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Development Autobiography Abiola Stella Oloyede Georgia Southern University Coun 7338: Life Span Counseling 06 April 2014

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY I. Demographic Information I was born on August 20, 1990, at 2:55pm in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. My parents were both

college-educated teachers with a three year-old son by the time I was born. My parents had been married for three years by then. My mother was 29, and my father was 34 years old, still very much so in love as they added me to their small family. My mother received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, her Masters in Education, and had just graduated from Obafemi School of Nursing Program three months before I was born. My father received his Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, and was teaching religion and history at a local high school. They met twice. The first time was through my mothers half-sister; she and my father were very good friends growing up and would always come by my mothers childhood house, but my mother never paid him any attention. The second time was as my mother climbed the stairs of the Education building to finish registering for classes at the University of Ife. My dad scrambled to catch up to her and help her with her new books. My mother was not trying to pay him any attention, but he was persistent. Although my parents met in college, they came from polar-opposite backgrounds. My fathers upbringing was tumultuous. Even though he came from the monogamous household of a well-off photographer and store owner, and was the first born of six children, he did not grow up in an emotionally stable environment. His father died when he was a young teenager, and his mother hated him from his birth because he is dark skinned. Upon the death of his father, my father tried to become the Man of the House, but lacking any favor and love from his mother, he quickly fell to be the Cinderella of his family. His sisters and brothers were treated like the royalty that their last name connoted, and he was left to fend for himself. Everyone in my family says with confidence that marrying my mother was his saving grace, even him. She presented a way out of his emotionally-damaging childhood.

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY To this day, my fathers upbringing has been extremely telling on his personal life and how he has treated the family that he and my mother created. To this day my father thanks my

mother for marrying him, but he is still trying to vie for his mothers affection and approval. And in the process, he has neglected his responsibilities as a husband and father of four. On the other hand, my mother grew up in a wealthy, polygamous household. Her father was the chief advisor to three Yoruba kings, husband to four women, and father of 25 children. My mothers mother was the first wife and bore the children that my grandfather loved the most, namely my mother. So, my mother wanted for nothing. Beautiful, lighter skinned, slender yet curvaceous, curlyhaired, and mild-mannered, my mother lived a very sheltered, loving, privileged, and cultured life. There is so much to my racial and ethnic identity that no one can truly understand just by looking at my face and/or my full name.Having immigrated to the United States with my mother when I was only a year and a month old, I consider myself to be an Americanized Nigerian. Berry (1997) suggests two questions to be asked to an immigrant living in a country different from her birth country, Is it considered to be of value to maintain ones cultural heritage? Is it considered of value to develop relationships with the larger society? (p. 9). He further stated that those two questions can be used as a means to understand how immigrants cope with acculturation. If the individual in question can answer positively to both questions, then it can be said that the immigrant is experiencing integration. Upon personal reflection on both questions, I was able to answer positively to both. I have lived in the United States and nowhere else for 22 of my 23 years alive, and have developed a very unique understanding of my personal cultural identity. I am fully entrenched in the American culture and society. However, there is no denying that I am still wholly Nigerian.

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY Legally, I am a non-citizen, permanent resident of the United States of America. Still, I am culturally both a Black-American and a Yoruba-Nigerian. Ethnically, I am Yoruba. Therefore, though my racial identityis Black, I am not Black-American. It used to be taxing trying to explain to people how I choose to identify myself as, but not anymore. My cultural and ethnic

developments have begun to intertwine with my understanding of who I am holistically, and they are now fluid within their commonalities and individuality. At the time my mother and I came to America, my brother was four. Fast-forward six years later and my brother celebrated his ninth birthday with us in Georgia. My brother and father had joined us in August 1996.In January 1999, we added my first little sister to our family. Just when everyone (but I) thought my family was done growing, my youngest sister completed our family at the end of 2002. My mom calls us her two-generation kids, because my brother and I are three years apart and my sisters are three years apart, but there is an eight-year gap between me and my sister right after me. My brother, Jide, is currently 26; I am 23; Joy is 15; and Dupe is 11. We are truly a middle class family of six people. My mother is the breadwinner, and my brother and I help with extracurricular and miscellaneous expenses for our sisters. My father has not made any income to provide for my family since I was 12. Though my parents are still married, he is now in Nigeria trying to operate his own business. He has been there for almost four years, but we have never seen any of the profit garnered from that endeavor.

