There are certain people in our lives that can become our personal example of a certain trait. Sometimes it is a trait we have that we wish we didn’t, and we tend to be quite hard on those friends, since they remind us of that which we don’t like in ourselves. In other cases, it is a trait that we find lacking in ourselves. In such cases, we imagine that person when we are trying to exhibit more of that trait. We carry that imagined version of them around to remind us of how we want to be.

For example, I have this friend, Mike. When he and I first became friends, I wished I were more relaxed and laid back about certain things, the way I perceived Mike to be. So I had an imaginary mini-Mike. And when I found myself being too uptight, mini-Mike would mock me. Over time, mini-Mike gained other traits that I perceived and envied in Mike. Mini-Mike became a voice for my own inner criticisms of how I wished I were less uptight. I imagined what I thought Mike would say if he saw me behaving a certain way.

One day, fantasy and reality collided. Not with a bang, but with a chuckle. I was over at Mike’s house, and we were just sitting around talking. While we were talking, I happened to pick up a figure, I believe it was small metal dolphin, and was fidgeting with it while we were talking. It seemed harmless enough. Eventually, I put it down on the same table. Mike got up from his seat across the room almost immediately. He walked across the room in order to rotate the dolphin 90 degrees. Apparently, I had placed it facing the wrong direction.

I can’t begin to imagine the look on my face, but I eventually chuckled. Mike began responding defensively, feeling that I was criticizing his need to correct the dolphin’s position. He justified his need to do so and suggested I would have done the same. Essentially he suggested that I did not know the whole story of why he had the dolphin and what it meant to him. He was right, of course, but what he did not understand was that I was laughing at myself, not him. It became clear to me that this mini-Mike that was so hard on me was entirely my own voice and had little to do with the actual Mike. He was just a convenient persona for my own self-criticisms, based on a lot of projection and assumption. Mike may be more relaxed than me sometimes or in certain situations, but this trait does not define him the way it defined mini-Mike. After that, I never mistook mini-Mike for anything other than what he was, a part of me that aspired to be different in a certain way.



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