Where do our alter egos come from?
What shapes their personalities?
Are they just an embodiment of our mental wish-list,
or do they tell us something more profound about ourselves?
This post is especially relevant to those of us who become an “idealised version” of ourselves when we daydream. But even if you remain yourself in your daydreams or, at the other end of the scale, daydream in the third person and don’t become any one character, you may like to reflect on what your daydream self can tell you about the real you.
I have two main daydream worlds, and become a different character in each of them. Both of those worlds have been with me for a long time, so I’ve got to know my alter egos very well. I’ve spent a long time living their lives. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how my alter egos differ from each other and from the real me, and in what ways are we the same?
When I start working with a new coaching client, I typically ask them a series of questions designed to encourage them to think and reflect on the things that are most important to them. These questions include things like “which of your achievements are you most proud of?”, “what are your personal and professional strengths?”, “what motivates you?” and “what are your priorities in life?”. I worked through these questions myself three times, first answering as the real me, and then as each of my alter egos in turn. Then I compared the answers to see what common themes emerged.
On the surface, my alter egos and I are very different. We have different strengths and different priorities. But we all share the same core values. When I looked more closely at our differences, I realised that the things that separate us are all consequences of the different lives we’ve led. The experiences we have in life and the challenges we face, shape who we are. I’ve given each of my alter egos their fair share of challenges, and I’ve faced challenging times myself. But those challenges have been different; therefore, our responses to them and the way our personalities have evolved as a result have also been different.
And the things we have in common? I think those things are the things that are inherently me, the things that make me who I am, no matter what life throws at me. And for the most part those qualities are things I’m happy to possess – including loyalty, determination and a drive to do what’s right.
I didn’t consciously shape either of my alter egos; they evolved naturally over time to suit the plot lines I put them in. And yet, each of them is very authentically me in so many ways. Each of them is a window into how I could have turned out if I’d made different choices or had different experiences. My alter egos inspire me to be the best of who I can be. Because I’ve realised that they aren’t figments of my imagination; they’re alternate versions of me – possibly even the real me. Either or both of them might just be the person I was supposed to become.
Everyone has different personas – your colleagues at work probably see a very different person from the person your friends or family see. We daydreamers have extra personas – our alter egos. We’ve spent years developing these other characters, living their lives, experiencing how they react in any situation we put them in. We know how to be them. So when real life throws you something that feels too challenging, ask yourself how your alter ego would handle it. And before you dismiss their response as something you could never do, remember that they are you. If they could handle that situation, doesn’t that prove that you have it within you to handle it too?