Having multiple versions of a self is not necessarily a bad thing! (I’m not talking about Sybil and The Three Faces of Eve- multiple personality syndrome.) A recent book by Sherry Turkle, Alone Together, bemoans the “false selves” that young people project on facebook and other social media, trying to create a persona that will cause others to react to them a certain way.
But I think it can be a mark of social and emotional intelligence to be able to create a persona (Latin for mask) appropriate to the occasion: the job interview, the family reunion, the first date, the divorced mom meeting her ex for the first time in many years at their daughter’s wedding, the effective purchaser of custom shades and plumbing fixtures, the interlocutor of your mother’s doctors. Is it really helpful to betray the insecure, frayed individual you feel yourself to be in your worst moments?
Adele Scheele, an icon of the Career Development movement, writes wisely about continuing to build up and choose appropriately from a “wardrobe of behaviors.” 60 somethings can and should make a conscious decision to refurbish their behavioral wardrobes periodically: learn a new language, run for office, deliver a sermon, adopt a new point of view, learn how to play an instrument, and more. New “fake” behaviors are not initially part of who you are; they may even bag and sag when tried on, but they serve to build a richer, more layered version of who you are.
The seventh decade is no time to settle for one version of the self. The wardrobe of behaviors isn’t complete; there are new personae to try out. The self is a work in progress. There is still time to prepare new faces “to meet the faces that you meet.” And that’s a good thing!
From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
there will be time to murder and create,
and time for al the words and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
before the taking of a toast and tea.