Last week I wrote about “The Me I Want to Be” and “The Me I Think I Am” and the disconnect between those two versions of myself. But in discussing my blog post with a friend, he made me realize there is actually a third version of myself I hadn’t addressed. He pointed out that he thought there is a “Me who I Think I Was Supposed to Be” floating around in his head too. A version that might be even more detrimental than the first two because it’s like all one’s self-doubt bundled together. So let’s recap these different versions of the self:
My Imagined Self
Rock star filmmaker and content creator, emotionally and psychologically thriving, more socially outgoing than my high school and college self.
My Perceived Self
Professionally and personally stagnant, emotionally and psychologically struggling to keep even barely stable, socially isolated 75% of the time.
And then I get to the harsher reality version of myself where I wonder if all my yearnings and desires have been misguided:
My Supposed-To-Be Self
College for my “Mrs.” Degree, someone’s emotional punching bag, a job that pays the bills not a fulfilling career, socially-adept family hostess/wife/mother.
I feel like these versions of myself are on a sliding scale. Or perhaps, better yet, a near vertical cliff side. Where “My Imagined Self” is on top of the cliff, “My Perceived” self is a ledge somewhere about halfway up, and “My Supposed-to-be Self” sits at the base. And I’m having to rock climb up this monster with little training. It would be easier to just repel down to the base and say, “I give up!” and accept my life for a mediocre and personally unfulfilling existence.
I am in reality probably a few feet above “My Perceived Self” ledge. I’m exhausted, beaten, and bruised, and the cliff overhang seems miles away. I could just repel back down to the ledge and stay there. But it’s small, barely big enough for me to kneel. How can I expect to spend the rest of my life in this cramped and precarious place? But the journey to the top seems impossible…
I’m not near the base of the cliff anymore. I’m sure it might seem crazy for you to imagine me there, living out that particular life. And it might actually be impossible for me to really repel down the cliff from where I am now and live that life at the base. I feel like I would make it down only to find a post-apocalyptic wasteland without any way back up. But I do spend a lot of time questioning whether or not I ever should have even started on my rock-climbing journey up the cliff side. I wonder if my aspirations were wrong. If my dreams were too big. If I made a mistake.
More than anything, I worry that I’ve made a mistake. This isn’t Groundhog Day. I don’t get do-overs. I worry I’m working myself into a pit that I’ll never be able to come out of. I worry that my belief in my “Special Unicorn” self has caused me to ruin what little happiness in existence I could have had.
The friend that pointed out to me the “Supposed-to-be Self” wonders if he was supposed to a farmer or a logger or some kind of work-with-your-hands-down-in-the-backwoods type of guy. He studied computer science in college and works doing things I don’t even try to understand with software development (or something like that). I can’t imagine him as his “Supposed-to-be Self.” He’s far too smart and creative and passionate about life to do that. That would be settling for him. And I think in the same way, being “My Supposed-to-be Self” would be settling for me. Would it have made our lives easier? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s no way for us to tell. We can’t go back and change the past. We can only keep climbing that cliff towards our “Imagined Selves” no matter how grueling of a process it is.
I just hope we make it there.
I had so many people say they felt the same way after last week’s post which I really wasn’t expecting! But it heartened me to know I’m not alone. It also inspired me to write this blog post on that third tier of the self. So again, I wonder, do you have a “Supposed-to-be Self” that you fear you deserved to be (but maybe don’t want to be) like me? Let me know! This whole “examining yourself” thing is so fascinating to me!