A lot people around me talk about how they hate seeing themselves in photos, on video, hate hearing their voice on tape. For the most part I agree, I hate seeing myself in photos – that’s why I like dating a photographer. Anyone can look cool in 3 out of a 100 photos, so much the better if you get to go through the photos and choose those 3.
I do feel the same horrifying shame when I witness an objective, unflattering view of myself. That’s why I learned to perform. To act, to speak publicly, to square my shoulders and stand up straight, so that I’d stop hating myself every time I saw what I look like.
And while there is a certain vanity in that, I think there’s a worse vanity in never wanting to be seen for fear of hurting your self-perception.
And there’s a terrible false humility in people who claim they hate having their picture taking then always mug for the camera, demand to see it, then blushingly demand it’s deleted. I’d rather admit that I hope I look good when I know a camera is on than live that silly balancing act.
We’ve had a lot of talks about humility around work this week and one thing I always struggled to get across is that humility isn’t an action. Someone who wants to be thought of as amazing will know enough to pretend to think they’re not. A humble person will admit when they’re good at something. A vain person will pretend they’re not in the hopes of drawing more praise.
Around work the central theme of the discussion about being humble was that it involved being open minded, not rigid in your self-perception. There was a lot of talk about how being humble and having low self-esteem aren’t the same thing.
But still part of being humble is admitting you have flaws, like the flaw of vanity. And vanity, unlike arrogance, is not the notion that you are perfect. It’s the knowledge that you are being judged no matter what and a desperate hope that you can be judged favorably, maybe even hoping others can see you the way you see yourself. In my case without lying or hiding entirely.
It’s odd that self-awareness is a bit of a sin in this day and age. When it comes to rock and roll icons like Jim Morrison or Janis Japlin the things that people hated about them while they were alive became their virtues when they died. Death vindicates everything. But that’s no real comfort to the self-conscious living.
And yet we all know someone outlandish who we forgive for anything because they’re pure id [look it up if you have to]. They don’t know better. “Well that’s just [name]” works as an excuse. Until you stop talking to them in your 30s.
And most people aspire to that. There’s a youthful idiocy to it. Over-thinking is something no one wants to be known for, it certainly won’t get you laid. Everyone wants to be impulsive and in the moment. Which is stupidly vain because pretty much everyone looks up at the ceiling at night and worries that they worry too much.
And if you don’t you’re either blissfully impulsive and probably a drunk unicorn or you’re an arrogant piece of shit. Though I guess you could be both.
For most of us though we shouldn’t be ashamed of being slightly ashamed and wishing we were better, better looking, better dressed, whatever. We should embrace the fact that we’re all so vain we see our flaws and wish they could be fixed.