Sunday, 11 March 2018

I am.

“You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise”- Maya Angelou

Labels; ascribed to almost everything in society, provide a sense of definition and determination. Although, more often than not, these labels belong to the definers not the defined, they are inevitably intertwined with the creation of stereotypes and a thirst for self-validation. Having studied a whole module this term on "becoming yourself", I could quite frankly write about interpellations and the influence of neoliberal subjectivities on the self for pages, and it truly fascinates me how our perceptions of ourselves are passively, and even actively built around the behaviour of others. 

I face the mirror and could pick out a list of things I could change, or that I feel define me. But, why is it that when we talk about accepting things about ourselves, the conversation usually gravitates towards our physical appearance and accepting things that society would drive us to hold as an insecurity? Why not talk about acceptance in terms of our character, rather than stopping at our exterior shell? Your physical appearance and the perception of what others may hold of you does not determine who you are. It is worrying how easily the comments of others can lead us to fall into a trap of psychological and social dysphoria by labelling and defining ourselves based on the beliefs of others, in which we fully adopt this as a reflection of ourselves.
Consider the idea of the puppet master. Society, in this sense is the puppeteer, pulling the strings, instructing the puppet to move according to their decision, interpellating individuals to behave in a specific manner. Whereas, the puppet, a passive object, is molded to follow the ideas of the manipulator. The puppet does not determine its fate, but rather the puppet master. Despite the puppet holding the aesthetic shine of the show, it is the puppet master that determines their portrayal. Similarly, we try to convince ourselves that we are the puppet masters, and the own narrator of our show, but in reality, our portrayal is often determined by the societal labels we have been given thus driving us to become puppets.

Why do we become so engrossed with definitions laid out by other people? Yes, I am female, I am Indian and I am short, these are things I cannot and would not want to change, they are a part of me. Part, being the key term, because I am so much more than just these things. I am strong, I am driven and I am courageous, things, that, I may not be automatically be defined as by others because they are not physical traits. But that does not mean that this is not a part of who I am. Why should we only choose to accept what other people draw from our characters, rather than self-proclaiming our own best qualities? “Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells pumping in my living room”. This is one of my all-time favorite quotes by Maya Angelou, truly emphasising the notion that people are often unhappy if you choose to ignore the labels they attach to you. If someone labels you as being ugly or boring just remember that again, it is the label linked to the definer not the defined. You are not solely a reflection of these labels; these stigmatisations are not the key to determining who you are.

Sometimes, defying the puppet master may cause tension, holding a sense of self belief is often considered to be arrogant, but I believe only we, ourselves can be a true source of validation rather than allowing other’s people’s opinions and behaviours to control our puppet strings.
This may be arduous in a world which is based upon quantitative validation via social media. As much as we would refute this idea, individuals seek social approval vis-à-vis online likes, comments and followers as an essential way of attaining validation. Why else would we post things for others to see? If anything, this encourages narcissism by trying to be at the top of the social ladder. I recently read an interesting story based on greek mythology titled the "Tale of Icarus and Daedalus" in which Icarus, exhilarated with his new found power of flight took this too far, became arrogant and consequently flew too high and as a result fell. I feel the moral of this story is so relevant to aspects of every day life, we should remain humble, rather than allowing power, such as that obtained from these sources of validation to over boost our egos in a superficial way as this does not lead to success. 

So, defining who you are is taking a hold of the puppet strings and aiming to produce definitions which go beyond your aesthetic image. It is a challenge, but try to give yourself a constant reminder that “I am". 

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