People With This Lifestyle Tend To Lead Happier Lives
Kelly Gonsalves is the sex and relationships editor at mindbodygreen. Her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.
As someone who deeply values sexuality as a beautiful and nourishing part of the human experience, it brings me a daily sense of joy and fulfillment to be able to write and edit stories about leading a healthy sex life for mbg. My role (a sex editor) and my self-identity (a woman who loves sex) are in clear alignment.
Psychological researchers have recently coined a term for this lifestyle: self-role integration. And according to a new study published in the Journal of Psychology, people with a high self-role integration tend to lead happier lives and are even more giving.
A life in alignment.
Self-role integration simply means aspects of your life allow you to behave in a way that's consistent with how you see yourself. Importantly, this doesn’t only refer to how happy we are at our jobs. We occupy many roles in our lives, including those at work, in our relationships, and in our hobbies and pastimes. For example, a person who considers themselves a romantic who’s in the midst of a new whirlwind relationship might have high self-role integration, as might a person who loves serving others who is also a stay-at-home parent with several children. On the other hand, a person who is very creative but who finds themselves at a job with a lot of rules and procedural work might have quite a low self-role integration.
“Someone low in SRI has role identities that call for features that do not define their actual self,” says Warren A. Reich, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the City University of New York, researcher with The Family Center, and lead author of the study, in an interview with mbg. “Theoretically, high SRI should tend to satisfy the need for self-verification, in which the feedback and support from others is congruent with one's self-views.”
In essence, self-role integration refers to how well a certain role you have allows you to enact your self-identity. Think of it as your ability to be authentically you in various parts of your life.
“The actual self can be regarded as a core identity containing the traits that define who one takes oneself to ‘really’ be,” Dr. Reich and his team write in the paper on their findings. “We further assume that the actual self functions as a prototypical standard against which the multiple role-based identities are compared when making judgments about life satisfaction.… Psychological harmony between role-based identities and the actual self has been theoretically postulated to support the phenomenological experience of integrity and continuity over time and has been central to discourses on well-being for several decades.”
Why authenticity leads to a happier life.
Dr. Reich and his team surveyed 223 people about their personality traits, life satisfaction, and prosocial behavior and also asked them to complete a self-description task in which they described themselves in each of 19 different contexts. Those contexts included things like “privately held view of myself,” “as others see me,” “me as a student” or “me in a work role,” “me with my mother,” “me in a group or organization,” “me doing my best,” and “me doing my worst.” The participants selected from a list of over 80 personal qualities for each of these contexts.
The researchers calculated self-role integration by comparing how well a person’s actual self (based on their own self-reported qualities) aligned with their behavior in all the other roles. The findings showed people with more self-role integration tended to have a higher life satisfaction and tended to be more prosocial.
Why does authenticity makes us happier and more generous to those around us? “Denying the truth of who we are only causes us to be passive aggressive to ourselves and other people,” spiritual guide Shaman Durek explains to mbg. “We must as the people of Earth use the inherent gifts inside of us and remain constant in love when dealing with ourselves and others. If you have to change yourself to make another person happy, you will suffer.”
How to create a more integrated life.
Want to increase your self-role integration?
Spend some time thinking about how you show up in various parts of your life: at work, at home, in your hobbies, in your romantic relationships, with your friends and family, anywhere else you spend your time, and by yourself. Does the same person show up in all of these different contexts? If you’re finding there are some places where it’s hard to be your authentic self, consider ways you can shift your role—or even cut off parts of your life that aren’t serving you. That could mean a career change, closing the door on an activity you don’t really connect with anymore, or ending a relationship with a person who doesn’t bring out your true self.
Spiritual plant-based chef Julie Platt encourages self-exploration as part of the process of manifesting more authenticity in your life. “Find a simple meditation practice that will support you in hearing the messages of your soul. It can be as simple as one complete breath. Inhale and exhale,” she tells mbg. “Living a meaningful, authentic life starts with making a commitment to finding out who you really are. We are spiritual beings having a human experience, not human beings having a spiritual experience. Make the commitment to remember who you are, and before long, you'll find yourself living your dreams and blessing everyone around you.”
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