Personal growth and our two selves

We all have two selves. Our present and our future self. When the first comes closer to the second, we call it personal growth. Our life seems to be an endless dance between our present and future self. The present one follows the steps of the future. But whenever they come closer the future self just walks away!

Our present and future self

The present self is who we are. It is our Real self. It is what we already have.

The future self is who we wish to be. It is our Ideal self. It is what we desire.

Our present and future self

They are both changing every minute in our life. Our real self constantly changes, improves and gets closer and closer to our desired self. But our desired self is also changing as new ideas, new desires and goals emerge all the time.


The whole idea of personal growth is the progressive blending of one into the other until the Ideal self becomes the new Real self


We absorb new knowledge and we acquire new skills every day. This change is of course hard to see from day to day. But if we look back a few months or years, the difference between the two will be clearly noticeable.

Personal growth: the gap

The difference between our present and future self is a measure of our distress. The bigger the gap, the more distress and anxiety we experience. Let’s don’t forget that our current self was sometime ago our – then – future self. It probably took quite a painful effort to arrive at the point we are today.

When the gap is small

A small gap suggests that our real self is aligned with our ideal. Whenever these two are in congruence we feel satisfaction and we have peace in mind. We feel comfortable in our skin. We have a greater sense of self-worth and self-regard. Eventually, we feel more successful.

Alias, there is another interpretation for a small gap. Some people can be totally unambitious. They are not setting any goals and are unable to conceive a better version of themselves. Consequently, they rarely put any conscious effort to improve. Most probably they spend a lot of time in their comfort zone where they stagnate. Their life may feel boring and most often they procrastinate.

This is a case where the ideal self fails to motivate the real self.

Exiting their comfort zone and moving towards the growth zone can bring a dramatic improvement in the life of these people.

When the gap is big

If the gap is big, we may have raised the bar too high. We may have too great expectations. We wish to become something very much different than what we currently are. In turn, this means that either our present self does not move fast enough, or that we may have set too ambitious, extremely hard, non-realistic goals for our future self.

Our two selves are misaligned. We begin to experience a dissonance. Distress and anxiety escalate. We perceive our present self as not good enough. Our self-esteem is heading south. We may feel discouraged and disappointed.

Often, distress can open the door for more negative feelings. Guilt or even depression may step in.

It is therefore important to have realistic goals but also a realistic self-image. Change does not happen overnight. In fact, it takes months and years of work with our self. And lots of patience!

Personal growth is closing the gap between present and future self

So, closing the gap between the two selves is in essence a journey. We have to move towards a destination which keeps moving further away.

But this is fine. When the destination stays for too long in the same place, it may mean we are not inspired enough, or we lack ambition.

Before embarking on any self-improvement journey, it is necessary to fully accept our present self. This will be our passport. Without self-acceptance we cannot change anything. Fill your luggage with enough self-compassion and you guarantee that the trip will also be a pleasant one.

It will help, if we ask ourselves the following questions:

1. 🚩 Identify the starting point (Present Self)

  • What am I not happy with?
  • What are my weaknesses and my pain points?
  • Which of my needs are not satisfied yet?
  • Which habits are not good for me anymore?
  • What holds me back?
  • What do I like to change, what do I prefer to be different?

2. ⛳ See clearly the destination (Future Self)

  • What skills should my next version have?
  • Which strong points do I want to build upon?
  • In what other ways do I want to improve?
  • What goals do I want to accomplish?
  • Which of my weaknesses can I remove?

3. 💡 Then move on to the How

  • How can I get rid of some old habits and adopt new, better ones?
  • What techniques can I use, to help me develop new skills?
  • How can I attain my new goals?
  • How could I get some of my needs satisfied?


Thus, personal growth and consequently self-actualization can only be achieved when there is an alignment of our real self with our ideal self.

It is also evident, that true self-knowledge breaks down into two parts. It is knowledge about both the Real Self and the Ideal Self. Effective personal development requires a clear perception of both selves.

See also our article about the Comfort to Growth zone and understand more clearly what stands between our Present and Future selves.