A Lady Laments About... Self
by Jennifer Philo
Self, to me, has always been one of those "four letter words". Most connotations reflect a nature that is less than flattering. Portrayed as the villain in this production of life, self has indeed gotten a bad rap. Take for instance, these depictions. If one is inclined to focus on their own needs, they are selfish. When one's needs take a more vain approach, they become self-centered. If one has difficulty with moderation down any avenue they dare venture, they lack self-control. And, more often than not, all of these heinous acts are typically identified as self-induced. While some of these examples can be used with a more positive spin, seldom do we hear them in that respect. Yes friends, if self was ever considered for a vocabulary contest, it would more than likely be compared to words like castration or enema; instantly recognizable and worthy of two flinches and a cringe.
Where and when did self take a turn for the worse? And what's more, can we ever redeem it to a more desirable status? In a society that desecrates the notion of self-love (i.e narcissism) and self-reliance (i.e "you mean you're not married yet?"), the outlook for redemption seems very bleak. Yet as we explore the fantasies of being comfortable with self and accepting to self, we find that a bright future is not unfathomable. In a perfect world we could collectively start to be O.K with who we are and how we look and knock society's standards and idealisms off their golden pedestals. But that's in a perfect world. How great would it be not to pay mind to the pages and pages of magazine models carefully orchestrating what most of the people in our surrounding environment don't look like? What a relief it would be to be proud of academic advances instead of how many dates we've been on or the amount of sexual encounters we've kept on our proverbial belts .
Scenarios emphasizing true-self as opposed to self-delusions are about as practical as finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. While whimsical, completely fictitious. I've read many articles that stress being yourself, but it's rare to find a living example demonstrating to the rest of us how it is done. And in same said articles, I've yet to read a twist on the very powerful adage "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Beholder simply recognizes the importance of others opinions, not self-assurance. Truth be told, ones capability of being comfortable in ones own skin is heavily relied upon by the thoughts and actions of others, instead of us, the true stars of self.
Outer appearances are not the only soft spot we endure continually throughout life. We learn at a very early age that individualism, unless being mass produced by the latest in pop culture, is not as acceptable as one would hope. Even the children that excel in certain subjects, athletics or even artistic talents are set apart by classmates and adults alike. Once gifts like this expire due to ever-changing mind sets or interests, the seclusion becomes even greater and questions of doubt and regret fill young, impressionable minds that damage more than just the ego. Self-respect is lost amongst the tangled web of self-hatred, and conformity seems to be the only answer. Not exactly self-sufficient, is it?
Self is defined by Websters as "an aspect of one's personality" or "what one is". I find it intriguing that numerous personalities seem very consistent with a myriad of others and if self is what one is, how is that possible? The amount of energy we put into our self-confidence and self-esteem through therapy, prescriptions and life-altering remedies, seems like a contradiction. To heal ourselves in order to be well-adjusted; just like everyone else.
In conclusion, I think it best to look at self through the eyes of the past and the present and two examples come to mind immediately. Volkswagen and Robert Frost; mass producer meets poetic legend in a symphony of similar thought. There are passengers and there are drivers and in the grand scheme of life, those who choose the road less traveled by can make all the difference.