Our life consists of pictures. Little moments when time seems to hesitate just long enough for us to capture them. Adding them all together, we end up with a movie we can neither rewind nor skip ahead. Everything is constantly changing, the people that step into the picture, the motives and the backgrounds.
In the course of this movie, there is one picture we as cameramen will never fully be able to see. It’s going to be one of the most important pictures in the whole movie, yet we will never be able to take a glimpse at it: A portrait of the protagonist if you will, our self-perception.

As we grow up, we start asking the big questions about our identity, our heritage, our past and our future. But soon we realize that this process is somehow reminiscent of being asked to phrase the definition of a word we use so often that it must be obvious. Yet, we usually struggle with it until we throw around some words that are as close to being a useful definition as they are far fetched. Alan Watts (whom I’m going to quote a couple of times in this post) enunciated this fittingly:

“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”

We all experienced this dilemma, in our own way, but all with the same conclusion:
If I can’t define who I am, maybe other people can.

And surely, it sometimes seems like other people never miss a chance to show us what they think of us. After failing to define ourselves, we identify with the picture others have of us, which opens up the amazing opportunity of manipulating that picture. In a way, the selfie would be the more appropriate metaphor, since instead of saving the pictures we take of ourselves to remind us of how we used to look, we manipulate them in every way we can to put ourselves in a good light. Unsurprisingly, we then share our selfies on social media platforms that make a living from providing us with ratings on our pictures since that is our only way of finding how we are supposed to feel about the way we look. People liking our selfies enables us to like ourselves. If we choose the right angle, right filter, background and the right hashtags, maybe we can become as picture perfect as everybody else on these platforms. We have the power to manipulate everyone into thinking we’re beautiful, successful, popular, rich, anything we want really which somehow in this twisted reality actually makes it come true. There is only one problem:

“When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.”

Sadly, this concept is not a one-way street. As much as we can control what others think of us, they can control what we think of ourselves since we make it dependent on their feedback. Our self-confidence, self-love, self-perception is based on what others think of us. Once you come to understand that your selfie is not you and how many likes you get for it is not representing how many people like you, you will realize how dangerous this confusion is.

Defining your self-worth by how many people think you’re attractive will leave you with an infinite quest for compliments and validation and an extreme vulnerability to the withdrawal of those.
Defining your self-worth by how many people would be interested in being in a relationship with you will permanently keep you from engaging in a real relationship since you would never be able to settle without losing your main source of self-confidence.
Defining your self-worth by what people think of your success, status and achievements will induce a crippling fear of failure, never letting you live to your fullest potential.
Defining your self-worth by how many people consider themselves to be your friends will make you distort your image to please everyone until you loose yourself in the progress.

“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be”

In my opinion, the key to self-confidence is to distance yourself from the conclusion we all made as teenagers. Just because you can’t define yourself doesn’t mean you should make yourself dependent on other people’s image of you.

Self-confidence is accepting that there is a dynamic picture of you that continuously changes over time situation and perspective and that you have no influence on. Only if you stop blurring it, you can accept your true self without any interference from the outside. That is the essence of self-confidence.

Our life consists of pictures. Little moments when time seems to hesitate just long enough for us to capture them. Adding them all together, we end up with a movie we can neither rewind nor skip ahead. Everything is constantly changing, the people that step into the picture, the motives and the backgrounds.
So why shouldn’t this apply to our self-perception? Maybe it is something to be experienced, rather than to be presented and influenced. Just be authentic and end up with the people who admire, appreciate and love you for the work of art you are.

One thought on “Pictures

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