The duality of the human character is an old, universal topic, and if you’ve ever argued with yourself you’ll understand why. It is also a topic that has been addressed by many writers far more talented than I, so I won’t bore you with a tired revision. Instead, today I want to discuss the nature of that most famous duality of all – good v. evil – and how I’m coming to grips with this inevitable clash within my own personality.
Within the past few years, I’ve begun to struggle with and develop what I refer to as my Best self. It’s been a constant theme through my journaling and my conversations with my friends, this concept of my Best self, and I think this actualization-of-self struggle was born out of my struggle with depression. (Or perhaps my depression was born out of my struggle with the concept of self? Either way – they are not mutually exclusive.) And spurring the desire to find my Best self was the creeping realization that I was embodying my Worst self far too often, at the cost of not only my own happiness, but that of the people I hold most dear.
[An aside: I do not suggest that I was at my worst because I was depressed – that is far too simple a correlation, and greatly undermines the seriousness of both depression and acting like an ass.]
My Worst self is impatient, temperamental, indecisive, insecure, and lazy. My Worst self seeks instant gratification. My Worst self is a liar. My Worst self is both lazy and proud. My Worst self is not a person that I want to be, yet I found myself sinking to that level to a worrying degree, often when I was stressed, but even when I didn’t see or feel any external triggers. It was appalling.
And so I fought back. I refused to let my Worst self win. I refused to excuse my Worst self, and began the search for my Best self instead.
It’s as though these two selves of mine are shorelines, and the struggle is a choppy, dark, cold body of water. My Best self is the furthest shore, and to reach it I have to fight the undercurrent. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to be worth the struggle, when another shore is so invitingly close. All I’d have to do is quit fighting and float.
I slip, and I slip often. But I use those moments when I quit fighting the undercurrent to learn more about myself. I’ve found how low I can sink, I’ve seen the devastating effects it has on my psyche, and I’ve watched myself hurt people I love. And I turn back, I resolve to never sink so low again. Instead, I reach for that other shore, that place I’ve been to before and can reach again.
On that other shore is firm footing. It is on this shore that I can build and take shelter. The construction of anything requires a solid foundation. My Best self is the foundation upon which I’ll construct my dreams, my future. My Best self will determine the terms by which I’ll live the rest of my life.
My Best self is kind and generous, open and vulnerable, honest and brave. My Best self is gentle, on others and on me. My Best self is comfortable in my own skin. My Best self is capable of self-love. My Best self does not shunt off emotions, but embraces them wholly.
My Best self is so damn hard to be, oftentimes. It is a constant fight, but for me, success can be found in the fight itself. This may not necessarily be a matter of victory – I don’t think my Worst self can be defeated, so to speak. But to put up a fight, to struggle to be good, to be my Best self, is to deny my Worst self and keep her at bay. It means I haven’t given up on myself.
On building a house of morals: We Are Here to Build the House
On a different but similar sort of inner struggle: A Religion for the Nonreligious
On depression: Adventures in Depression