women in the twenty-first century, the barrage of multiple directives can mean the difference between success and failure. American culture sends strong messages about who women should be, what women should be, and how they are supposed to look and behave. Eight women between the ages of 55-70 were nominated for having a strong sense of self. Mental health professionals, university professors, and colleagues were contacted with the criteria for the nomination process. These criteria included women whom they considered as having a strong sense of self, emotional stability, and the ability to maintain boundaries. The eight women nominated described their lived experience of having a strong sense of self over the course of approximately eleven hours of audio-recorded interviews. Using a phenomenological analysis a sense of self was interpreted to observe common themes.