What Is Your Possible Self?

           Your possible self is the future-oriented or hypothetical image of what you hope to become or what you fear becoming.  Your possible self is an inner cognitive and emotional guiding force which acts as a protective factor in well-being while faced with adverse life circumstances.  If you cope with symptoms of ADHD, PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, your possible self provides a goal-oriented path and a sense of hope, which is a vital source of strength and which can supplement your medication regimen, if you choose that supplement as part of your therapeutic process in self-regulation.  While medication can help you to manage your present moods and brain chemistry, this is only part of the big picture of your daily functioning capacity.  

           Your vision and commitment to your possible selves can be a very complicated process, in that you must be motivated to do a thorough evaluation of your authentic life goals, values, fears, and desires.  To fully understand your possible selves, you must be willing to explore the different hopes and fears which result from your available self-knowledge. Some of your possible selves may symbolize optimism and act as catalysts for proactive behaviors, while other possible selves may serve as reminders of feared future selves to be avoided.  Your possible selves are cognitive representations of your desires for mastery, control, empowerment, and sense of belonging.  Your possible selves encompass your pursuit of relationship, academic, career, philosophical, and personality goals, as well as your prevention of self-destructive or other negative behavioral patterns.  Your possible selves can serve as valuable buffers against your painful memories, failures, threats, and insecurities.

         Possible selves formed during adolescence and young adulthood have been focused on academic success, career exploration, and occupational choice, and delinquency.  Adults in their late twenties to early thirties have identified possible selves which contain themes about starting a family, well-being, self-regulation, raising children, pursuing career and/or academic goals, and maintaining emotionally healthy relationships. Outside of the family domain, the young adult age group also reported both hoped-for and feared Current research has shown that the most important hoped-for and feared possible selves among young adults involve goals related to education, career, family, and success and that family members are the most likely social comparison targets among this age group.

         Your possible selves are absolutely necessary for creating and maintaining an effective action plan to implement in your daily life.  Possible selves have been correlated with positive psychological outcomes, such as increased well-being, greater satisfaction with relationships, and an unwavering sense of internal control over any life circumstance.  Your possible selves and your feared selves may be heavily influenced by your comparisons to family members, peers, and societal norms and expectations.  Furthermore, your self-evaluations which result from social media exposure can play a significant part in the creation of your possible selves, and, thus, guide your actions in the workplace and within your emotional relationships.  

How Your Possible Self Promotes Self-Regulation in Life Events

Self-regulation symptoms of ADHD well-being Self-regulation

         Possible selves have been linked with self-regulation and well-being during adolescence and throughout the adult years including those experiencing symptoms of ADHD. For instance, you may engage in daily future-oriented actions, such as adhering to a budget, following a nutrition plan, exercising, and completing necessary academic or work tasks, so that you can reach your desired goals and to avoid your feared negative outcomes. Thus, you direct and regulate your daily behaviors to maximize the possibility of achieving your hoped-for possible selves and of avoiding or preventing your feared possible selves.  Both possible selves and self-regulatory processes influence beliefs and behaviors on a day-to-day basis, in service of helping one become or avoid specific images of the self in the future The concept of possible selves is also related to control theory, which asserts that individuals tend to compare their current selves to their ideal selves, and, when discrepancies exist, they are motivated to change the self, in order to minimize this discrepancy.

         Self-regulation is demonstrated by cognitive choices and behavioral acts aimed at either achieving or avoiding one’s possible selves.  Self-regulation can also be seen as influencing mental health outcomes through cognitive and emotional appraisal processes, which assign value and meaning to others’ actions, to one’s sense self, and to one’s coping efforts.  Self-regulation can be a very important motivating force and a source of internal control over your environment.  Self-regulatory moments are fueled by our goals, well-being, desires, morality, and, even, our fears.  Self-regulatory behaviors create an internal locus of control which can serve as a protective factor in the face of adverse circumstances.  For example, a middle-aged adult returning to school for an advanced degree may face daily conflicts posed by challenging and time-consuming coursework, the stress of a full-time job, and the responsibilities of parenting and family while experiencing symptoms of ADHD or other disorders. The ability to endure and master these conflicts may come from the promise of the increased status, prestige, and income that will come with the desired future career, and, thus, illustrate how possible selves work in conjunction with self-regulatory processes to influence much of your personal development.  In sum, both your possible selves and your self-regulatory processes can create a sense of wisdom and balance within your identity and can be a source of self-reflection and self-control throughout your adult years.        

Want to learn more? Click here to read on the impact of Loneliness 

Written by psychotherapist Dr. Rebecca Wang-Harris

Medication Management & Counseling

         New Age Psychiatry offers licensed and certified psychiatric services through virtual telehealth appointments within the state of Florida. We understand the complexities that come with mental health disorders including well-being and symptoms of ADHD, and we will work hard to help you manage your condition.

         New Age Psychiatry is a modern mental health service in Florida that approaches addiction and other mental health issues with compassion and forward-thinking techniques. New Age Psychiatry offers certified psychiatric services through telehealth appointments in Florida. Some of the highlights of the New Age Psychiatry approach include:

  • Online Screening – We will begin with certified online screening to provide an overview of psychiatric care. We also offer a personalized, specific diagnosis through our psychiatric Telehealth services.
  • Diagnosis, Recovery, & Treatment – Our full range of comprehensive psychiatric telehealth services can aid in treating a multitude of psychiatric illnesses and assist in symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, depression and more.
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