Why new selves anyway?


Last week, I was talking about creating new selves including “Funny Narelle”. What I had in mind was the act of creating from nothing, as distinct from creating from perceived need (reinventing ourselves because we think there’s something wrong about us that has to be addressed or compensated for).

A question occurred to me: why create new selves then? If it’s not to address or compensate for something we think is wrong, why the question of reinvention at all? Why was I excited about Funny Narelle or any other Narelle?

I came up with three possible responses.

Why create new selves? Because I can.

Why create new selves? Because it’s fun.

Why create new selves? Because of what I can provide others.

The third one came from thinking about three men I’ve encountered in the last month.


The first man is Benjamin Zander. Ben is the former conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and the author, with his wife, of one of my favourite books, The Art of Possibility. Reader Jeremy had just watched one of Ben’s TED talks. I watched it too, and in it Ben talks about waking up each day and choosing who he is going to be. He says something along the lines of,

I choose to be someone around whom people’s eyes are shining.

The second man is Trent, my dance teacher. After five years away, I returned to dancing about 12 weeks ago and I found this teacher, a man with such uncanny facility of movement he can tell a spontaneous joke with his head or shoulder in the midst of doing a routine. His classes are packed and contain all sorts: teenagers, young men, mothers, a husband and wife in their 50s.

During the class, I sometimes catch sight of other people’s faces and I see pure joy. At the end, everyone looks at each other and smiles. As Trent says in a blurb on the dance company’s website:

My proudest moment is watching my students glow when they walk off the stage at our mid year concert; seeing how my routines can make people so happy.

The third man is Ade, a man whose book, The Little Book of Hope, I recently edited. Ade has written his book to provide guidance and hope to people who have survived a stroke, and those caring for them. Ade is 44 years old and has suffered two strokes, one at the age of 37 and another at the age of 42. The second was devastating and he was not expected to survive. Now, two years and many tribulations later, he is speaking again, and on the road to moving independently.

Ade is a funny man, and if he hadn’t been a TV and radio producer, he probably would have been a professional stand-up comedian. As it is, he gives away his art for free. He makes clear in the book the enormous role his humour has played in his survival, for himself, his wife Kate and all around them, including allowing his wife and he to ensure their dignity and grace while she assisted him in the most intimate functions.

Editing someone’s book is another kind of intimate process. As I was doing it, I was struck by the acknowledgements and testimonials Ade had collected from the friends, colleagues and doctors with whom he’d shared the manuscript. One person’s words spoke to me in particular. He said this:

All the time I was reading your book I kept thinking, ‘Wow! How lucky am I to know this guy …’


What do you want to provide to others? What new selves are you creating to provide it?


Image: From The Great Gatsby, Director Baz Luhrmann, 2013

More information …


10 thoughts on “Why new selves anyway?

  1. I loved Benjamin Zander’s musical journey, especially his boundless passion for music. Chopin was the prince of musical romantic passion. Thank you Narelle for the chance of listening to this great man and his piano..


    • Ben’s wonderful, isn’t he? His deceptive cadences, and the magnificent Chopin.

      You might also enjoy he and Rosamunde’s magical book, The Art of Possibility. It’s full of anecdotes about his life and music, and what you might call the possibility that music is in the world. You can read some of my excerpts from the book under the series Possibility.x


  2. The words to a very old song are: “There’ll be a change in the weather, a change in the sea, and from now on there’ll be a change in me. My walk will be different, my talk and my name. Ain’t nothin’ about me going to be the same”. I’m in the midst of cleaning closets and getting rid of “stuff”. Perhaps we all need to clean out our mental closets occasionally and make some changes. What kind of dancing are you returning to? Bisous my Aussie friend.


    • Cleaning out the closets and getting rid of stuff is always good for the spirit. You’re spot-on … why stop with the physical closets???

      I used to dance jazz ballet or Latin; now doing Zumba, Rumba and Samba. Can you see a pattern? ;) Bisous, my Californian friend x


  3. I love what you provide to others, Narelle.


    I guess what I’d like to provide is a place where people go, read my words, and exclaim, “I get what she’s saying here. I’m not alone. I’ve never thought of that before.”

    That’s that.



    • You deliver on that intention, Kim. Many times over xx

      My intention for others is always the same, though I use different names for it. At this moment, I call it liberation. That every human being uncovers who they really are.


  4. I think we are always adapting to our circumstances, keeping an essential “self” but moderating or tweaking the details to fit the surroundings or people.

    Sociologists talk of social statuses we occupy (woman, mother, accountant, etc.) and the role or expectations that go along with each of these statuses. Since we occupy multiple statuses (sometimes at the same time), we adapt our behavior to make the “best fit” for the situation.

    I’m not the exact same person with my son as I am with my sister or my friend or my fiancee (definitely not!), but the core values I hold don’t vary, just mannerisms and what I choose to talk about might differ.

    Why am I doing it? To fit in. To keep the social contract in tact. It’s easy to test the theory. Violate the expectation–break the social contract and see what happens. ;)


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