Friday, August 21, 2009

The images we project

I've been thinking. A slow and laborious process at the best of times, this instance it was worse. Made harder by the depth of my immersion in the situation, it took me a long time indeed to gnaw away at these concepts.

We each, and by each I mean every single one of us, project an image to the world. It's an image of ourselves... and we all do it to some extent. Sometimes only a minor variation on a theme presented to a select audience, other times a carefully crafted persona built up over years and nursed along like a fine wine.

Have you ever spent a moment choosing your clothes... thinking about who you were going to be with that day? Have you ever mowed your lawn because of what the neighbors might think? I have. I've washed my car before picking up a friend because I didn't want her to think me a slob. I've folded my clothes and put them away neatly, in part because people would be at the house later and someone might see the pile on my bed.

These are minor examples... but it goes deeper. Picture a couple getting ready for a party, getting dressed. She tries on a pretty bit of garb, but he says "Try on the red dress, you look smoking in that". She smiles and puts on the red dress, living in the moment and thinking of the looks she will get that evening.

She's projecting an image of herself... attractive, desirable, and alluring. He knows this, enjoys it, and encourages it. They both enjoy it.... the night out on the town, looking good to their friends, and acting a part for the evening. Later they'll take off the shoes that are a bit too tight, loosen the seldom worn clothes that made them look especially good for the evening, and share in a moment of glowing warmth for the little bit of an act achieved. They'll bask in their own self image, and that's an entirely human thing to do.

We all do it, to some extent. This I believe, and I don't fault it. It's a normal part of being human, even when taken to some extremes. Some people nearly live double lives. Their own private life, and a wildly different one presented to the world. Sometimes the private life is so deeply embedded, it only shows in rare moments when the person is alone..... and in some sad cases it never even shows then.

In thinking about relationships between people, I have come to realize that each can be judged by this image, and the place people have in each others vision of themselves.

Think about it..... aren't the most common reasons for a relationship failure one person saying "They turned out to be someone I didn't know", or "He/She lied to me about everything", or "I really judged him wrong", or even just "I was so fooled by....". Aren't these all just saying the same thing? Simply put.... it turns out that one or both of the people found out they were not invited into the inner self image of the other person. In a cruder way of saying it.... they discovered they were on the outside of the lie, rather than the inside.

Just like we all project an image, to some extent we all lie a little too. Even when it's simply by unintended omission, or more often very intentional omission, we all lie. Building that image we present to the world is often supported in part by tiny little lies. Putting on music in the car that you hope someone hears you listening to... makes it seem that's what you like. Leaving a specific book out where people can see it, just so they think that's your reading preference. The ways are myriad...

Sometimes, the lies are deeper, and I won't delve into them here.

The point is... everyone has an image they project to some degree, and everyone has lies that support that image, to some degree. From the unnoticeable small to some which loom large... they are always there.

We can define our relationships by looking at how close to their center we are, and how close we let the other person to ours. Do we really, really know the heart of the person? Do we allow them to see ours? We all lie, and we all let our loved ones small lies slip past..... as long as we are on the inside of them. As long as.... we are part of the real world involving the two, much else that makes up the external images can be ignored, allowed, and even enjoyed together. It's once we discover that we are not really on the inside, but just buried in yet another layer of images and lies.... that's when the pain and hurt begins.


Anonymous said...

It is really hurtful to realize that one has been taken advantage of, for the sake of drama, ego stroking, validation, whatever. That makes it all the more bitter.

Jean said...

Makes it even harder to know another person if we are busy hiding parts of us from ourselves.
I find that if I might begin to look at myself honestly there are things I do not like so I'm hiding as much or more from myself than from others.
My wall is surprisingly high and thick.

JK said...

I echo Jean's comments above. First we need to be honest with ourselves and understand what part of us is real, and what part of us is just the image we are trying to project. If you can't be honest with yourself (I think this is difficult for us), there is no way to share that honesty with another. So, perhaps it's not an intentional betrayal...just a part of growing up. Have you heard Billy Joels, "The Stranger"?

Crucis said...

I remember a looooong time ago in college. I was taking a Psychology class and the prof, an older gentlemen who professed to be somewhat of a Jungian, said that people have two faces, the public face and the personal face. In most cases the faces are nearly the same. In some, however, they are not and that leads to issues. In his context, it was mental issues.

I've never forgotten that and have found in my 60+ years to have been true.

AmericanMercenary said...

Not only do we have an image of how we see ourselves, and how we want to be seen by others, but we have communication issues with other people.

One of the profound moments of realization is that putting on a face for other people is a waste of time. Being self actualized is a great thing. Staying self actualized is hard, actively choosing not to care about what other people think takes effort.

But in the end it is worth it. The people who surround themselves with other self actualized people are the kind of people that you want on your side when the chips are down.

William said...

The problem, AM, of course, is that the people with the false faces (or the false words) are good. They are beautiful and eloquent, and tell you exactly what you want to hear. Until, of course, they DON'T.

Anonymous said...

Then again, take comfort in the fact that sometimes, bitches just be crazy.

:) -- a neighbor to the east