An interview of my current self by my former self, as a moment in time.
I have heard that the relationship one has with ones own self changes over time. And in some cases, there is a tether that makes you yearn for the ghosts of ones self past. Like older relationships there is a tendency to glamorize the past, and I am very much guilty of that. Having lived a life that can be described by most as odd but full, I often look back at the past and think about how happy I was, or how certain moments changed the trajectory of where I am today. But for the first time, I decided to serve the role of a best friend that helps make sure you don’t need up in the abusive relationship that once was. So this is an interview by my former self, with my current self- because the one person I feel compelled to perfect a relationship with is myself.
Former Self (FS): As someone who prides herself on being a leader for the people, what is the most profound thing that impacted your leadership style?
Current Self (CS): First off, this idea of someone who is deemed a leader, of any kind, is deeply rooted in a savior complex. The basis of that pride is feeling a sense of ending up in power, so you can potentially help others in ways you yourself were not able to be helped. It has less to do with being an actual leader, more to do with feeling this overwhelming need to protect people in an attempt to right a lot of wrongs that may have happened. So I wouldn’t glamorize this ideology as it is baked in nothing more than people who have felt trauma and have hence felt this need to find other individuals who potentially need to be rescued from the trauma.
Secondly, my leadership style was not something I chose — and I would disagree with anyone who thinks that they can somehow start building their leadership style from scratch. There is a baseline, that is shaped by the events and the people in your life, and everything else is the equivalent of edits on top. A lot of my earlier years were spent emulating what I considered to be the leader that was successful- shaped by my father, earlier managers, even politicians. I learnt early on that in order to have your voice be heard, you had to be loud. In order to protect people, which is something I felt strongly throughout my life, you remind people that the world is a cruel place- you harden them to protect them. It’s only through the last couple of years, that I started editing some of that, because I felt I was turning into a person I was not happy with. I chose to add a filter to my leadership style to show more empathy, compassion and to lead with fierceness but kindest. That filter, is like a mask — it flickers, it changes and sometimes it completely falls off. And in those moments, all that’s left is the baseline of the leader that my circumstances pushed me towards, but I don’t identify with anymore. So it is important to realize what the true DNA of the leadership style is, and then remember all the filters you put on top and how to get them back on, once they falter.
The most profound thing for me was understanding that piece. I term myself as an aspirational leader, and I find there to be comfort in that humility. Relieving myself of the pressure of being the leader that is always able to protect people, always knows the right thing to do, always being successful (whatever the flavor of month for success is at that time) — it comes from a place of humility and realization of how limited I am. But relieving myself of that burden also allows me space to be ever evolving, to lead but also to be led, and to continue to evolve what my definition of leadership is. And that for me — that realization is ultimately the thing that impacted what kind of a leader I will eventually be.
As I ponder the interplay between leadership and the self, I find myself questioning the very essence of what it means to lead. Is leadership merely a reflection of our internalized traumas, a need to protect others from the shadows that haunt our own existence? Perhaps true leadership isn’t about grandiose displays of power but a quiet resilience, a commitment to empathy, and an unwavering authenticity in navigating the complexities of human existence.
FS: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment thus far, or something you identify with the most??
CS: This is a hard question for me. I come from a background where traditional success is the only way to feel accomplished- and looking back, it seems I always struggled with that, in deep ways that ended up muting my voice. So let’s talk about it, traditional success would dictate that my biggest accomplishment is my last job, my last project, my degrees, my marital life-etc etc.
But recently, I have been toying with the concept of identity and realizing that how you identify and what you identify with has a huge impact on what you would consider to be your accomplishment. And looking back at my life, the thing that stands out to me the most is this constant need to want to survive, to somehow, some way make it. Now this isn’t some existential survival or it’s not like I walk around constantly with a perception of danger (almost to my own deficit at times). The survival I speak of is surviving myself and all that lives in my head.
