Integrate your multiple identities.
I am Homo sapiens. Like most fellow beings of my species, I have forty-six chromosomes in my cells. I think; I breathe; I can’t fly, but I can walk, run, and swim. I have many identities based on my relationships, race, country of origin, gender, intimacy preference, profession, neighborhood, generation, personality type, food preference, and more. Many of these identities are well defined. No one can argue about my species, gender, country of origin, or generation. But some identities are a matter of individual opinion (or bias).
Based on how you see me, you could consider me selfish or altruistic, gentle or rough, soft spoken or brash, likable or annoying, boring or interesting, and so on. In fact, based on these “soft characteristics,” I exist in at least three versions. One is what I think of myself. Another is what others think of me. And the third is who I really am. These three versions aren’t mirror images.
The less I am self-aware and the greater I pretend, the more separation exists between the three versions of me. I believe my life would be simplest if the three versions were very similar—ideally identical. How do I go about bringing this integration? I have a three-step plan.
First, I should sketch an idealized version of me. This would be the version I want to read about in my eulogy. This would be the version that I am proud to read about to my grandkids.
Second, I should start thinking and living like my idealized version. I should think thoughts I am proud to own, and align my words and actions with those thoughts. I should commit my life to kindness. With effort, I hope I will eventually reach a point where my thoughts, words, and actions will be in harmony. At that point, my self-perception and my actual self will integrate. I will have only two versions left—what others think of me and who I am.
The third step depends on others. I hope that as I cultivate consistent kindness, others will start to recognize it. Eventually, if I am lucky, they will see me as I am. Then the real me and others’ perceptions of me will be identical. I will be in complete harmony with myself.
The integration has to start with me—I must conceptualize my idealized self and align my thoughts, words, and actions with that self. I believe, once I reach that point, I will become a much more effective instrument to help others find peace and happiness and integrate their three versions.
May you live in a world that welcomes virtuous thoughts, true words, and kind actions; may you help create such a world.
@AmitSoodMD (on Twitter)