Undoubtedly we're all familar with the different versions of our self. Maybe you're generally introverted in social situations, but then morph into an energetic ring leader when you're with your family. Maybe you're a devoted friend, but impatient with your sisters. Maybe you're a softy at home, but a hard nose in the office. Maybe you're patient with your kids most of the time, but turn into a yelling monster if you get less than seven hours of sleep!
The self-awareness my husband's friend showed when describing himself left me wondering how much control we actually have over who and how we are. If each of us has many different versions of our self, which one is the best, and how can we hold on to that person? Are our behaviors situational? Why do certain people provoke certain reactions from us? Is that something we can control? Can many of our negative personality impulses be traced to habits, like not enough sleep or a poor diet? Which version of your self is the real you?
I think most people are comfortable with their inconsistencies. They chalk it up to personality, figuring that it's natural to be professionally cut throat yet domestically angelic. But what occurs to me as I think about the the many versions of my self is that my inconsistencies cause a lot of trouble. Wouldn't it be nice if I showed the same verbal restraint at family get togethers as I do at church! Wouldn't it be nice if I could grace everyone with my best self, instead of it being a hit and miss, circumstantial, day-to-day surprise!
I think it's a cop out to wave off our inconsistencies and say, Well that's just who I am. Live with it! I am a staunch believer in the potential of every person's best self. I was rooting for Darth Vadar. I knew Forrest Gump couldn't be as useless as he first seemed. I felt certain that Buffy would manage to dig deep long enough to kill the vampires! These are silly examples, but their character struggles mirror those of real people. Real people have dark sides, and are born with the misfortune of stupidity, vanity and selfishness. But what these kind of movies, stories, and fairy tales teach is that the better part of us is actually the stronger part, even if it lies dormant.
I'm inspired by the possibility that I can identify and better control the situations and circumstances that provoke my worst self. That eventually the best parts of me will be what other people see and understand as the real me. Even though life will inevitably happen, and we probably won't be able to sustain the version of our self that we like best every minute of every day, we can be consistent in striving toward it. Because it's not who we are all the time, it's who we're trying to be most of the time that matters.