I am not a trauma expert, or a life expert at that. But I know myself enough to know that throughout life, I have been my own worst enemy. I can close my eyes and have bits and pieces of my life flash before me in a way that I would feel the need to end it all. I can also glamorize or justify parts of my life that were never great or helpful for me. It goes a bit beyond self sabotage for me, because it’s life threatening. The only way I can visualize is imagine being stalked by a ferocious wild cat through your life, so around every corner you are looking out for when that thing might come and pounce- and above all, you can not turn your back on it. Then imagine the exhaustion of always having to keep an eye on that- and how distracting that can be from just living a life. A side musing here is that most of my substance abuse issues have also stemmed from this because the only way to forget about the cat is to be obliterated to a different galaxy.
So this is odd, but my biggest accomplishment thus far, is probably surviving myself — or realistically, continuing to survive myself.
Traditional metrics of success often confine our perception of accomplishment. Yet, as I delve deeper into the labyrinth of my own identity, I find solace in the realization that surviving oneself can be the most monumental conquest. It’s the quiet battles fought within, the relentless pursuit of understanding and healing the fractured self, that stand as the true hallmarks of personal triumph.
FS: What is most important to you these days — do you have a mission for your life?
CS: Ive never been one to have a singular or a grandiose mission in life. My life to myself has always been filled with moving from puzzle to puzzle (yes, that is how I look at jobs) or side quests (which is how I refer to my hobbies). And if you’re wondering, yes the gamification is what has helped me deal with the day to day, because otherwise I would be stuck perpetually in a state of odd suspension.
In this moment, as I write this, the thing that stands out as most important to me, is figuring out how the state of the privileged survives with the state of the wounded. This is a puzzle that my brain has been stuck on for decades now. I know so many around me have unseen and unrealized wounds, and have to survive in this world of privileged. But I also know so many of the privileged want to help the wounded, but not in ways that makes them come off as a savior. I also know that amongst all of us is the privileged and the wounded. So in a lot of ways, my brain is stuck on this idea that how your current self, needs your former self and your future self to protect and grow. That healing can only come from within. And like most problems, splitting into that many dimensions, inevitably creates a fractured reality.
I strongly believe that most people have their Oppenheimer moment — a moment where you end up solving a puzzle so big but are left with the consequence of that solution on others, potentially detrimental. In my case, my Oppenheimer moment will be solving how to heal myself with myself without splitting my self into all these pieces that cant be put back together. And once, I have that figured out, I want the only mission of my life to be around sharing this, or how to do this with others like me who may need it.
I know for a fact that I cant solve it for everyone, or even anyone. But I know that I want to be able to share ways that have helped me see myself, as a starting point to heal myself.
Reflection:My thoughts wander into the enigmatic puzzle of privilege coexisting with wounds. How do we bridge these chasms that separate us, creating a fractured reality? Is the remedy found in recognizing that healing emerges from within, an internal dialogue transcending the confines of privilege and pain? Perhaps the key lies not in fixing others but in sharing the journey of self-healing, a process as individual as it is universal.
In contemplating this, I foresee my own Oppenheimer moment not as a singular revelation but an ongoing quest. A pursuit to reconcile the fractured pieces of the self without compromising their intrinsic complexity. As I navigate this intricate labyrinth of identity, my aspiration crystallizes into a desire to share the fragments of my journey, not as a solution but as a starting point for others embarking on their odyssey of self-discovery and healing.
In the end, life is an elaborate tapestry woven from the threads of our experiences, traumas, and aspirations. It’s a mosaic of identities and a testament to the ever-evolving nature of our existence. Embracing the paradoxes, navigating the contradictions, and recognizing the profound beauty within the chaos is the essence of our shared humanity. And perhaps, in embracing this complexity, we find the elusive elixir of healing — not in perfecting the self but in embracing the imperfect, fragmented mosaic that is uniquely ours. For it is in our brokenness that we find our truest strength, and in our vulnerability that we discover our deepest reservoirs of resilience.