Ideal vs. Ought Self


Week 6 explores the difference between the Ideal Self and the Ought Self. The Ideal Self is our vision, our image of ourselves in the future and is shaped by our core identity, desired legacy, dreams, and aspirations. It is a deeply personal image we draw of ourselves and we keep in a safe place within our hearts. This is the person we envision and the person we see when we close our eyes. The Ideal Self is the person we unconsciously talk to when we dream out loud and share our deepest passion and desires for ourselves. We trust our Ideal Self and we do not feel threatened or intimated by it.

The Ought Self, on the other hand, is the green eyed monster of our Ideal Self. It is who others want us to be or to achieve and often pushes us to towards Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA). For example, when the media promotes celebrity moms back in their pre-baby sizes weeks postpartum, our ought self is being chided for our inability to lose weight months after birth. Or when Mrs. Smith’s son got into an Ivy League, our ought self suddenly feels small and inadequate for getting into a smaller, lesser known institution. Or how about the time Jim landed a big account, and our ought self is fuming for being by-passed yet again?

I recently raged a battle with my Ought Self, when I almost succumbed to its impossible demands and ideals. I felt worn down, beaten and down right worthless. Somewhere between talking to people I love and trust, and prayer and reflection, I had a moment of reckoning. This moment allowed me the courage to tell my Ought Self to leave me alone. When I fought off my Ought Self, I regained a clearer focus of my personal vision and my Ideal Self became sharpened and I felt renewed. Once again, I was in the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), a space where my mind became more open to new ideas, learning and change and resulted in a very important decision about my career and future.

Looking back, I am deeply grateful for the experience of seeing who I want to be and the person others want me to be (or who I thought other people want me to become). I realize that living the life of the Ought Self is physically and emotionally exhausting. I choose to live the life of my Ideal Self and work towards my vision of who I want to be, craft my life and career around my core values and beliefs and build a future for myself and my family in a way that is aligned with my dreams and aspiration.

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