I can’t think of anyone who was more image conscious than me when I was younger.
I wanted desperately to be cool, to be liked, to fit in, to be something I wasn’t. I think this really kicked in when I hit high school, but it was always there in some form or another.
I could go into what this looked like, but suffice it to say that at some point I landed on wanting to be bad, but I wasn’t really bad, so I had to act out in ways that didn’t suit me and make up stories for the things I wasn’t willing or was too scared to do. The problem with all of this was that over time, I did start to evolve into a genuine asshole.
As the years went by, I turned another direction and needed people to see me as perfect, as not having any negative traits, as having it all figured out. This isn’t really any better than anything else, but it carries fewer social consequences. It’s unsustainable though, because it’s not real.
It’s a weird thing we go through as humans, this need to have other humans see us in some certain way.
We all have it to some degree, even the most realized and confident of us. We have this idea that we need to have some control over what someone else sees and thinks when they look at us.
I suppose that this is another one of those things wired into us on a deep level.
We are a social species, and we don’t survive well without other members of our species. Drop a human into the woods all by themselves and they generally don’t survive. Drop a lot of us and we will probably find a way to build a town with a bar before too long. The need to be seen as useful and competent is a strong one.
Because of this, we try to craft our identities and our image, but this rarely goes well if they do not have some resonance with reality.
If they do not fit our actual experience as people and our internal condition, other people sense this, and they do not respond as we want them to. If we are not careful, this can send us into a spiral of trying to fix our image, to shore up our identity.
When it all comes down, the easiest thing we can do is be ourselves, no matter who that might be.
I know people who are real jerkoffs who are hard not to like because they are so genuine while super “nice guys” are left out in the cold because you can tell it’s just not real. If there is something truly unacceptable about ourselves, we need to look at actually changing that instead of trying to create a facade that hides it.
Who would you be if you didn’t care what anyone else thought?
Who are you before you put on all the masks you think people want to see?