When I was a child and lived in a very small town, I imagined myself traveling many places that would set the groundwork for fostering my adult self as an author and a healer—thus engaging with the ideal part of myself in the best way I could.
In a paper entitled “The Ideal Road Not taken,” Cornell University psychologists identified three elements that make up a person’s sense of self. Your ought self is the person you feel you should have been according to your obligations and responsibilities. The actual self consists of qualities that you believe you possess. Your ideal self is made up of the qualities you want to have.
Eleanor Roosevelt is an excellent example of a person who lived her ideal self. According to Wikipedia, even though she had an unhappy childhood due to the death of both parents and one of her brothers, she did not let that deter her. She was intelligent, and given her ability to persevere, she attended Allenswood Academy in England, which promoted social responsibility and independence for young women. At age eighteen she returned to New York City and became actively involved with social reform.
At twenty-one she married her fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and served as First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. Their marriage was complicated, as he was partially paralyzed due to illness and was confined to a wheelchair. Consequently, Eleanor regularly made public appearances on his behalf.
Eleanor was a confident and outspoken woman, especially in regard to racial issues and women’s rights in the workplace. After her husband’s death in 1945, she encouraged the United States to join and support the United Nations and became its first delegate. By the time of her death, she was regarded as “one of the most esteemed women in the world” and was called “the object of almost universal respect” in her New York Times obituary. Most likely Eleanor never thought in terms of being her ideal self, but it is evident this is exactly what she achieved.
When I consider my ideal self now, undoubtedly it required a great deal of preparation—graduate school, learning from mentors who inspired me, and remembering as things in life change there are always new things to learn!
Dear reader—are you aware of your ought, actual, and ideal selves? If so, in what ways have you engaged with each and sought to achieve being your ideal self? All comments are very welcome.