II. Physical Development I was born weighing seven pounds, eleven ounces at 50.3 centimeters. I was a very healthy and normal newborn, and am told that my infantile months were smooth. Nevertheless, I was advanced for my age: I sat up and crawled at four months; stood a week after crawling; and

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY walked at seven months. My mother told me that I had good balance and rarely wobbled while trying to stand and walk, and potty-trained myself at eighteen months. I could write my whole name when I was two, and was legibly drawing shapes and numbers by three years old. As a toddler I was average weight and height as those in my age range. I began to gain weight when my brother and father came to the States.My body began to change before I hit puberty; my hips started expanding, my "baby fat" started shedding, and my breasts began to

bud. My first menstrual cycle came when I was 11, and by the time I was 13, it was apparent that I had gone through puberty. My voice became softer, my face was in a perpetual acne plague, and my body was still trying to adjust and become more proportionate. I was 13 years old, 5'1'', with a 42-inch hip span and a 34-inch waistline. That provoked many of my (jealous) peers to taunt me about being promiscuous or a "quiet, freaky geek". All of their jokes left me feeling insecure about my body, and though I was one of the top students in my class, I felt inferior to most of my peers. I stopped growing in the ninth grade, but I kept getting wider in my hips. So, my body looked like a freshman in college, but my face still showed that I was very young. That seems to have followed me throughout my life. My face seems to age a bit slower than my body. I've had people look at my body and say that I am one age, and then stare into my face and tell me that I am three to five years younger than that. One thing that I have come to understand through aging is that perception is not reality; it is bias. As I have been involved in many conflicts based on misperceptions, I have learned that people gauge how they can (mis)treat others based on their age, sex, sexual orientation, race, and any other bias that they perceive to be inferior or intimidating to them.

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY III. Cognitive and Language Development Language has always been important to me. My mother was always taking me to the

library to read to me. I was homeschooled from two until four years old, and she would teach me math and reading. Before she knew it, I was reading the library books to her. When I was in the first grade, we had to write about our weekend, and I used the word compensate in my work. My teacher said, Stella, Im so impressed! Where did you learn this word from and how did you know how to spell it? My response to her was meek, but matter-of-fact, my mommy said it to me, and I sounded it out. Since then, I proudly tell everyone that I owe my love for words to my mother. Coming from a British-Nigerian household, proper, Queens English was always spoken around me. I know that hearing two languages spoken around me gave me a cognitive advantage over my mono-lingual peers as a child. However, my mother stopped speaking to me in Yoruba when I started kindergarten, and I lost my ability to speak in my familys native tongue. I can still understand the language when I hear and comprehend it when I read it, but it is not the same. Growing up I transitioned through different cognitive development theories as I established my cognitively abilities. They are all fluid within my cognitive development, but manifest themselves in different ways. I was a quiet and shy baby, but I began Piagets Preoperational stage rather early; I said my first word at six months. I was speaking in full sentences in both Yoruba and English at sixteen months, and I was reading Dr. Seuss books by myself by three years old. In kindergarten, I received a literacy award that was signed by President Bill Clinton, for having the highest literacy rate in the entire grade level. The first time I was tested for a Gifted and Exceptional program was in the first grade. This is also when I began writing short stories and chapter books. I was reading at a tenth grade level in the second grade, and my cognitive growth has developed from there.

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY When I was in the third grade my family moved from the diversity of White Suburbia to the different shades of the sameness that is the Black community of the Southwest DeKalb County area. I was scared, but happy; I thought I would finally be surrounded by more people who looked like me. However, I was terribly wrong. Everything about me was just wrong to

these mean third graders at Fairington Elementary School. Of many perils that I endured the rest of that school year, being bullied because I spoke proper English was the most painful. Still, I excelled. I scored very high on the ITBS, was in the math, reading, and science bowl, and was at the top of my class. Right when I could not imagine going back to there for two more years of school, my mother received a letter from the then governor of Georgia, Zell Miller. The letter informed my mother that I was being placed in a theme/magnet school for the fourth grade, and then my life changed. The school that the governor placed me in was, at the time, the most coveted school in the city. Parents would camp outside the school during registration in hopes of being able to get their child into the school. Scandals about parents bribing the Board of Education to win the schools entrance lottery were always on the news or in the newspapers, but I was chosen. To this day, it irritates my best friends mother to hear that story, because the same year I was place, she waited for six hours to be told that her daughter was rejected. Had I not gone to E.L. Bouie Theme School, I believe my educational life would be extremely different. It was there that I realized I was not being challenged in any of my other elementary schools. I was challenged by my teachers and even more by my similarly highachieving classmates. I was eligible to test into the gifted program, called Discovery, in the fourth grade. I failed it the first time, and it shocked everyone involved, including me. The programs teacher, Ms. Harben, was so amazed that I did not pass it that she made me take it


