Colors Of The Mind #6

The Ideal Self

Make Life Worth Living (MLWL) is a project by Zaluso Arts whose goal is to explore and spark conversations about issues concerning mental health, through art.

My ideal self is sitting in a café in Paris, having crepes and coffee over brunch while idly taking notes for what will turn out to be a bestselling novel as my French lover, Jean-Pierre, looks on in enamoured silence. I drink it all in, the views, the coffee, the sheer joy of being alive. My ideal self has no worries. After her three-week vacation comes to an end, she’ll return home to her cosy two-bedroom apartment and a job she absolutely loves and excels at, while still managing to pursue all the other interests she is passionate about.


The real me on the other hand, is writing this from the double bed and constantly messy room in what is a small corner of my parents’ house. The real me is confused about what to do about her career, six years after graduating with what is now a pretty useless degree, because she doesn’t feel motivated or quite good enough at anything to make it worth sticking to. The real me doesn’t even enjoy writing anymore – the one thing she thought she’d always have, so forget about a novel of any kind, let alone a bestseller. The real me feels stuck.


We’ve all heard it before – comparison is the thief of joy. It just never occurred to me that other than comparing myself to other people, it would be comparing myself to myself- my ideal self- that could be even more detrimental.


We all have hopes, dreams and aspirations of what we want our lives to look like, five to ten years from now, or even tomorrow. For the most part, this keeps us motivated. You work harder when you have something to work for. But on the other hand, I’ve discovered that it can be crippling when you have a good idea of where you want your life to be heading but it doesn’t quite seem to be working out that way.


What has helped me not spiral from the sheer pressure of living up to my own expectations, is coming to terms with the fact that this picture of my ideal self is an illusion. Nobody’s perfect. Humans are fatally flawed by design and the sooner we come to terms with it, the sooner we will realise that being messy, getting things wrong and rarely having anything figured out is not something to be ashamed of because there will never be anyone on this earth who will get life 100% right. And if it ever appears like there are a select few out there who have gotten it right somehow, the truth is that they haven’t. Everyone struggles with something. We will always be seemingly lacking in some fundamental way that may not be obvious to anyone on the outside looking in, and the same is true for everyone we encounter. Call it pessimism, but this comforts me immensely. It takes some of the pressure off being perfect, living the perfect life and having it all figured out.


Life is a beautifully terrible series of ups and downs. Even if I did, by some stroke of determination and sheer luck, manage to end up in that Parisian cafe writing a bestselling novel and living my best life – there would be, in that moment, another version of myself that I was aspiring to become because of something I felt was missing from my life.


It’s easier then, to put my mind at ease and take each day as it comes without feeling bogged down by the thought of everything I could be that I am not. That way it’s great if I ever get to embody the current version of my ideal self and it’s fine if I turn out to be something entirely different. Because in the end, all that really matters is the journey.


Author: Singalilwe Chilemba is a book enthusiast, aspiring wine connoisseur and part-time writer. You can follow her on social media under the handle @mwanaduwa and read more of her work on


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