Me; Me; Me; and You

by Christopher Lovejoy on August 5, 2012

Ever since picking up and reading a primer on Carl Jung at the age of 16, I’ve been endlessly fascinated with the nature of who I am, with getting a handle on the nature of my selfhood.

In essence, my interpretation of Jung’s work leads me to imagine as follows …

If the Self is the sea, then the ego is the island, and if everything desirable on the island is the persona, then everything hidden by what is desirable on the island is the shadow.

In this metaphorical light, you’ve likely heard it said that we all have more than several versions of me, myself, and I: a public me, a personal me, a private me, a secret me, and a hidden me.

In considering the complexity of Me, I have to wonder: does the term personal in personal fulfillment refer to one, or more, or all of these versions of me? Who or what is being fulfilled?

And: do I want to be swimming in the sea or prancing around on the island?

Public Me: “Real or Fake?”

In essence, Public Me is “me show you .. and you … and you … and you.”

This is the Me that looks like me, sounds like me, feels like me, but for reasons having to do with my sense of security (or lack thereof), often isn’t me – or at least the real me (whatever that means).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt self-conscious about presenting in front of a group, large or small. I’ve never been comfortable projecting Public Me onto people I don’t know well.

In my innocence, in all honesty, I’ve never been comfortable with fake it ’til you make it. Who am I to be someone I’m not so as to persuade you to believe or accept this, that, or the other thing?

Perhaps you can relate.

By the same token, I’m well aware that if you practice public speaking well enough, often enough, you could develop a public persona that is smooth, polished, persuasive, and assured.

Public Me is not confined to presentations given to groups or audiences, however.

Public Me is also evident in every public interaction that would have you get better acquainted, and in every service transaction that would have you deal effectively in the course of doing business.

For many, Public Me is non-existent, presenting as dull, flat, insipid, vapid. For others, Public Me appears as genuinely engaging, enthusiastic, and sometimes extremely intense, even for me.

For still others, Public Me is pure fakery, a carefully cultivated illusion designed to curry favor.

Real or fake, Public Me is theatrical, switching on or off as the occasion requires or demands.

Personal Me: “Just How Transparent Can I Be?”

In my personal life, with family or friends, I tend to measure what I say or do with genuine care.

Personal Me is friendly, but remains discerning, even calculating. Personal Me wants to be real and honest, to be real honest, but only to a point where such honesty is respected and appreciated.

Personal Me is especially alert to hidden meanings, ever mindful of implications.

Sometimes, what I don’t say or do reveals more about me than what I do say or do.

Private Me: “Can I Really Trust You?”

Private Me is drawn to intimate connection and communication, physically and emotionally.

But not with just anyone.

Private Me is selective about sharing the soft underbelly of who it knows itself to be in those utterly real moments when it makes the time to confess a tender personal truth, openly and honestly.

Those who get to know Private Me (usually few in number) are privy to its vulnerable side.

Unfortunately, some of us have been so hurt, so deeply touched by the cold hand of betrayal, that they can no longer trust anyone enough to confide from that fine and private place within.

Either that, or they go the route of TMI, sharing their deepest, darkest, dirtiest secrets indiscriminately with just about anyone who’s willing and able to listen, as if that makes everything okay.

Such a lack of trust can also extend to stereotyping people identified as this or that: people who identify as men or women are two obvious examples; “arrogant” doctors and “cagey” bankers are two more.

Secret Me: “You Don’t Know Me Well Enough to Judge Me”

By definition, no one (and I do mean no one) knows Secret Me.

Secret Me harbors dirty little secrets, yes, but unless you’re dead to the heart of your soul, it also carries a unique context of life experience full of inspired aspirations and heartfelt longings.

Like it or not, Secret Me is someone you live with, alone, day after day, day and night, 24/7/365. As an aside, I invite you to take a moment to think about the implications of that statement …

And if you should ever fall prey to thinking that you know all there is to know about someone, then … well, you would do well to look up the definition of delusional presumptuous.

Hidden Me: “Who Am I, Really? No, Really, Who Am I?”

Hidden Me is the me I know absolutely nothing about …

Hidden Me contains black and white shadows that no one can ever know and see (not even me), as well as black and white shadows that others may or may not ever know and see.

Jung, in his brilliance, demonstrated the influence of a shadow cast by the conscious ego.

I propose, quite reasonably I think, that at least three shadows are cast, which arise from the egoic exertions of these persona-projecting varieties of Me: Private Me, Personal Me, and Public Me.

These versions of Me almost invariably project outward with unintended consequences that remain hidden from sight, which in turn can have undesirable consequences further down the road:

Public Me. A jovial yet good-natured display of wit rubs someone the wrong way.

Personal Me. A well-meaning yet persistent line of questioning annoys a close friend.

Private Me. A response to a sensitive query unwittingly conceals or distorts truth.