again because she knew I was smart enough to be in the program. Again, I failed and that was the first time I truly started questioning my intelligence, and started thinking that I was stupid.Clearly, I was still in Piagets Concrete Operation stage (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010, pg. 178-179). Nevertheless, Ms. Harben still allowed me to participate in the program and taught me how to pass the test, putting Vygotskys Zone of Proximal Development into action (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010, pg. 102-105). Finally, I passed on the third attempt and began the active pursuits toward academic excellence. Now I am definitely in the Formal Operations stage, having accomplished many things creatively, academically, and emotionally.

IV. Social/Personality Development As I stated before, I was a shy and quiet baby and toddler, and that is still a very natural aspect of my personality, but I have developed my social competency from what I have learned about myself and my life through the people I interact with. Sometime while I was in high school, I dubbed myself an extroverted introvert. I love keeping to myself, being introspective, and I look to myself to provide entertainment and energy. However, I know how to keep a crowds attention, make people laugh, lead people, and be social. The thing is this: going out of my way to talk to others is not the most organic part of who I am; I have never liked greeting people or approaching people first in conversation. I used to cling to my mother when I was younger, and I still have a tendency to stick with whoever I came to an event with. I have come to realize that this is usually when I am somewhere I do not willingly want to be, surrounded by multiple people I do not know. Conversely, I can go to concerts by myself; be locked in my room for an extended period of time without speaking to anyone; go out for a night on the town by myself, etc. with ease. I am rarely bothered about not having much company, but that is because


whenever I am around people, I am usually the one who is looked at to outpour energyand that is exhausting. That is how I interact with my world, but I do not think that is fully my personality. I have found that I am the most comfortable and naturally myself around my family and a handful of friends. When I am with my family, I am very expressive, rational, sarcastic, and cohesive. When I am with my friends I am the same way, but a little more blunt and comical. When I am with people who I do not know well enough, I am quiet, funny, and conscious of what I say. Within every realm of my personality and interaction with others lies my ability to control the energy of other people. My personality seems to be able to affect other peoples moods more than it should, in my opinion. Being my mothers daughter and living with only her maternal influence for the first six years of my life has shaped me to be generous, compassionate, bold, wise, and selfless. Our relationship is strong and intimate because of how much she nurtured me as an infant and young toddler. I developed trust as an infant because my mother facilitated safety within me. Even concerning situations I was unaware of the decisions impact at the time, my mother never left me out of consideration. For instance, my mother felt she had everything she ever wanted out of life by the time she had me: a promising career, a husband, a three year-old son, a newborn daughter, and a decent extended family. Moving to the United States was nowhere on her radar. So when her oldest sister asked my mother to come live with her and her four young children in Georgia, my mother initially declined. She had just given birth to me three months prior and had no intention of leaving her newborn in another country, let alone in another continent. So after much fighting, praying, and begging from my mothers sister, my mother backed her into a corner with one life-changing statement, I am not leaving without Biola.

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY Had she not said that, I know that my life would have been undoubtedly different. I believe her encouragement is one of the reasons why I was as cognitively advanced at such a


young age. She never stopped me from speaking up in front of older people; she always allowed me to be my full self as a toddler; and when no one else was there, my mother was always my loudest cheerleader, biggest supporter, and softest comforter. This helped me resolve into an autonomous person who had no issue showing initiative at school or at home. I was introduced to my father at a very integral phase of my development for Eriksons psychosocial stages. I met my father a week before I turned six years old, and I was very excited. The day I met him, he slapped me for calling my parents guys. That is how I was introduced to my father, and that is when I began developing an inferior complex with those around me. He would call me fat whenever he could, even though I did not start becoming heavier until he came. If I got a math problem wrong while doing my homework, he would call me stupid or punish me. He belittled me for being seven and not knowing the difference between my left and right shoes, and he constantly criticized my mother in front of me over the fact that I did not speak or understand Yoruba anymore. He was never very slow to anger; always finding something miniscule to be upset about. He was not a good teacher, and always resorted to beating me and my brother whenever we did something he did not like, even if we did not know it was wrong. My father is the reason why a shy, quiet, but fun-loving girl now has a short temper, low tolerance for people who , little patience for ignorant people, abandonment issues, and the inability to fully trust romantic relationships. Till this day, although I have accomplished many things in my life, I still grapple with feelings of inferiority and self-doubt.



