My Self-image – Sun 3rd Jun 07

My article yesterday on arrogance reminded me that I’ve been accused of arrogance before.  And I say accused, because genuine arrogance isn’t usually an admirable quality.  I didn’t understand this, because ok sometimes I can exude confidence, and granted I am an intellectual genius with a near-perfect physique and rather stunning sense of apparel, but arrogant?  Noooo.

I said in yesterday’s article (cum-essay) that confidence and knowledge are wrongly perceived as arrogance.  And unfortunately, just speaking your mind and not being afraid of making definite statements is also misconstrued this way.  I’ve probably invited misinterpretations of myself because of this, unfairly I think, but that’s life.

A very good friend of mine is amused by my faux-arrogance; I often make running jokes with many people I know about never being wrong, about knowing everything, about being incredibly good or skilful.  I trust that when people do get to know me they’ll know who I really am, or that people who don’t know me have the insight and sense of humour to see through that humorous facade.  As my friend explained quite nicely “feigned arrogance is far more preferable to feigned modesty.”  Some people I admit just don’t “get me” but unfortunately you will always come across that, no matter who you are.

But my wonderful feigned-arrogance aside, I’ve been told a couple of times, (by girls who I’ve gotten to know) that when they first saw me, they thought I was pretty arrogant, or perhaps full of myself.  It came down basically to how I walked!  Maybe a bit of a swagger?  Perhaps an air of confidence or being above it all?

I hate walking.  We’ve all had that experience of coming back from the toilet and having to walk across a dance floor to rejoin our friends.  The dance floor’s empty.  And you just know that everyone is watching you!  I find myself incredibly self-conscious in those situations.  My once-natural legs have turned to metal and are incapable of a casual stroll or pedestrian saunter.  Do I walk fast or slow?  Head down or look around?  Do I swagger a bit and “put out the vibe”?  Or should I just put one foot in front of the other and concentrate hard on not slipping up?

 Born out of that self-conscious insecurity I’ve also tried to walk confidently, if that makes sense.  I guess that means you walk as if everyone is watching but you just don’t care, (whether that’s the case or not).  I don’t pretend for a second that when I walk people are paying me any special attention, (apart from the dozen or so teenage girls that run after me waving their knickers in hand, asking for my autograph), but it’s a comfort thing for my mind that means I don’t walk like a robot, or worse still, a twat.

Little did I know that this confident walk, looking around etc, was being perceived as arrogant.  But whose fault is that?  The easy answer is: other peoples’.  But there are more people with an opinion of how I come across than just me.  Are they all wrong and I’m right?

The truth is, we all think that our “real” qualities are very good, and most of the time they are.  I don’t think I am really arrogant for instance, but if everyone else in the world thinks it, then what does it matter what I think?!  This means that what we actually think of ourselves is most of the time irrelevant!

If you’re shy and retiring, people who know you might appreciate that, but to everyone else you might just come across as unsociable or unfriendly.  Whose fault is that?

If you’re a genuinely friendly person, loud, bubbly, always making people laugh and turning everything into a joke, you might see yourself in a very positive self-light.  You’re the life and soul of the party; the popular one.  Everyone loves you don’t they, because you think you’re a great person?!  That might be true.  Or you might be perceived as superficial; fun to be around but impossible to talk seriously with.  That’s the image you’ve given them so are people wrong to accept it?

‘But that’s not the real me!’ you might say.  Perhaps, but what is the real us?  A common analogy of human personality is the onion; many layers going deeper and deeper.  I preferred the cube over this image though.  A cube has many sides all on the same level but broadcasting in different directions, neither side more “real than the other”; we show people certain sides of ourselves.   Derren Brown in his book “Tricks of the Mind” however uses an even better example: the disco ball.  Hundreds of surfaces bouncing light out in different directions.  Which surface is really us?  All of them!

You might be quiet in one group of friends and loud in another.  You might be very confident using mental skills but feel very insecure about your physical ones, or vice-versa.  You might be uninterested in a game of snooker but be very competitive and aggressive playing football.  Perhaps you’re a total bitch to some people and incredibly warm and friendly to others.  All of these are different sides to your personality.  We are a fluidic constantly shifting series of emotions and expressions.  If you are an embarrassing jerk around some people, you’re an embarrassing jerk, end of story.  This is because everyone else’s opinion of who you are is better than your opinion.  This is because your opinion of yourself really doesn’t matter outside of your mind!  Our personalities only become “active” around other people, in the real world.  As a check of who we really are, it’s actually other people who can tell us far more about ourselves.  Everyone else might be wrong, and you might be right – but it doesn’t matter!  Since people will only ever see what you show them, what you show them is what you are.

The good news therefore is you can be whatever person you want – all you have to do is act like it.  I’m all too aware of my insecurities, but I pretend they don’t exist.  Which means I try to act around people like I don’t have any insecurities, which hopefully means they won’t notice them, and like I’ve written before, confidence is a very attractive quality.

There is no real secret you hidden at your core that you hide from some people and expose to others.  There is no deeper mysterious soul that you are afraid to show.  Whether these images of mind are accurate has no meaning in real life.  Your personality is constantly changing depending on experience, emotion, and interaction.  So if you want to be a friendly person, you just act like a friendly person.  If you wish you were more reserved at times, then you just act more reserved.  If you want to come across as non-committal, mysterious, perhaps “cool”, then you just act like it.  People will generally see what you show them, and they’ll also generally treat you like you expect yourself to be treated.  So if you have the air of someone who expects to get walked on, then you will.  That’s not because people are bastards (well some of them are), but because they’ll generally get away with what they can, it’s human nature; and because people will treat you like the sort of person you come across as.  If you don’t want people to walk all over you, then be the person who doesn’t get walked on, and people will treat you that way.

This isn’t a quick-fix cure-all load of self-help nonsense; I hate that stuff.  These are just general principles that work most of the time, based on my opinion and what I’ve learned/read from other people.  So bear in mind that if you take anything good out of this, I’m the one to thank, and if you screw up and everyone hates you, that’s absolutely your fault!

The bottom line is to be aware of other peoples’ opinions, and bear in mind that your opinion of your “real” self is largely unimportant.  So if you want to be a particular person, you just act that way, because it’s not our words, thoughts, or self-image that define who we are, it’s our actions.

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