I am that. In a bad way. And to my disgust. OK, not disgust, but certainly embarrassment, because I like to think (pretend?) I am above this sort of undesirable behavior. Anyways . . . , right, about superficiality and snobbery.
It cannot escape any of us who really look that image is (about) everything in today’s society. We are taught to project incessantly: to project who we want to be, to dress like the person we want to become, because everyone else around will accept that image of us happily. So most of us know all these things and follow all these percepts, and are in most part aware of the con, but we still start to lose contact with the people we really are behind the persona we create in such painful detail that it becomes more realistic than reality itself.
I am not who I am, but the face I see in the pictures I upload on the Internet. I am not who I am, but what my resume describes. I am not who I am, but what my bank account says about me or the fees that I charge you to hire me. I am my stuff (particularly my gadgets and my clothes), but also my house, my car, the food I choose to eat, the drinks I prefer to savor. Personality. What is it? How much of it is genuine and how much just intentional (as opposed to instinctual) choices that are part of a bigger design.
I like to wear maxi dresses, long strands of beads, and large silk scarves, to read on my cute e-book reader and take photos with my beautiful retro-looking digital camera (I’m sometimes self-conscious about said camera, which is really too good-looking and people sometimes offer to take our family photos just so they can handle the camera — at least that’s what I suspect, because I don’t believe in an inherently good human nature). I can make a fuss about synthetic fibers, plastics in the kitchen and chemicals in body-care products.
I’m not too fussy about food. I eat a low-gluten, low-carb diet mostly trying to lose weight (and because I noticed other benefits, like improved energy levels and such), but I otherwise eat pretty much anything when I’m not at my house. I really don’t have any food issues — it goes in the stomach and soothes the hunger pangs, it’s perfect for me. If you invite me over for dinner, I will eat, enjoy and be grateful for anything you take the effort to put in front of me.
But then I have a few issues with objects that signify my inclusion into the writing profession: I go crazy with notebooks, laptops, pens and coffee mugs sitting just so on the writing table (sofa-side shelf in my case–you can see it in the image that illustrates of this post and also this one here). I love those things. I buy them, collect them, store them attractively all over the house. Do I do this because of what they signify outwardly or because I’m naturally attracted to writing implements? A little of both, most probably. Sometimes, though, I feel like I like to be surrounded by books more than I actually like reading books. (Well, that cannot be true because very few things are more pleasurable than reading a good book, for sure. How come, though, I’m reading so much less lately?) I worry that I might like the idea of writing more than writing itself. That I like to project my image as a writer more than I actually make the effort to accomplish my writing goals.
The art world is filled with people who cultivated their image with great care while still producing work of indubitable quality. Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, and Andy Warhol come to mind immediately. I am not here to dismiss the created persona and support the “authentic self.” I do not believe that latter really, truly can exist without context. These aspect of our personality that we have control over, the stuff that makes us, is what other people see when they look at us, what they can remember and what they can transmit to others. Therein resides its value. We are social, communal beings. Much of our survival depends on what others think about us, on how they treat us, so how can we not create whatever image is more beneficial and conducive to survival?
The problem arises when we really get into it and become unable to separate our inner self from our projected one. When we start taking ourselves too seriously. When we lose self-awareness. When we forgo the practice of introspection. This blog post here is my effort to keep myself in line and achieve a good balance in my own life. I need to work harder at behind-the-curtain stuff, and to think less of how I look and how it all looks.