As a teenager, my understanding of my identity began when I was thirteen being bullied by my best friends. It was also at the peak of my fathers emotional abuse toward me, so I began to socially retreat and writing dark poetry. I pondered how remorseful they would feel if I were to have died, and then death began to introduce itself to me. My grandmother died and then four months later, my godfather died. The balance between life and death brought a different perspective to my situation, and I started struggling for my voice to be heard, fighting for selfconfidence, and battling with those who tried to emotionally oppress me. I feel as though I won, because I came out of that dark time with an emotional dexterity that has helped me greatly from then on. I know how to control my actions, no matter what my emotions are. My confidence exudes from me in all aspects of my life, even when I experience self-doubt. People tell me how much they admire me and my personality, and the same people who hurt me told me they were always jealous of me. I do not take pride in anything more than my desire to persevere and the fact that I did just that. Now, I am in Eriksons intimacy vs. isolation stage. I know what love is because of my spiritual relationship with God and my physical relationships with my family, friends, and those whom I mentor. I understand that love is complex and does not always make sense to the prideful. My relationship with God has given me the deepest understanding about unconditional love and intimacy that I will never be able to exhaust the topic. I have had my heart swell with love, or maybe just infatuation, and I have had it shattered to pieces. I know what heartache is, but I have not let that discourage me for what God holds for my future relationships. Though I have never been in a serious, in-person relationship long-distance relationships with insecure boys is all I know love still makes so much sense to me. I give love without reservation to those around me and those in need, and I receive love from those who are genuine. I have a very



discerning spirit concerning who I should give my heart to or not, and that is a major reason why I have not been in a committed relationship in two years. I have standards, I know what I deserve, and I will not settle.

V. Moral/Ethic Development My traditional Nigerian upbringing has greatly shaped my life and my view of this world and the next. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother teaching me many things and telling me stories about my tribes traditional religion. The Nigerian culture is deeply rooted in the spiritual realm, especially in the Yoruba tribe. You are to respect your elders; men are to be served; women are to be submissive; you worship God or whatever traditional gods you believe in; and you do not negatively interfere with the Spiritual Realm. She brought religion and the need for an intimate relationship with God into my life; I have been a Christian my entire life. I learned the difference between societys view of what is right and wrong from going to church. We had a routine in our house: church every Sunday; Bible Study every Wednesday and Friday; prayer meetings and night vigils every Saturday; and morning devotionals every weekend, and in the summer it was every day. Even with such a religious background and spiritual culture, I have made finding and understanding my spirituality and morality a personal task. I believe that God is real and that He is Ever-Present and active in all aspects of my life. I believe that He is the Creator of all things, including good and evil, and is the Master of the universe. I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Therefore, I believe that the Bible is Divinely-inspired by God and is the true and living Word of Him. I believe that there is life after death, Heaven and Hell, and we each will end up in one or the other spiritual place. I believe that everyone has been put on this earth to fulfill a

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY Divine purpose, and have been given a multitude of unique spiritual gifts by God, our Creator. However, in order for one to fulfill her purpose, she must position herself to where she can


search and find it by utilizing her spiritual gifts. I believe that the answer to every moral decision is rooted in love. If love is not the root of the action, behavior, and intention, it is wrong. I am aware that this may dichotomize what is considered moral, but morality has never been loosely interpreted. Piagets Moral Stages and Kohlbergs Stages of Moral Development roughly outline my moral development (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010, pg. 225). When I was a child, I was petrified of getting in trouble at school or at home because I knew that my father would be ready to punish me. I lived in that fear for so long, I would shame myself out of doing certain things, and if I did it anyway, I would find any means to justify my actions. When I reevaluated my moral development I realized that I did not progress through every stage in order. By Piagets standards my fear of punishment fits into his heteronomous period, which coincides with Kohlbergs first stage. This stage in my life is very vivid in my memory because it still affects my decisionmaking as an adult. However, I cannot recall truly grasping the concept of Kohlbgers second stage (and Piagets third) until my late teenage years. While I did tried to cultivate good interpersonal relationships in middle and high school, being bullied thwarted a lot of my moral development. I was more concerned with hating my father and my bullies, and ruminating over why everything seemed to be wrong with me, that I in-turn began picking on others and did not care about many people. So, I did not actualize stages four and five until my collegiate years. Now, in my early twenties, I have arrived at the sixth stage and look at life and ethics from a social activist lens.



