Sometimes I think about what ‘self’ is, and what it means. I think our sense of self-has changed over the millennia that humans have been developing civilization. I mostly think our personal sense of self-has been twisted and invaded, and we may not realize we have been encultured to see our personal selves in ways our ancestors may never have.
Long before the barest of modern civilization, most people were unaware of their own faces. We see faces all around us, but without mirrors, we don’t see our own. Can you imagine never having seen your own face? This is true of all species on the planet. Cats and dogs, chickens and horses, cattle and people, none of us are able to see our own faces. For thousands of years, most of the people on this planet had no idea what they looked like, excepting to assume they looked like the people around them, or when someone told them how they looked. Back then faces were for more practical things, like seeing, eating, and smiling or frowning. Faces are made to communicate how we feel to others. We can show our disapproval or our glee at a joke. Our sadness is evident on our faces, as well as our joy.
Things are very different now. We go to great lengths sometimes to hide our real faces, to turn them into something that others can’t see the real us through. We look into mirrors and fix things we don’t like, or practice our ‘look’. We create our faces to fit what we think they should look like. We judge ourselves daily by the shortcomings we find in our own faces, now that we can see them.
I think it’s odd that being able to see our faces can make us hate ourselves more, or make us feel more vulnerable, or for some, to feel more powerful. I think it’s crap that a few people are becoming billionaires on industries that improve our facial looks. I think it sucks that how our faces look has become such a top priority that we can no longer accept the natural flaws that come with this life, and we go out of our ways to either ‘sell’ ourselves or hurt ourselves, depending on how we feel about our self-images.
Can you imagine your dogs and cats acting like that? We breed dogs to have different kinds of faces. Can you imagine your dog being able to be mortified at finding out how ugly it is? It wouldn’t matter to the dog that you still love it and think it’s the cutest ugly in the world, the dog’s self-image would be wrecked because it would never be satisfied now with its own face. It would spend its life yearning for a different face and hating itself for looking so dumb. Everything about its behavior would change on how it judged its own face.
Some people are born with disfigured faces or big birthmarks on their faces. Some people are born with the most beautiful faces in the world. Most people are born with ordinary faces that get zits and hair and dry or oily skin, and the people in those faces wish they could change something about that, even though every human face in the whole world goes through the same thing.
I never thought about my face as a child. I wasn’t self-aware enough to realize my face was a big deal. When I looked at other people’s faces, I saw compassion, or anger, or sadness. I didn’t ‘see’ whether they were ugly or beautiful. I didn’t think about who was prettier or whose teeth were straighter. I went all the way through high school without one smear of makeup on my face. I never dwelled on whether that was good or bad, and I didn’t eat myself up with the idea that I might be ugly.
I learned in college that a little makeup goes a long way, and I thought it odd that people would respond more politely to me depending on how my face looked, in spite of how polite I might already be myself. I began to notice other people around me, either being treated ill for being uglier than others or treating others ill for being uglier than themselves. I wondered why it wasn’t evident to other people around me that a beautiful face acting ugly looks ugly. This goes for both men and women, any age.
It’s taken me many years to figure this out because I’m autistic. I think I may be deeper on the spectrum than some aspies because I was never self-deprecating. My sense of self is so far removed from associating it with social judgments that I guess I never ‘got’ that I was either ugly or pretty. I can be both, actually, I’ve gotten pretty good at makeup and my hair and whatnot, or I can simply be me and not worry about it. Sometimes I run into other aspies on other blogs who feel a sense of self-loathing for not measuring up. I myself felt anger most of my life for others being too stupid to understand *my* point of view, so I’m sure there is a wide range of how we see ourselves in light of others.
I feel concerned that so much of a person’s self-worth nowadays seems to come from a cultural standard based on commercialism. We are inundated with ‘pretty people’ and the products they either represent or endorse, and that has come to permeate our lives to the point of people obsessing with their looks not just daily, but hourly. What was most shocking was how the emo movement was quickly revolutionized into this commercialism, and now the billionaires are capitalizing on cutting, crying, and starvation, holding it up as cool. Self-destruction has become another line of products to spend our money on.
People have always felt some kind of shame or disgrace through the many years in many other ways in their cultures, but it’s odd now that the notion of self-worth is sweeping the world and utterly changing with a simple mirror. Sometimes I think about that and wonder how much it is undermining the real treasure of self-worth inside all of us. If our looks are more important than our skills, that’s not healthy for society. If the way we judge others and have compassion boils down to how well we can ‘sell’ ourselves (just look at American Idol, but I boycott that show), then we are a sad human race.
Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if we could all look perfect. Would we finally have peace and honest compassion and empathy for each other? Would gossiping and snittiness disappear? Would we all be content to just enjoy one another for who we are? Would all our problems be solved? Would we finally forgive ourselves?