There are a lot of trends I'm seeing lately that have started to concern me. I see people documenting their entire lives on the Internet through cell phones, web cams, blogs, Facebook, twitter. At first I thought, oh hey, that's cool! I want Instagram! Then I can show what I'm doing and be cool like everyone else.
But then I started to think more about this sort of thing, this instantaneous documentation and the ways I project myself to the world. I began noticing my motivations, and what I saw made me unhappy with myself.
The event that stemmed all of this thought seems a ridiculous catalyst. It all started with a hamburger. I was at my professor's home for an end of term class party. I'd spent the majority of the time playing with his son, Cade, and I finally got Cade to eat a cookie so that I could have my own dinner. As I stood in line behind my classmates and other students from my professor's classes, I noticed that each of them created similar hamburger ensembles: bun, burger, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, mustard, ketchup. They then got guacamole and chips, lots of watermelon and cantaloupe, and for the most part skipped the cookies and shortcake, choosing just to take the strawberries.
My heart sank as I saw each person follow this pattern. I don't really like lettuce, I generally avoid tomatoes, I think dill pickles are gross, mustard is evil, and guacamole just looks yucky to me. However, I felt that to NOT have all of these things was to be too different, and that people would criticize me in their minds for being unhealthy and picky. And so, I copied the pattern I saw and forced it all down.
Looking back, I recognize that those people probably weren't paying that much attention to what I put on my plate and what I didn't. In the moment, though, I was absolutely terrified that they would judge me and mentally call me names like fat and immature. But why was I worried about that? Because those are the names that I called myself. I called myself unhealthy, picky, fat, immature, and projected my own thoughts onto the people around me. I forced myself to eat what I thought people wanted me to eat. I was so worried about how others would perceive me that I forgot the most important thing: how did eating food I don't like make me feel?
As I thought about that experience, I realized that this happens with more than just food at a party. What I pin on Pinterest, the status updates on Facebook, my pictures that I take and post, the things I choose to talk about -- so much of this has been to make people believe I'm a certain way. I was trying to be what I thought they wanted me to be. But if the me I really am and the me I pretend to be don't match up, then does that mean that I am going to spend my whole life pretending?
I'm not saying that virtual documentation and distribution of life events/outfits/meals/things is a bad thing! Honestly, I kind of wish I had Instagram because then I could have something like a photo journal. I actually think that and other things are very good, but only if the motivation behind them is correct. I feel that if my motivation is to put on some face that I think others want to see, then my motivation is wrong. If I'm wearing a particular outfit to show that I'm in style, but I'm horribly uncomfortable, then WHY the heck am I wearing it? If I'm working out to "fit in" with society, but not because I want to be healthy, WHY? If I'm eating a certain way to assuage the fears of imagined rejection, but I hate what I'm eating, then WHY am I eating it? If I tell a close friend who I know I can trust that I'm doing great, but I'm actually falling apart at the moment, WHY?
Life isn't about the appearance, and in this case I mean more than the physical appearance. It includes the appearance of how you're living, and why you're living. If how you're living and why you're living are not comfortable or happy or the way you really want to live, then why are you doing it?
And so I say, to myself just as much to anyone else:
Because why be someone you're not truly happy being?