Living multiple lives

Living multiple lives

No, I’m not talking about a psychiatric condition or James Bond novel. I’m talking about the multiple personas we have on social media, the web, and even in our own face-to-face lives.

Psychology studies have shown that we have a lot of different faces based on the roles we play: we’re children to our parents and spouses to our husbands and wives, we may be siblings to our brothers and sisters, students to our teachers, teachers to our students, employees to our bosses, or bosses to our employees. While there’s a fundamental similarity to this entity we call “I,” there can also be differences based on the roles we inhabit.

As an employee I’m conscientious about my tasks whereas at home, maybe the garden doesn’t get weeded as often as it should. I might be gracious to the acquaintances I rarely see but get a little impatient with the spouse with whom I share a home.

I’ll take a step further even than that. Over the years, because I can turn my hand to several different jobs and skill sets, I’ve struggled with how to “brand” myself — not as a writer (though that’s a challenge, too), but as a human being.

What do you do when you write novels, are a career consultant, and have a day job as a user experience designer, all of which require public “faces” to be turned to the world at large? What’s worse, what do you do when the most important part of your life — your spiritual practice — informs everything you do but is out of the American mainstream and subject to much misunderstanding?

Add to that the tendency for social media outlets to become one-size-fits-all-personas PR machines, and there’s a very good chance my rich and varied worlds will collide.

Will posting something technical but pertinent to my work on Facebook cause my readers to cast aside my books? Will posting a self-help-style musing cause the tech recruiter I’m working with to avoid sending out my resume? Will some of my more out-of-the-box design ideas cause my family to roll their eyes with a “there she goes again, living in a dream world” sigh?

I used to try to keep the proverbial Chinese wall between these worlds, mostly for marketing/branding purposes, but partly because of the danger of what I listed in the paragraph immediately above. I’ve had too many potential employers tell me that if they’d known about the creative writing part of my MA in English, they wouldn’t have bothered to call me in for a technical writing interview because they expected me to turn up in a billowing skirt and flowers in my flowing hair rather than a gray pinstripe suit, hair pulled back in a sleek bun.

As I get older, I’ve come to see that to keep these worlds separate is to splinter my personality and to sell short my various capabilities. If someone is offended in some way about the crossover components of what I do and how I think, then it’s better they know that up front — otherwise, I’m “selling a lie,” as it were.

Sure, it’s sometimes good for people, like those potential employers, to experience one side of me they respect before encountering their own prejudices about the side of me they don’t. But my position on that has started to change: If someone is so settled on their own pre-judgment that they stereotype me (“She writes romance? Sheesh!”) rather than keeping an open mind, then I probably won’t fit into their organization, group, lives, etc.

Let’s wear all our hats, shall we? What hat are you wearing today?

Sandra K. Moore

Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.

6 thoughts on “Living multiple lives

  1. I handle the splinter sides of myself a bit differently. I do not construct walls. I have circles. The outer circle is reserved for passing acquaintances, work colleagues and such. The next circle inward is for closer friends. Many writing companions, some work friends and such. Then there is the circle where you know me much better, but not all the way. I use my house as a guideline. If you’ve been to my house, you are about as close as I let anyone get other than family. It’s not that I have goo-gobs of secrets and skeletons per say, but well, there are just some things about me that I chose not to share with just anyone. However, in my house, it’s a free for all. In my house, you will see me and my family in all our unvarnished truth – good and bad. And it takes YEARS for folks to get that close – sometimes never. So I wear my hats, but one on top of the other, I just chose not to reveal them but to a very select groups of folks.
    Smooches, Sandra. Great post. You always give me something to ponder.

  2. Hey, thanks for sharing your circles!

    I think it’s difficult to get to the point of trusting someone enough to really “let them in,” which in your case is literal as much as it is metaphorical.

    My circles frequently don’t have any overlap whatsoever — design friends who don’t care about writing, writing friends who may or may not care one whit about the spiritual stuff, spiritual stuff friends who have little interest in my career consulting… You get the drift. 🙂

    That may have been what Google+ was trying to get to with its circle idea. But the minute everything gets munged together, everyone has a view into everything else. Messy!

  3. I kept waiting for you to work your way to the “if they don’t get me, they don’t get me,” point, and when you did, I cheered for you!

    Funny thing about human nature, the way we suffer for years trying to fit into other people’s moulds. If you spend any time with pre-schoolers, you’ll realize that need to change for others isn’t intrinsic. It is definitely a learned behavior. Once we start school, we’re taught that we must conform, follow the rules and make everyone else’s life easier. Then we spend the next 30-40 years perfecting this horrible habit that often is at odds with our inner self.

    Luckily, if we play the game long enough, we eventually get to the point where we realize that who we are is a-okay, and those who can’t see that don’t deserve the glory that is us.

    1. Great point about the expectation to conform, Dawn. Be a good little girl, right?

      And yet my life got most interesting — and rewarding — when I colored outside the lines!

  4. I love all my different hats! And while a lot of my roles have overlap, others are completely separate and I like it that way! I remember once when our oldest son was a baby, we went out with a couple who had never been around us without Brian also being present. She was shocked – “Ya’ll are totally different without the baby around” – and Rick and I were like “well, duh? Ya think!” At the center of it – especially as I get older, regardless of what hat I’m wearing, at the core, it’s all me. That was hard for me for a long time – I felt like I had to change who I was to fit the circumstances. Now, I just am who I am, whether I’m wearing my wife hat, Gigi hat, mom hat, writer hat or lately patient hat – although I’m really ready to retire the patient hat! It has been the only hat I’ve worn for weeks!

  5. Well hot damn, girls. We all sound remarkably well adjusted. Oh, wait. That’s can’t be right. We’re writers!

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