Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Real Me

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The other day I overheard a family friend say to Jeremy, "If you ask someone what I'm like they'll probably say I'm a lot of fun and a pretty good guy. But someone else might say that while I mean well, I'm too outspoken. And the next person might say that I'm a total jerk. But the truth is that I'm all of these things."

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.


  1. I love this thought ... something I've been thinking about lately. The other day -- when my little one was in the midst of a temper tantrum -- I had a realization that her fit was a 5 y/o version of my impatience. What a wake-up call!

    I saw a comment you made on Munchkins & Manuscripts blog -- then saw you were from HR and just had to see your blog. We moved away from there about ... oh! 2 years now (it feels like just yesterday still). LOVED the area!

  2. It's kind of blood chilling when we see ourselves, especially the tantrum version of ourselves, in our kids isn't it!

    That's crazy you used to live here! Small world, small world!


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