There are potentially hundreds of versions of ourselves existing simultaneously in this plane of reality. Multiple editions of each of us exist within the minds of everyone we interact with; editions which are formed through their particular and personal lens. This lens is focused through the individual’s past experiences and pre-conceived notions; these factors enable each of us to see the world in a completely different way to the next person.
This, in turn, leads us, as social beings, to seek out our image in the minds of our peers. We find how a person relates to us, and we thus let that guide our interactions with them. Self-awareness enables us to tailor ourselves appropriately in front of different audiences. This manifests in tiny (or large, dependant on which audience) shifts in our mannerisms, accents and language; we can choose to use restricted code (slang, inside jokes) or elaborated code (formal speech) dependant on who we are interacting with. Thus, the presence of multiple selves is natural; we cultivate sub-selves which let us face different personal motivations and goals. Everyone has multiple social selves, as we are faced with different expectations from different audiences and a natural desire to fill those social roles.
The question I wish to pose is although the splintering of the self is natural, is it problematic? Although I recognise that being able to relate to multiple groups and individuals is a necessary part of socialisation, in cultivating social sub-selves, are we degrading our own authenticity, or is it a necessary condition in finding our place in society? Should we not be striving to find a singular authentic self?
I concede that I am privy to containing social sub-selves, and I am privy to wondering what version of myself lives in the mind of my loved ones. I also understand that in many instances, it is necessary to tailor yourself in situations where you need to show respect to a certain individual, or when you are maintaining social boundaries. Yet I simultaneously strive to find a single authentic and unapologetic self.
The ‘self’, being defined as a product of patterns over time, is always changeable, with the ever-competing facets of individuality. Yet I believe that striving for authenticity is all we can do; striving to combine the facets of ourselves to form a conflicting, ever-changing but honest singular self, as opposed to splintering ourselves to fit the mould.
art by Anna Kerr