I grew up with the notion that image and how I appear to the public was the most important criteria for a happy and successful life. Our culture relies on this belief. WE ARE OUR IMAGE. It is repeated in entertainment, advertisements, and in those we consider famous. We live by the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality and have a strong emphasis on how we look and speak to others.
I started to become conscious of this during my 2nd year in college. I would see myself so focused on what I was wearing, what my body type was, and if what I was saying was cool. There was not much room in that mind to focus on my music, studies, and the true substance and beauty inside of me, others, and encompassed in the world all around us.
After I observed how often I was missing out on meaningful experiences, I made a conscious choice to replace “focusing on my image” with “focusing on life and the growth within my character.” Shifting in this way took an exorbitant amount of time. In order to replace a negative with a positive, I need an experienced amount of clarity to propel my desires to not want the negative while also defining and passionately directing my feet towards the positive (a choice-based life). This mindset may take a lot, but, wow, is it incredibly rewarding. Just the freedom alone that comes from throwing away control, rules, and standards was all the refreshment I needed to finally relax.
5 years later, here I am. I care a small amount about my external appearance and much more about my internal choices and how they create the actions of who I am today.
This sounds so set in stone.
Like I am all set with my growth and development.
That is a misconception though.
First, I will always “need to grow.” Second, image is not the only distraction from growth. Third, once distractions are clear, learning how to live in the midst of this massive, constantly moving cycle of life contains an even bigger set of internal skills to create fulfillment and meaning. And finally, there seems to be no conclusions to anything out there anyway. There will always be minor tweaks to what I think are accomplished or completed experiences. And, in the case of my short story below, major tweaks.
This whole post so far has been about my success with finding out and implementing the insight that “image is not important.” I had thought this was a pinnacle growth. It turns out that it was an incredibly positive stepping stone to a new position of growth.
Recently, my eyes opened to a particular set of my unconscious actions that were contradicting my own experience of “image not being important.”
I will provide some context to help you see my insight more clearly:
I come from a family that has been financially successful. In this setting, I have met many others who have been born in the same very lucky position. Many of them have created an entitled, internal ugliness. My friends and co-workers who are not as financially fortunate tend to make fun of or get angry with this “ugly” stigma of wealthy people. This has caused me to want to hide away from this stigma. And, since I do not define my words, actions, nor my status with this entitlement, it has always been a sour taste in my mouth every time I have been labelled as “another entitled rich person” instead of truly seeing who I am.
…I feel less than human…just a label…away from who I am inside…
Because of this context above, I have spent countless years manipulating my image to hide my wealthy upbringing. Simple clothes that do not flash money. Simple car that is affordable to most. Simple words that don’t indicate class. Simple jobs that require getting bruised and dusty. Simple activities that are far away from society and require minimal “stuff” to survive. Etc etc etc.
Even though I have learned a lot of importance from simplicity, hiding any part of me will literally discount a piece of my puzzle. I will be unavailable to utilize my complete and true personality in conversation…in public…at work…anywhere. I may have opened my self-confidence past where I’ve ever been before through my growth, but I am not completely free from control, shackles, and clouds inside.
This is image. When I lie about who I really am inside. Image. The facade in front of my mind. The blame to hide the shame.
Here it goes
I am incredibly lucky. My parents have worked tooth and nail to afford this luxury for me. To this day, my family helps me tremendously with finances. College. Clothes. Housing opportunities. I am fully appreciative of every penny that has come into my pocket without me working for it. With that, I have utilized each opportunity to benefit my future family, my friends, my co-workers, myself, and my donations to those in need.
Each action that I choose, I select from values that are important for my integrity. Those closest to me understand this…and consistently see this…and that is what matters. The people who write me off and label me as “another rich asshole” do not matter to me. My family, friends, fiancé, and those who are close matter to me. They know me.
…image…on the other hand…
It cannot matter. Because it will take me farther away from who I really am. How can I expect to gain humility, trust, respect, and integrity from myself without honesty. Here I am everyone. Say that I am someone else, but it will not deter me from continuing my momentum. Time to put the puzzle piece back.
I’ll leave you with some more Glen Hansard and his humility.