Thought for the week: Public Self / Private Self
Fall is upon us, marked by leaves changing color and crisp cooler air becoming more frequent. The same trail at the park can look very different season to season. You can be driving down the same road with your mind elsewhere, look around and for a split second, not be sure where you are. Nature isn’t alone in changing the landscape with changing conditions. We humans do this as well, although not necessarily in sync with the seasons. This is referred to as public self / private self.
I sometimes use an exercises in my office that speaks to this. It consists of a piece of paper with the outline of a t-shirt on each side. One side has the front of the t-shirt and the other side has the back of the t-shirt. The instructions are to create an illustration in each outline using any combination of symbols, colors, pictures, and/or words. The side of the page with the front of the t-shirt represents your public self. This is essentially who you are to the world. It is the parts of yourself you let others see and know about you. The other side of the page, outlined with the back of the t-shirt, is for the private self. This represents the parts of yourself, for whatever reasons, you kept hidden from others.
You may be thinking as you read this, how obvious your own aspects of public/private self are to you. However, just as more thoughts and feelings are revealed through the process of journalling, you can be quite surprised about the specific public/private “self-portrait” that emerges as you do this exercise. An added bonus: the visual representation you’ve created may also give you that extra push to make changes about parts of yourself you are unhappy with. You can ignore thoughts in our head, but it is more difficult to ignore what is right in front of your eyes to see.
Give it a try. It doesn’t take long and all you need is a sheet of paper. Another bonus: exercising the creative side of your brain! Don’t worry if you aren’t artistic – this is for your eyes only. (However, if you choose, this can be interesting to do along with another person you trust. Imagine how much can be learned about yourself and about them.)