‘Who is your True Self?’ Insights on Possible Selves

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

And so, now I ask us if the visions we have for our selves in this life are based off what is actually possible, or what we believe is possible. I’ve always identified with having multiple selves (not, not normal, right?)

The subconscious brain is fascinating to me, parts of us that are of course us but we aren’t waking aware of. We know the subconscious affects who we are and the decisions we make, at least I believe that is proven as much as it might be able to be proven. And in this same way, I have viewed the selves that I have possessed throughout my life, each subtly influencing one another in ways I didn’t and was not fully capable of realizing.

Gerontology, the scientific studying of optimal Aging and the well-being of Older Adults, prides itself in claiming that humans are multidimensional creatures. We have the ability to experience ourselves differently throughout the lifespan. This resonated immediately with me. My teenage self is one that I wish I could deliver messages back to. I never remember thinking that I could be more than what I was experiencing in that moment. The concept of Possible Selves, one of my favorite concepts we learned of this past semester, demonstrates a link between cognition and motivation. It has added a sense of liberation and understanding to my self-identity.

Cognition (the thinking brain) is what builds our self-knowledge and our self-concept, our understanding of who we are. This guides our behaviors, which affects our emotions and thoughts, our understanding of who we are. In Psychology and other viewpoints in Spirituality, there is an idea of a ‘True Self’, and in some form, I still do have a notion of a True Self, but it is a sliver or it is a mountain. It is irrelevant in some ways, even though it may be a foundation of who we think we are. The mind is the most powerful it seems. It formulates what we do with our bodies, our machines. Its ideas guide our formation of thoughts, our minds shape our lives.

Possible Selves, developed and coined by Markus and Nurius in 1986, depicts selves that we visualize, selves that we dream of becoming, selves we fear becoming. These non-manifested selves formulate our current idea of who we are. The ideas we have for our selves of what we could be effect the choices we make in the present moment, just as the selves we fear could also play a part in guiding our decisions.

This is why I am getting away from believing that I have a True Self. Even though I have been fairly consistent throughout my life, and parts of my personality will probably very well never change, the beliefs I hold of who my ‘True Self’ is might be limiting.

This ‘True Self’ idea may just be another word for a Possible Self. Our True Self can change and evolve and adapt. What we think about our selves (cognition) motivates self-development and self- actualization.

I want to make sure I am building my current self-concept off of what I believe I could be capable of, things I have never done before. I do not want to build my Self off of only what I have been in the past or based out of things I am afraid of. There are parts of myself that I do not want to change, and I can intentionally hold on to those parts.

Possible Selves holds the idea of an ‘Internal Working Model’ within us where there is a repertoire of selves, some we may be keeping far back, waiting for someone to support us, waiting for the right environment, waiting for the right resources. By supporting one another in each other’s dreams, maybe we could help build and foster the fortitude of selves that we believe is possible for each of us. This past semester I deepened my knowledge of how important social connection is to us. How important our relationships our to us, to our mental and physical health. Our relationships and environments can play a role in the creation of these selves. When we can look at someone, especially perhaps someone we love, and understand they have a multitude of selves within, it can offer us compassion and understanding and new ways to better support each other, the selves we each dream of rather than the ones we fear.

Possible Selves posits that the creation of Self does not use time as a partner. Time is irrelevant to the formation of who you are. Self currently considers who you were and considers who you could become. Past, Present, and Future unite as one, like shuffling a deck of cards that have been evenly spread out, uniting them together, knowing they might each stray and fall in cracks. It's up to us to select which self is truly one we want to be, carrying that with us each day and using our experiences to evolve and discern, as we continue to build and carry this web of interrelated selves. Autonomy in self-identification.

The moment we define our selves, we limit our selves.

When we open them up to potentials of possibility- who are we, who could we become?

Let the selves you don't need go. Make room.


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