When your daydream self isn’t you

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that the person you become in your daydreams is very important. In real life, we mould who we are to fit the life we’re living. We show up in the way that feels most appropriate. We become what we think other people want us to be. But in our daydreams, we have complete freedom to be ourselves. We can be authentic without fear of judgement or rejection. And that’s why very often your daydream self is closer to the real you than your real-life self. But what if they’re not? What if you’re certain that your daydream self isn’t you?

It’s not uncommon to daydream as someone you’re not. Many of us daydream as the person we aspire to be – an idealised version of ourselves. If that’s the case for you, your daydream self is still authentic. They’re the person you would have been if real life hadn’t got in the way – if you hadn’t experienced trauma, or developed limiting beliefs, or grown up in an environment where you couldn’t thrive.

But what if your daydream self has traits that aren’t authentically yours? Should you worry that your subconscious is trying to tell you something? What if you don’t really want to be anything like your daydream self?

This often comes up in the context of gender identity or sexual orientation. What if you’re female but you daydream as a man? What if you’re straight but your daydream self is gay? Or what if your daydream self is a murderous villain who enjoys hurting others in a way you never could? Are your daydreams a sign that you have those urges buried somewhere inside you?

Well, maybe. But probably not. I’m sure there are daydreamers who learned something about their sexual orientation when a daydream plot took an unexpected turn. We’re lucky to have that safe space of our imagination where we can explore questions around identity that we don’t feel ready to explore in reality. But our daydreams don’t always speak to us so clearly. Our daydreams are complex, and we shouldn’t interpret them too literally or simplistically.

As a child, I would sometimes daydream as a man. Does that mean part of me wants to be a man? In my case, no. I daydreamed as a man because I’ve always had a sci-fi paracosm, and I’ve always daydreamed as the hero that everyone admires. These days, I have no problem with being a powerful woman in a sci-fi universe. But when I was growing up in the 1980s, there were relatively few strong female characters in sci-fi. In the books and TV shows I used for inspiration, most of the exciting characters were male. So sometimes I became male too. It wasn’t about wanting to be a man. It was about wanting to play a certain role, to have certain traits, and sometimes being a man just came along as part of the package.

Because your daydream self is never just one thing. They’re a complex person, with a range of strengths and weaknesses, just like your real-world self. And when you become your daydream self, you’re signing up to the whole thing. Even if you’ve tried to make your daydream self perfect, there will be times when they say or do something they later regret, or their actions complicate their life in some way. It wouldn’t be a good plot if that never happened. So although your daydream self is the authentic you in many ways, you can’t take every single thing about them and assume that’s how you’d want to show up in the real world.

Your daydreams give you a safe space to be authentically yourself, but they also give you a safe space to get curious about other possibilities. You might want to explore a situation or perspective that real life hasn’t given you the opportunity to experience. For example, you might want to live in a society that has very different rules and expectations from the society you were born into. But if you were living in that very different environment, you’d be different too. Our circumstances shape us, in our daydreams just as in real life. So your daydream self might not be the person you want to be in this world. Instead, they’re the person you would be if you were living in your daydream world.

The person we become in our daydreams can tell us a lot about who we are, but they can’t tell us everything, and we can’t take them too literally. What we can do is get curious about our daydream selves, and ask why they are the way they are. Adopting the parts of your daydream self that inspire you to live a better life in the real world can be a beautiful way to grow. But if there are parts of your daydream self that don’t seem to fit your real-life experience, that’s OK too. It’s fine for some things to stay in the daydream.

[Photo by Miriam Espacio]