Secret Me, in its shame, serves as a handmaiden for each of these versions of Me.

Secret Me is defensive: it doesn’t project onward, outward, or upward so much as it tries to negotiate and make peace with the shadows cast by Private Me, Personal Me, and Public Me.

Secret Me. “Hmm, did I just minimize the importance of having something I really and truly desire?”

In each of these instances, I succumb to a compulsion to view myself in a certain way, which casts shadows that attempt to hide less than desirable (read: potentially shameful) aspects of myself.

And if someone I know cares enough to be candid, I just might find out about it.

Who or What is Being Fulfilled When I Talk About Personal Fulfillment?

I would suggest that each and every sphere of Me (of my person, if you will) – whether it be secret, private, personal, or public – can be made the subject of personal fulfillment.

In this light, the ultimate in personal fulfillment could be reasonably characterized as the fulfillment of every sphere of Me in some wholesome configuration of balanced integration.

How might this look?

To begin, the following series presents a graphic representation of the projective versions of Me:


The yellow sphere represents pure ego, a placeholder for the various versions of Me. The shadow cast (black ribbon) is buffered by the negotiating, rationalizing Secret Me (grey ribbon).

As Private Me is most concerned with fulfilling passion and desire with one other or a few others, it is red for this reason. Ideally, in keeping the peace with family and friends, Personal Me is green.

Ideally, in remaining open to promise and possibility, Public Me is sky blue.

The following graphic represents the ego space of someone for whom Private Me predominates:

The elements in this heuristic are highly variable.

Each version of Me can expand or contract, depending on where I put my focus, as can their respective shadows and justifying versions of Secret Me, represented by the gray and black ribbons.

Two interpretations are possible: situational or contextual.

The situational interpretation is one where Private Me is active in the moment and the contextual interpretation is one where Private Me is predominantly active over time.

Earlier, I mentioned that the ultimate in personal fulfillment could be reasonably characterized as the fulfillment of every sphere of Me in some wholesome configuration of balanced integration.

The following graphic represents such a configuration of balance:

The shadows and their respective manifestations of Secret Me are virtually absent for a reason, having been largely and wisely integrated into the overall experience of Me, Myself, and I.

I say “virtually absent” because an absolutely static configuration would imply spiritual death.

The configuration of Red Me, Green Me, and Blue Me is ideally one of dynamic balance, involving the appearance and disappearance of shadows in the course of private, personal, and public relating.

In terms of their projective influence, the size of each Me can also fluctuate, but overall, they remain balanced with respect to Self, to each other, and to the presence of others in the world at large.

The Pathology of Me is Fertile Ground for Growth and Fulfillment

I’d like to conclude this sketch of the varieties of Me with a peek into the shadows.

In generating the models presented, I’ve intuitively identified (remember, imagination always precedes knowledge) four stages of psychic growth, along with four potential dangers:

1. As the soul awakens to the power and prestige of sporting an ego, there’s a danger of getting stuck with one and only one version of Me (Private Me, for example) while neglecting the other two.

2. As the soul awakens to the power of flexing each and every version of Me, there’s a danger of losing balance (e.g., Public Me grows disportionately large compared to Private Me or Personal Me).

3. As the soul awakens to the power of the various versions of Me finding harmony and unity with each other, there’s a danger of falling prey to the ensuing instability via chaos, conflict, and confusion.

4. As the soul finds balance and fulfillment with each and every version of Me, there’s a danger of complacency, especially among retirees (the balance maintained is static rather than dynamic).

Each of these dangers pose challenges that have the potential for generating shadows, shame, and secrecy (which could provide effective means by which to grow and become Self-realized).

If I get stuck with one version of Me, I could devolve into some twisted version of Secret Me.

If I lose my balance, I could lose competence and credibility, appearing desperate and undesirable.

If I fall prey to instability, I could experience a meltdown, losing all motivation and inspiration.

And if I should ever become complacent, I risk having a calcified version of my former vibrant Self.

As you can see, Being Human is fraught with complication and consequence. To the extent that I can negotiate and navigate the shadows of Me is the extent to which I can grow and find fulfillment.

But there’s more … in realizing ourselves in relation to one another (whether we like it or not), the shadows can overwhelm us, causing us to believe any one or more of the following:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m no one special or unique
  • I don’t deserve to be happy
  • my circumstances impede my success
  • my dreams are not realistic enough
  • I’m just not worthy

Bottom line: I’m not worthy.

I’m not worthy of love, health, wealth, happiness, success, fulfillment, freedom, wisdom.

Unfortunately, these beliefs operate in the shadows, and woe unto you if the justifying, rationalizing Secret Me gets frequently caught up in the drama of attempting to make peace with them.

So. Do I want to be swimming in the sea of Self or prancing around on the island of Me?

The answer, of course, is both. Ideally speaking.


Image credit: “Palm and Tropical Beach” © Alexandr Ozerov –

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