Real Self vs. Ideal Self: This Smart-Ass Explanation Will Blow Your Mind

Several years ago, when I was fresh out of college and working as a sales-call sociopath, I had a very embarrassing experience (as if being the annoying person that keeps forgetting the time difference and calling people in California at like 5 a.m. wasn’t embarrassing enough…).

I was sitting at my desk suffering through sharp period cramps (as one does). But they kept getting worse and worse, even after taking Ibuprofen (etc.). Trying to maintain some level of composure (with the inability to control the sweat pouring down my flushed face), I quickly walked (or limped, rather) to the women’s restroom. As soon as I entered one of the stalls and latched the lock, I collapsed to the (disgusting) bathroom floor clenching my stomach. I could not believe how terrible the pain was.

It felt like I had been curled up on the floor for an hour before someone walked in. As the poor girl washed her hands, I whimpered, “Excuse me? Hello? Could I trouble you for a second, perchance?”

“Um… hello?” (I could tell she was hesitant to respond in case I was some rando about to ask her to wipe my ass or something.)

“Hey, so, I kinda feel like I’m dying. Could I trouble you to go fetch my supervisor? I’m fully clothed, I swear…”

“Oh my gosh, of course!” I told her where my supervisor’s office was located. “Okay, I’ll get her here as fast as I can. DON’T PANIC!”

Bitch, I’m not panicking, I’m just dying. But by all means, waste 30 seconds telling me not to panic…

A short bit later, my supervisor comes bursting into the restroom…

…followed by a small gathering of like 8-10 nosey ass-bitches.

As my supervisor called my dad and 911, I just kept envisioning what it would feel like to be on the other side of this. No pain, no embarrassment, not curled up on a wet floor of what I can only pray wasn’t vagina snot… 

Now you’re asking, “What the hell does this story have to do with ‘Real’ and ‘Ideal’ self?!” Well, settle down, Darla – I’m going to tell you.

This story is just a colorful allegory (or metaphor or trope or whatever the best word is) to paint a picture of the difference between “Real” and “Ideal” self. 

You see, in this story, you could say that my Real Self was the person in pain lying on that bathroom floor. My Ideal Self was what I hoped I could be on the other side of that pain.

Does this mean I was a failure as my Real Self in this scenario? Not at all. I owned it. There was no avoiding the reality of the situation. (It’s that annoying but true saying: “It is what it is.”) 

But of course, I had bigger dreams for myself…

Enter my Ideal Self.

Calling out to the poor girl in the bathroom, summoning my supervisor, getting on that ambulance… those were all actions taken to achieve my Ideal Self.

Of course, this story doesn’t provide literal definitions for “Real Self” and “Ideal Self”. But it does help visualize the distinction. 

(Btw, the cramps were caused by an ovarian cyst. Not super glamorous, but those things suck ass. But I digress…)

What is “Real Self”?

Simply put, “Real Self” is who you are all around; the good, the bad, and the boring – warts and all. To be clear, being your “Real Self” is a GOOD thing. We’re all familiar with the sayings, “Be true to yourself” and “I’ll be real with you…” You WANT to be real with people. It’s who you are without any false pretenses. It’s your Bacon. Your beautiful, transparent, 100% Bacon goodness. 

But if that’s the case, then why would we want to strive for an “Ideal Self”? Doesn’t that make our Ideal Self bad or fake, because its very existence implies that there’s something wrong with our Real selves?

Before we explore the aforementioned questions (that I’m pretending you’re asking to appease the voices in my head insisting that you’re actually reading my blog post), let’s first clarify what we mean by “Ideal Self”… 

What is “Ideal Self”?

When we say something is “ideal,” we’re saying it’s the perfect or complete version of itself. “The ideal Thanksgiving dinner would be one with no fighting.” “The ideal scenario is that he’s the man I end up marrying and he’s NOT a sociopath.” “The ideal primary care physician will ignore the flaming mole on my butt so I can live the rest of my days in blissful unawareness.” (That last one should NOT be an ideal scenario, Btw… I am NOT a medical professional. I AM a sarcastic, smart-ass wench with a narcissistic pull to make people laugh at any expense. Please disregard.)

“Ideal” is also often used to describe the way we would LIKE something to be, but believing it is “too good to be true” or unattainable. “The ideal stripper can simultaneously expel glitter out her butt and cocaine out her nose.” (If this is your “ideal,” I can only meet ya 50% of the way… Interpret that as you will.)

So when we refer to our “Ideal Self,” obviously we are talking about the best version of ourselves we would like to be. But I’m talking beyond the simple “I’d like to be an astronaut” ideal. 

Here’s a better way to break it down: Our “Real Selves” are our full (warts-and-all) versions of ourselves, right? This holds true from the moment we are born. Why would our parents encourage us to earn an education as we get older? 

Becoming educated does not mean we are turning “fake” or losing sight of our “Real Selves”. It’s simply developing our Real Selves. Our Real Selves are who we are in the present. So you’re in high school at present. But your ideal may be to go to college. Once you’re in college, who you are at that time is your Real Self. Your Real Self DOES change. But it isn’t a forced version of yourself. Yes, you work towards your Ideal Self, but it’s a progression. 

If you’re in kindergarten, pretending you’re a college graduate is not being your Real Self. However, maybe you’ve heard stories from your parents about college, and as you grow older, you learn more and your Real Self digests new information that helps you not only achieve your Ideal Self but also figure out exactly what your Ideal looks like. 

Once you achieve your Ideal Self, that doesn’t mean you’re done and done. You still have a Real Self, and there may be a NEW Ideal Self that you aspire to achieve. Your Ideal Self is whatever dream motivates you every day; whatever makes you excited; whatever makes you willing to put in the work to attain it. 

Sometimes your Ideal Self may not be somewhere far in the distant future; it may be whatever you’re trying to achieve at any given moment. “Tomorrow, I’m going to be the most generous version of myself I can be.”


I hope this blog post sheds some clarity on the difference between Real Self and Ideal Self. 

Not the “smartass” explanation you were hyped up for? Well, how about this: I’m an ass with a Master’s degree.

Peace out, my Beautiful Bacon Bitches.

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