What is it we see?
With the seemingly never-ending obsession with the perfect selfie and the constant craving for recognition, I’m reminded of the poem by Robert Burns.
One line, in particular, rings true for me and it goes like this.
Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oursel’s as ithers see us.
What you may ask? Oh, what power the gift to see ourselves as others see us. Ah yes, at the heart of so many of our actions, the fuel that feeds our 21st-century obsession with social media and the selfie phenomenon. The never-ending pursuit of the perfect photographic moment, the image of the perfect life all viewed through the somewhat distorted lens of the perfect selfie. And yet, is it perfect?
Of course, it’s not perfect, and to be honest, I find just watching is exhausting, and it may even be a little intimidating. Or is that just me?
We study photo’s of ourselves for clues. Wondering if it really is a mirror image of our true identity and whether we realise it or not, our actions and reactions are constantly being reflected at us by others. It’s little wonder the raging obsession, so many of us have with our appearance, our beauty and the image we project to the world as a whole.
Of course, as humans, it’s perfectly natural to wonder how others see us. Subconsciously we’re letting others know who we are daily.
How we dress, how we wear our hair, the books we read, the music and the movies we love and the people we associate with. We look for these same subtle clues in others to inform us of who we decide to spend our time with and who we should love.
Acknowledging our differences may help us find a way to accept and celebrate the differences in others. After all, life would be pretty bland if we were all the same.
Judge and be judged.
Upon reaching a certain age, it becomes tempting to lament how modern society is being shaped and formed. I like to tell myself; the more things change, the more they stay the same. Haven’t we humans always been a little self-obsessed? Perhaps nothing really has changed.
It’s just our ability to reach and influence more people than we could ever imagine through social media that’s changed. Our constant craving clearly visible for all to see and scrutinise. Every. Single. Day.
But how far removed is the image we’re projecting from who we are? Is it leading us to all the wrong places with all the wrong people?
Who hasn’t found themselves walking away from a relationship, confused and muttering, “That’s not who I am? Why don’t they get me? What was I projecting that led me here?”
With the constant streaming of ‘seemingly’ perfect celebrities, it’s little wonder we worry about our appearance, our weight, our hair, our skin. And as much as I’ll always advocate the preservation of our appearance as a way to build confidence, especially as we age, a narcissistic obsession with ourselves is not likely to bring happiness nor long-lasting success or fulfilment.
Have you ever wondered how Kim Kardashian or any of her sisters will feel once the shine of celebrity wears off? Perhaps not-so-good.
When we look in the mirror.
But what if how we view our appearance goes beyond healthy self-esteem to something closer to an obsession. It starts with a little frown relaxing injections; next comes the dermal fillers, it continues, you find yourself getting more than you need, then one day, a barely recognisable image of yourself stares back at you in the mirror.
I wonder what this does to the psyche? I’m not suggesting cosmetic enhancement is not a good option; done well, it will go a long way in improving how you feel about your appearance. A healthy approach to how you see yourself, with the right cosmetic doctor who believes in a subtle approach, will bring about a much happier outcome.
Less really is more when it comes to cosmetic enhancement.
Why do we worry?
If we worry too much about what others see or think of us, are we missing out on something much greater? Of just being ourselves?
Of course, our outward appearance is inextricably linked to our self-esteem, our attitude towards life, to our well-being and our state of mind, and it’s the rare individual who doesn’t feel the sting of getting older.
But what is it we’re worried about? Why do we worry at all? For a woman, the risk of becoming invisible. No longer relevant. For men, perhaps it’s the fear of mortality?
Should any of this matter? Does it matter? The older I get, the more I realise; it’s just the cycle of life. As time goes by, becoming comfortable in the skin, we live in and taking pride in the place we’ve etched out for ourselves in the world and the contribution we’ve made is far more important than our outward appearance.
I believe acceptance and self-love transcend everything, and I’m pretty sure it trumps a narcissistic way of life.
But in a selfie-obsessed world, it can be a challenge.
Our greatest gift.
If you live a long life, none of it will matter. Not one little bit. I suspect you and I will be happy we made it through life relatively unscathed.
If we’re plagued with ill-health for the last 15 years of our life, then what’s the point? For me, the goal is to live long with good health, both physically and mentally along with a positive attitude toward ageing.
And to see ourselves, not as others see us, or how we think others will see us, but how we wish to see ourselves. Perhaps this is the greatest gift of all.
Would we achieve more? Be braver and more fearless? Seeing the potential others see in us? And, would we care less about our imperfections?
How liberating to no longer worry about how others see us. Loving self-acceptance seems like a worthy goal.
This could be one of the greatest gifts of getting older—a balancing act between caring, but not caring.
And now you?
Do you have a point of view? Have you found a comfortable place in the new world of the perfect selfie obsession? You can email me here.
See you next time,