How do you decide which version of yourself to be? Not just at any one time or on a particular occasion, but in general? There are a few reasons why ‘just be yourself’ is often completely useless advice, but for me one of the main things that springs to mind when I’m told that is… okay… but which one?
It’s not that I believe that anybody should be confined to just one side of their personality – people are complicated, they encompass multitudes, etcetera. My issue is that I don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day to cultivate all the ‘selves’ that I would like to be. I read an article headline which I felt summed it up quite neatly: “What You Do Becomes Who You Are”. The actual article was pretty interesting actually, but nothing to do with what I’m talking about here, so that’ll be my last reference to it. Sorry, Psychology Today.
Assuming we agree with the basic premise, that what you spend your time doing is who you are, at least in a sense, then we’re left with only as many waking hours as there are in a day to define ourselves. So, back to my original question, how do you choose which of your selves you’re going to be in that finite time? And what about if some of those selves actively contradict each other?
I’m a writer, that’s a big part of who I am, although until recently I could go days, weeks, sometimes months at a time without writing a thing outside of work. I’m trying to make up for that now, with dedicated time set aside each day for working on blog posts, stories and poetry. But that time has to come from somewhere! I want to get up at six and sit down with a cup of tea and my laptop and just write until I can’t feel my fingers, but that isn’t practical. Not just because I’ve fallen out with early mornings, but also because that 5.30-7.00 in the morning slot has been claimed by another of my selves.
Although I’d love to really lean into my creative side, there’s also a big part of me that’s in love with health and fitness. I want to be in the gym first thing every morning, I want to drink green smoothies and protein shakes, I want to be able to squat my bodyweight! I want shoulders so hench I have to walk through doors sideways! Okay, maybe not. But I do want to be strong, and healthy.
“But Laura!” You might be saying. “You can totally write and also work out! What kind of cop-out is this, claiming that you don’t have time for both?”
I’m getting there. Hush.
There’s the socially and environmentally conscious part of me, who wants to go vegan and zero-waste and join protests and marches for the causes that I believe in. That part of me would love to set aside a good chunk of time to fundraising and volunteering, to trying to make a difference. And let’s not forget Artsy Laura, who would like to be going to museums, galleries and gigs, keeping culturally up to date at the same time.
In amongst all this, I want to keep a beautifully clean and tidy home. Preferably one with minimalist décor, although of course it still has to be cosy! If Instagram and Pinterest have taught me anything, it’s that a house where the dishes and laundry are always done is not only attainable, it is in fact the only type of house in which you can be truly happy. Got to keep up with the bullet journaling at the same time – because how else am I going to keep track of all the things I’m doing or hoping to do? I need lists, and lots of them. Beautifully illustrated lists of aspirational places to go, meals to make, activities to take part in. Luckily, the stationary nerd side of me will be well up for taking the time to mess around with brush pens and fine-liners.
I’m fully aware that this isn’t a new phenomenon. Not having enough time to do all the things you want to do is something I’m sure has been plaguing humans for as long as we’ve been doing things. I’m also conscious that I have more free time than many, and that the freedom and resources to even think about pursuing some of these identities and activities is a privilege not everybody has. Still, I suspect everybody has a version of this problem. Lists of things they want to be doing, things that feel in tune with who they are on some fundamental level, and at least some of those things could be within reach! But not all of them.
And so how do you pick? How do you prioritise when all of your interests speak to different facets of yourself? How do you choose which sides of your personality to express in the time you have available? And does anyone else end up giving in and binge-watching Netflix because the choice fatigue is altogether too much? Or is that just me?
If you have an answer to this, I’d love some insight. Or if you feel as confused about all this as I do, let me know what your competing interests are!