Every once in a while, I scroll through social media to look at myself through someone else’s eyes. I wonder what they’re thinking with each update, wonder what story each picture tells. It’s easy to make your life appear a certain way online, with the screen as your separator.
Some people will be able to see past the performance, but others will believe it. Even family. Even friends. The people closest to you might not have talked to you in a while — but they’ll assume they know exactly what you’ve been up to because they’ve seen the posts. They’ll assume they haven’t missed a thing. They’ll assume they’re caught up on your life when they don’t know the half of it.
They’ll think what they want to think.
“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’” — Lewis Caroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
I feel like a completely different person than the girl I was in my younger days, my high school days, my crying-in-front-of-the-mirror-every-single-morning days. I feel so detached from my old self that I can look at her as another person. A person to pity. A person who didn’t realize how beautiful life could get — or how cruel it could be.
It’s always a shock when people comment on how little I’ve changed. It’s weird that they can spot me in a crowd, recognize me straightaway, when the girl they’re looking at is absolutely nothing like the one they think they knew. I’m not her anymore and it’s almost insulting when people think we’re one and the same.
It shouldn’t be insulting, of course. I should love every piece of me, even the parts that no longer exist. But that’s not the case. Learning to love myself in the present is strenuous enough.
“It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters. And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don’t have genuine souls. It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I’m not a real person and neither is anyone else.” — Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
I used to think that my stubbornness meant that I didn’t care about anyone else’s opinion, that I had such a concrete identity that no one could budge it. But I’m slowly realizing that society has shaped me in a million different ways. It’s swayed me into believing certain ‘truths’ without me consciously realizing what was happening.
The problem is… realizing I’ve been wrong about certain aspects of myself hasn’t given me a magical aha moment. It’s only made me more lost.
If I was so sure about who I was yesterday and was wrong — then how the hell am I supposed to trust myself today? My own brain is an unreliable narrator. Untrustworthy. Unsure.
My favorite books to read are thrillers, stories that warn you not to trust the person sleeping next to you in bed because you can never truly know another person. They could be a monster in disguise. They could be the killer in the last chapter.
But what happens when the person you don’t know is yourself?