Self and identity | University of Oxford
St Catherine's College, Oxford, UK
St Catherine's College, Oxford, UK
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Self and identity

The following resources may be helpful when thinking about any challenges that you may be facing and what you can do to address these.

The resources listed within this section are not intended to be used as a reading list and are by no means definitive. Some resources may be more helpful than others as different resources suit different individuals. The Counselling Service is not responsible for the content displayed on external links.

Building social confidence

This section includes resources covering social anxiety, shyness and assertiveness.

Useful links and reading

Overcoming Social Anxiety
Gillian Butler:  Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre (1999) 
Booklet available from Counselling Service reception. The essence of the cognitive-behavioural approach to the management of social anxiety and social phobias distilled into a compact booklet.

Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques
Gillian Butler: London: Robinson (1999)
Easy-to-use guide, full of real-life examples, for those who suffer from all degrees of social anxiety and shyness. Explains the many forms and causes of social anxiety. Contains a complete CBT-based self-help program and worksheets. Divided into 3 parts: Part One explains social anxiety; Part Two gives a complete practical guide to overcoming these feelings, changing thinking patterns, reducing self-consciousness and building confidence; Part Three gives ‘optional extras’ such as explaining the legacy of being bullied and how to learn to relax. 

Further reading

The Confidence Gap: From Fear to Freedom
Russ Harris: Robinson (2011)
A highly readable book about building confidence and moving in the direction you feel meets your values. This book is written from an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) perspective.

The Reality Slap: How to Find Fulfilment When Life Hurts
Russ Harris: Robinson (2012)
This book is a supportive read about when life hurts and how to ride with the pain. It builds on one’s own robustness and resilience, and how to make sense of painful events. The theory comes from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done
Oliver Burkeman: Cannongate Books (2011)
Chapter 3 ‘How to win friends and influence people’ is avery useful chapter of a very useful book.

The Mental Health Handbook
Trevor Powell: Speechmark Publishing Ltd (2004)
Section 2 – Assertiveness Training, a highly readable and succinct chapter on the difference between assertive, aggressive and passive ways of being including verbal and non-verbal characteristics. The chapter gives exercises on saying no, listening skills, expressing anger and dealing with criticism.

A Woman in Your Own Right: Assertiveness and You
Anne Dickson: Quartet Books (1982)
Classic text. Assertiveness is defined as the art of clear, honest and direct communication. This builds self-esteem and strengthens the ability to make choices on how to respond in different situations. The book focuses on a person’s rights – the right to be treated with respect; the right to express feelings, opinions and values; the right to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’; and the right not to accept responsibility for other people’s problems.

Assert Yourself: A self-help assertiveness programme for men and women
Gael Lindenfield: Thorsons (1992)
Improve self-esteem and confidence. Identify ‘put-downs’ and unfair criticism, and turn around such situations in a positive manner.

Improving self-esteem

This section includes resources for improving self-esteem. For further information, consult the section 'Building social confidence'. 

Useful links and reading

Building Self Esteem
Helen Jenkins and Melanie Fennell 
Booklet available from Counselling Service reception. A cognitive-behavioural approach to understanding and overcoming low self-esteem, including detailed advice on how self-help strategies can be used to build self-esteem.

Further reading

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques
Melanie Fennell: London: Robinson Publishing (1999)
Cognitive behavioural framework for understanding how low self-esteem is developed and what keeps it going. It also offers practical ways of undermining old, negative beliefs about the self and establishing and strengthening new, more realistic and helpful alternative perspectives. Also available as a three-volume workbook.

The Confidence Gap: From Fear to Freedom
Russ Harris: Robinson (2011)
A highly readable book about building confidence and moving in the direction you feel meets your values. This book is written from an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) perspective.

The Reality Slap: How to Find Fulfilment When Life Hurts
Russ Harris: Robinson (2012)
This book is a supportive read about when life hurts and how to ride with the pain. It builds on one’s own robustness and resilience, and how to make sense of painful events. The theory comes from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

10 Days to Great Self-Esteem
David Burns: Vermillion (2000)
Identify the causes of negative mood changes and develop a more positive outlook on life. How negative feelings like guilt, anger and depression are usually not the direct consequence of adverse life events, but stem from the way that people think about these events. Focuses on the problems of people who doubt themselves, criticise themselves and have a negative view of themselves. Contains many practical exercises.

The Compassionate Mind
Paul Gilbert: Constable & Robinson (2009)
Teaches compassion for the self and for others, and includes lots of valuable exercises to develop self-compassion. The length of the book is off-putting to some, but there is no need to read the first half of the book (about compassion) to benefit from the exercises in the second half.

Living with a disability

For further information, visit the Disability Advisory Service. 

Useful link

Useful reading

Making Dyslexia Work for You: A Self-Help Guide for Dyslexic Students in Higher Education
Vicki Goodwin and Bonita Thompson:  David Fulton (2004)
Information about dyslexia and its effects; Study skills, including strategies for reading and essay-writing, organisation, maths and memory; Information about resources available including technology. The book includes a CD ROM which provides the complete text as pdf files, extends the topics and gives links to Links. It can be used with readback software.

Living with Dyspraxia
Mary Colley: Jessica Kingsley (2006)
Information about dyspraxia, including how it can be identified and practical ideas for coping with the difficulties that dyspraxia may bring. Sections on communication and relationships, practical organization, studying and employment, and case studies of adults with dyspraxia.

Disability: Controversial Debates and Psychosocial Perspectives
Deborah Marks: Routledge (1999)
An analysis of disability as it has been historically and culturally constructed and psychically experienced. This is a very challenging and thought-provoking book (not gentle self-help) which may help some disabled students make sense of their own powerful feelings as well as the feelings they evoke in others.

Sexuality and sexual identity

This section includes information on asexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality and polyamory.  

Useful links

Useful reading

Assertively Gay: How to build gay self-esteem
Terry Sanderson: The Other Way Press (1997)
A sensitive, if challenging, guide to assertiveness for gay men, offering practical advice on how to build self-esteem and repair emotional damage. 

How to Be a Happy Homosexual
Terry Sanderson: The Other Way Press (1999)
One Amazon comment:  “This book has all the information that a starting-out gay man could want, and best of all it is reassuring and positive. It will help build the confidence of gay men who are unsure of their role and don’t know how to make the best of their gay life. It’s also very practical, and I particularly liked the thought-provoking chapter on ethics for the modern gay man. It’s the kind of book every gay man should read.” 

Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development
Richard Isay: Vintage (2009)
This is a radical and liberal view of the development of homosexuality from a leading psychoanalyst who has worked with homosexual men for many years. The crux of this book's argument centres around the suggestion that homosexuality is constitutional in origin and therefore present from early childhood. This book also discusses the stages and crises of a gay man's life. 

The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex
Stephen Goldstone: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group (1999)
Reliable, comprehensive information on a wide spectrum of gay medical concerns, written by an eminent surgeon and recognised authority on gay health issues. With up-to-date facts, interviews, and case studies from the author’s practice, this book goes far beyond HIV concerns, combining a complete education about the safe and pleasurable practices of male-male sexuality with a comprehensive medical volume. 

How to Be a Happy Homosexual
Terry Sanderson: The Other Way Press (1999)
One Amazon comment:  “This book has all the information that a starting-out gay man could want, and best of all it is reassuring and positive. It will help build the confidence of gay men who are unsure of their role and don’t know how to make the best of their gay life. It’s also very practical, and I particularly liked the thought-provoking chapter on ethics for the modern gay man. It’s the kind of book every gay man should read.”

Gender and transgender

Useful links