One of the themes I often hammer away on in my writing is how people represent themselves. Whether it be to others, to themselves, at a job interview, there’s a constant sense of having other people in mind when you are going about your life.
This in some instances is useful, if you want a job it’s handy to know how other people view you and what their perception of you engenders in them. You want something and for whatever reason attaining that thing requires a certain performativity from you, that’s just a fact of life – amplified extremely in a case like this – and so it’s neither bad nor good, it just is. But what happens when this performance bleeds into other aspects of your life, so that you must go about your quotidian existence with a mirror in front of you lest you should disappear from a lack of observer.
Okay, that might be a little hyperbolic, but I do think it’s difficult for most people to separate how they view themselves from how others view them. There’s a presumption that others know better for some reason, know who you are more truly – or at least can see through when you are not being ‘yourself’ whoever that even is. I cannot write this without acknowledging the fact that women have it way harder than men. There exists so many value judgments, so many ways we limit women, in how we perceive them, and by we I mean men. Society tends to think that a man’s appearance only suggests certain aspects of himself, certain quirks and character traits but surely not the whole picture. We forgive little in how we view women. They must hit certain benchmarks or else they do not merit a response it seems. I am not capable – through lack of intelligence and skill – to adumbrate the reasons for this, I just know it to be true. “These truths I hold self-evident” as the Declaration of Independence tells us.
I cannot get past the importance I think many of us place on other people’s opinions, despite the knowledge we possess saying otherwise. It is so clear that self-consciousness is a stupid, somewhat vain thing and yet we persist in it all the same. Don’t misunderstand, I know people feel bad about themselves because of others, but we often tend to perpetuate this ourselves long after we need to. Just look at the fact that many people who lose a significant amount of weight still think they look more like their former selves than they do after the weight loss. And this all contains the assumption that there was something wrong with the past and something much better, something improved in the latter state.
I am trying to write this without being either exhaustive, because that’s boring and I’m not writing a scholarly article, or using sophistry/casuistry because well I am trying to not be incorrect or spread false information. Yet, this is proving difficult and I’ve been thinking about where to go from here, with this article, for awhile to no avail. So, I think I will just end it.
All this is to say, though, that we are needlessly distrusting of our own selves and tend to believe other people’s ideas of ‘who we are’ before we ever believe our own. This is stupid. But, I understand the forces at play, I used to be overweight, very fucking fat, and I’m not really skinny by any means now but I realize that I’ve got societal advantages that many don’t.