In retrospect, I went through Gilligans Stages of Ethic of Care (1977) rather organically (pg. 481-517). My ethical development began as a fear tactic toward my father. I was on level one of Gilligans stages in my childhood. My solitary thought was survival whenever I was in trouble with him, so I would lie to him to avoid his anger and punishment. I lied to invalidate the bruises or welts. I lied because I had developed a maladaptive sense of what to good and bad was from my father. As I grew older, I made the first transition in Gilligans theory when I realized my two benefits from lying: no one questioned my lies as much as they did my truths, and lying allowed me to evade many negative consequences. If my lie got someone else in trouble, so be it as long as it was not me. It was not until I truly began pressing into my relationship with God that I evolved to Gilligans second stage, and knew that lying was an outdated and unethical coping mechanism. This started to be revealed to me by people confronting me on lies I told and how they did not make chronological sense or have any type of logic. This was not often, but it would still be embarrassing. I entered Gilligans second transition and started noticing how detrimental people doubting my credibility were becoming to some my social interactions. I used to pride my great ability to lie on my creative writing skills, and my friends would ask me to help them come up with great lies. But after a while, it just became annoying and I would self-shame whenever I lied, because many of my lies were unnecessary. As I grow and enter into adulthood and Gilligans third stage, I am teaching myself that silence is safer than lying just to speak. Now, I endeavor to speak only when it edifies God and the present situation. I look to ensure that my words and actions are genuine, uplifting, and advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. As I enter the counseling field, my desire is to become altruistic in my daily actions and interactions, focusing on the greater good of my life, my clients, and the world around me.



When I was younger, I used to believe that morality and ethics were synonymous and that what was moral was ethical and vice versa. As an adult, I now understand that it not (always) true. I still believe that morality is rooted in love, but now I stand by the fact that ethics is rooted in what is just. Every moral situation presents the question of what is right or wrong, whereas every moral situation presents the question of what is impartial and what is inequitable. Every ethical dilemma, in my opinion, boils down to the decision of how to liberate or villainize the oppressed. Everything in life is situational, but when ethics is involved there should be a universal covering on how to protect those who are being treated unethically.

VI. Summary My upbringing has molded me into a very unique individual, of whom I am proud to be. I owe much of my cognitive development to my mothers encouragement and teachings. Had she not started reading to me and nurturing me from a very young age, my love for words, books, and knowledge would probably not exist. I am my mothers carbon copy down to our physical build. I have been told this my entire life, and because of the way she has always loved me, I have always accepted that compliment with pride. My personality has been molded by the emotional and verbal abuse I endured from my father and friends. By having to experience and overcome their abuse, I was able to cultivate a stronger, more authentic self-concept and appreciation of who I am. My understanding of morality and ethics has their foundation in how they both treated me while raising me. I learned how to love from my mother, and what injustice is from my father. Being Nigerian has shaped who I am in such a tremendous way. It has affected the way I interact and understand my world. My values and certain societal expectations stem from what my cultures traditions teach. Even my perception of life and social interactions is affected by my

DEVELOPMENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY Nigerian culture. My personality resists meeting and greeting older or new people, but my culture demands the respect of such people with the acknowledgment of their presence. The


spiritual relationship with God is rooted in my cultures emphasis on spiritual understanding and my mothers spiritual guidance. Since I am not a citizen, I even have a legal connection to my country of birth. Knowing that one statement changed the course of my life, but never broke my link to my mothers land speaks volumes to my overall development. I left Nigeria, but Nigeria never left me. In fact, She came with me in my hips, my zeal for education, my parents, my value system, and my love for God.



Berry, J (1997). Immigration acculturation and adaptation. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 46, 5-68. Broderick, P.C. & Blewitt, P (2010). The Life Span: Human development for helping professionals. New Jersey: Pearson. Gilligan, C (1977). In a different voice: Womens conceptions of self and of morality. Harvard Educational Review, 47, 481-517.