I’ve written before about the “fantasy self.” On the surface, having a fantasy self seems like a great thing. Aren’t you supposed to visualize the person you want to be, then go and achieve it? So when is it really a problem to have a fantasy self?
From a minimalism perspective, the fantasy self is an aspirational being that prevents us from living our best life…primarily by creating clutter.
My “fantasy self” is the reason I have a guitar and intro guitar books in my basement. It’s not because learning the guitar will fill a lifelong desire but because playing the guitar seems like something that the person I aspire to be “should” do.
The problem with that guitar in the basement is that it takes up space and mental energy that prevents me from achieving my best self. When I think of my musical skills, that guitar haunts me. Instead of focusing on the talents I do have and the skills I’m more eager to learn, I think about the guitar as a failure to achieve my “best” self. Every time I think of my musical skills, it’s not that I can sight-read music and play a mediocre piano. It’s that guitar sitting in the basement that I can barely strum without hurting my sensitive fingers.
The fantasy self is not your best self! It’s the thing preventing you from actualizing your potential, seeing the skills and talents you already have, and realizing your passions.
By getting rid of that fantasy self–the person who will “one day” learn this skill, develop that hobby, become that sort of person–you can get rid of so much actual, physical clutter in your life. Sell the expensive cameras, commit to the fact you aren’t ever going to develop an affinity for golf, and move along.
What you’re left with will be the things you do love. Sometimes our aspirational/fantasy self prevents us from seeing the talents and passions right in front of our eyes.
I want to be the type of person who goes to book clubs. I love reading and debating books, and I really love drinking wine with friends. Book clubs sound exactly like my thing. But it turns out that when I’m presented with a book that I “have” to read rather than one I “get” to read, I rebel. I’m not cut out for book club! My vision of myself as a smart, fun intellectual requires that I go to book club. But that fantasy self kept trying to join book clubs and dreading going. What if I had held those evenings for more time with myself? Evenings at the dog parks? Time devoted to learning language? Or other hobbies that I truly enjoy?
But, Amanda, (you may say) what if my fantasy self is a motivation for me? What if I really do want to learn underwater basket weaving, which is why a bunch of snorkeling masks and reeds are gathering dust in the corner?
If that’s the case–if you truly want to achieve that goal–what’s holding you back? Either underwater basket weaving is your fantasy self. Or you have another block preventing you from achieving your dream.
My book club fantasy self was taking energy–and time in my calendar–that could’ve belonged to other things. If you’re truly passionate about underwater basket weaving but aren’t spending the time with that interest–what other elements of your day/life are preventing you from reaching your goals?
Figuring out your fantasy life isn’t just about eliminating it. It’s also about figuring out how to achieve it. If your “fantasy self” is really the self you most want to be. Get there. Don’t sit around being miserable that you haven’t achieved it yet. Getting rid of the fantasy self seems like a good way to start figuring out what else might be holding you back.