Bridging identities for growth

We all have different roles in different circles, and present different aspects of ourselves to different parts of the world. For simplicity, I think of behavior as belonging to two selves, one public and one private. The public self is the personality that you affect when you are dealing with strangers – you are polite, non-confrontational but will punish the occasional queue jumper, get excited about certain technical subjects, enjoy talking with people who disagree, etc. The personal self is the one that has ridiculously strong beliefs about sci fi morality, what constitutes a beautiful object, and the nature of happiness, etc.

Every time I move to a new place, I find that there are three stages that happen:

  1. Public self is established by adaptation to local culture – this happens pretty quickly
  2. Private self is established by meeting people who share a large proportion of interest – this just requires you to meet the right people
  3. Bridging of public and private roles by meeting a series of people who are of intermediate familiarity

I’ve found the third stage to be the most interesting. Both public and private selves get along too well with other people, and generate no discomfort through which personal growth can be pushed. The best setting for personal growth is that of encountering a person who is getting to know you better, and having to decide who you want to be.

Comments are closed.