The Actual and Ideal Self
The actual self is who we currently are – it is defined within the boundaries of what we do and believe in, how we think, feel, look, judge, react, etc. The real self is what others see – or better still, it is what others think they see and it is the basis upon which they judge us. However, we alone know our real self.
The ideal self on the other hand is who we want to be. This image is what we have developed overtime based on our experiences and what we have learnt. It could be what we were taught by our parents, what the society calls normal, what we love about others, etc.
Many times, especially in public, we tend to project our ideal self rather than our real selves and this is because the ideal self is usually a better version of our real self. We want people to often see us as who we aren’t because we want them to have a good perception about us.
Humans are naturally wired to seek connection and as a result, we would do anything within our power to ensure nothing threatens that connection. For instance, a guy would put on his best behavior when trying to woo the woman of his dreams. Why? He wants to give a very good first impression of himself so that he can be considered as good enough for her.
The battle between the actual and ideal self is fostered by shame. Those that defy the odds and refuse to bow to hypocrisy or the demands of the society are shamed as being uncultured and deviant. As a result, the lose their value in the eyes of those within their immediate environment.
For instance, if a person who is know as a drunkard is in need of financial help, whether genuine or not, there is the stereotype not to help such a person because they most likely might use the money given to fund another set of drinks. As such, the person is let alone to themselves.
But take an example of an honest, well respected person whom the society deems as perfect when in need of financial assistance, would most likely receive help as compensation for being a good person. This does not mean that in the real sense, that person is good.
Shaming is an act of devaluation. When you act as supposed, you are valued when not in line with the narrative, you are devalued. In other to avoid such devaluation, we are constantly seeking ways to project our ideal self.
The narrative of “Be Yourself” is thus a very difficult one to maintain as we are all flawed individuals and in a bid to protect our self image, we never want to project our flaws to the world. This is where perfectionism comes into play. If at all we are going to share our work to the world, it has to be flawless.
The way forward is what I refer to as ALIGNMENT. Why not begin to align the actual and ideal self instead of wanting to live a double life? Why not put in the work to be the better version of yourself and stop living in hypocrisy?
If you want to be a better writer, put in the work. If you want to be a honest person, put in the work. If you want to be anything, put in the work to be it rather than trying to be what you are not.
Becoming that better version of yourself is how the actual and ideal self can sync
to be continued…