I’ve seen the phrase “what other people think of you is none of your business” quite often.
As an upwardly mobile woman with a unique sense of style and a long-standing rebellious streak, I wholeheartedly agreed with it for a good long while. In essence, it was a variation of my rebellious tendency to shout that I didn’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks of me. A classier version, albeit, but something pretty similar all the same. Who would really argue with that? That part of it, the face value aspect, still rings fairly true, doesn’t it? A person should unapologetically be who they are without asking for others’ approval to be, to own their space in the world, to live without guilt.
But with self-awareness comes a need to look at that statement on a deeper level, to turn it over and examine all the cracks and crevices in the full light of day to see it for what it really is and not just the pretty package you get when it’s sitting in the shadowed corners of dusk. A lot of things sound good, look good, and get quoted when they’re left in the dark. For instance, I look pretty decent without makeup in the middle of the night, but put some fluorescents on me and whoa… run for cover, man, and wait until I put on my face. Words are like that. Words are like that more than we fully realize with so many of us sharing silly inspirational memes after a second’s thought that aren’t so applicable to anything remotely rational or inspirational or good once examined a little harder. There’s this one Marilyn Monroe quote that comes to mind that I’ve seen more than a time or two. It says, “A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.” If you don’t think about it much, surely that seems like badassery. But on further inspection, all it says to me is that she probably had borderline personality disorder because for fuck’s sake that’s exactly what people with said disorder do and say. Is that really meme-worthy? Hardly.
When you dig a little deeper concerning that sentiment that another person’s opinion of you isn’t your business, it doesn’t have as much value. At least, it doesn’t to me. It doesn’t have to be about you not being allowed to be your true self. But, when you’re on that path to self-awareness, a difficult and time-consumingly emotional process, isn’t it important that the person you are inside match what people perceive you to be? Isn’t it worth understanding whether the image, the you that you project to the world—to your contacts, your associates, acquaintances, friends, loved ones—is the same as the you that you are striving to be, the you that you want to be?
I watched SLC Punk as a teen. It was one of those films that left its mark on me. I wasn’t in the punk scene in the 80s by far, but I related to those characters being a rebellious teen in a conservative area “And so there I was. I was gonna go to Harvard. It was obvious. I was gonna be a lawyer and play in the God-damned system, and that was that. I was my old man. He knew, so what else could I do? I mean, there's no future in anarchy; I mean let's face it. But when I was into it, there was never a thought of the future. I mean we were certain the world was gonna end, but when it didn't, I had to do something, so fuck it. I could always be a litigator in New York and piss the shit out of the judges. I mean that was me: a trouble maker of the future. The guy that was one of those guys that my parents so arrogantly saved the world for, so we could fuck it up. We can do a hell of a lot more damage in the system than outside of it. That was the final irony, I think. That, and well, this. And "fuck you" for all of you who were thinking it: I guess when all was said and done, I was nothing more than a God-damned, trendy-ass poser.”
He grew to that point that he understood change isn’t made on the fringes. I’ve seen that myself for a long time now. He also saw the changes he made wouldn’t exactly be approved of by his younger self or by young punks and old ones alike, but he was okay with that. The fact that someone else didn’t approve of his choices wouldn’t change those choices In the process of self-awareness, though, that look into another person’s perceptions is needed to grow, to really become okay with what you’ve made of yourself or to realize what else needs to change.
It doesn’t really matter one way or another if a person likes the way I wear my hair or thinks I have too many tattoos unless that person is hiring me for a job, but it does matter the overall image I project. That is my business. The person I feel like on the inside should match the person I show the world otherwise I have a whole lot of work left to do. To assume that the outward projection isn’t my business is to fail at awareness altogether in favor of something easier and lazier. It lets me escape half the journey, and what’s the fun in that?
Skipping the fiction this week for Sunday Confessions in favor of something that's been more or less on my mind for awhile now. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the other posts today on More Than Cheese and Beer!