The Power of Potential: Embracing Multiple Self-Images
The Power of Potential: Embracing Multiple Self-Images


Imagine yourself leading a team meeting with confidence, or delivering a captivating presentation. Now, visualize yourself conquering a challenging fitness goal or mastering a new skill. The human mind is capable of holding not just one, but many images of who you want to be. This multiplicity of self-images, a concept explored in social psychology, can be a powerful tool for personal growth.


The Science of Self-Images

Self-image, also known as self-concept, refers to our mental picture of ourselves. It encompasses our beliefs about our abilities, personality, and worth. Social psychologists have identified two key concepts related to self-image:


Possible selves: These are the images we hold of ourselves in the future, representing our hopes, aspirations, and fears. Possible selves can be motivating, as they provide a roadmap for who we strive to become.
Ideal selves: These represent our perfect versions of ourselves, encompassing the qualities and achievements we desire. While ideal selves can be inspiring, they can also lead to feelings of inadequacy if the gap between the ideal and reality is perceived as too large.


The Power of Holding Multiple Self-Images

Holding multiple self-images, including both possible and ideal selves, can be advantageous for several reasons:


Increased motivation: Possible selves that represent desired future states can motivate us to take action and close the gap between our current selves and our aspirations.
Enhanced creativity: Envisioning ourselves as creative individuals can spark new ideas and help us approach problems from fresh perspectives.


Improved resilience: Having multiple self-images allows us to bounce back from setbacks. If we encounter challenges on the path to our ideal self, we can visualize ourselves achieving a different possible self, maintaining a sense of progress and purpose.


For example, an athlete might hold an ideal self-image of winning a gold medal. However, they might also hold a possible self-image of achieving a personal best or overcoming a previous injury. This combination can fuel their motivation and resilience in training.


The Self-Discrepancy Theory

The self-discrepancy theory proposes that discrepancies between our actual selves, ideal selves, and ought-to selves (the selves we believe we should be) can lead to emotional discomfort. However, the theory also acknowledges that positive discrepancies between our actual selves and our possible selves can be motivating [Source: Higgins, 1987].


Cultivating a Growth Mindset

The concept of having multiple self-images aligns with the idea of a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that our abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and learning. This perspective encourages us to see challenges as opportunities for growth, which aligns well with striving towards our possible selves.



Embrace the power of holding multiple self-images. Visualize yourself achieving your goals, but also acknowledge the potential for different paths and accomplishments. This multifaceted view of yourself can be a source of motivation, creativity, and resilience on your journey to becoming the best version of yourself.