Posts Tagged ‘image’

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stupid?

April 25, 2010

A running joke between me and my friends is the various bizarre/random questions, comments and general synaptic misfires that I make.  Although sometimes they are decent thought-provoking questions, I have only just this last week or so learned the difference between ducks and geese, my UK geography is pretty horrendous, and Cabot Circus is neither a wheeled contraption that might roll away overnight, nor an alien which secretly digests money or shoppers.

I’ve come out with these sorts of things far too often for far too long for it to be false: I will freely admit that I can be a bit ditzy. Or as Mike says, “pretty but dumb”. But part of me has always felt enamoured with the idea of playing up to that: back when I was at school, I hated being intelligent in one way because I knew that I could be perceived as a keener or a geek.  I didn’t want people to look at me that way, I wanted people to see that I had a fun sociable side, so I used to play up to being a bit airheaded for laughs, but also to show people that I do know how to have fun.  And it’s worked – my true friends know that when I make fun of myself, I am in on the joke 😉

However, I would conversely be pretty damn offended when someone who didn’t know me that well would assume I was stupid, because they only knew me socially without seeing how I was in study or in the workplace.  Now, it is judgemental for people to quickly form that opinion of me, let alone incorrect – I know that I am not stupid, and sometimes when I come out with my bizarre little observations or my basic questions, it’s often because nobody told me these things, therefore I ask. It’s not my fault.  But also, if I play up to the bimbo effect, how can I be that mad when people take that at face value? Perhaps this is why I have a soft spot for celebrities like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, because I think that they are terrifically fun but I have a sneaking suspicion that they are definitely in on the joke and not as unintelligent as they portray themselves.  At the end of the day, you still have an amount of control, like a puppetmaster, over the image that you portray to everyone.

Generally, society is against the idea that beauty and brains can co-exist – usually, people are one or the other.  But I learned from a young age that I have had to change everything about myself in order to feel attractive, to feel beautiful or handsome or whatever.  I lost a large amount of weight, I work out (although once I get a damn job I will be re-enrolling at the gym full time!), I cut and dye my hair, I moisturise and diet and although it doesn’t rule my life, my appearance is something I end up dedicating a lot of time to.  I’m not naturally this way – it took and takes a lot of hard work.  Now, if people are willing to study and enhance their knowledge, skills and qualifications, then that’s commended and lauded as intelligence.  If people dedicate time to looking after their appearance and feeling good in their own skin, that’s considered vanity?

Let me tell you something.  I know I’m not stupid, even if sometimes I act it and sometimes I ask silly questions.  I know I’m not ugly, even if I don’t need to spend the amount of time and money that I do on making myself look good.  But I always wanted to be beautiful rather than brainy, because I felt that beauty was something that couldn’t really be taught or learned.  I knew that I already had a decent brain and I know how to make it absorb knowledge – I however also was fortunate to have a decent face that isn’t repellent, so I just had to quest for the body to set it off.  I’m not there yet, and considering I’m near 25, I probably won’t get there in time to fulfil my ambition of becoming a supermodel, but if I can look at myself and really think I am genuinely pretty, I will be happy.  I guess that in a world where most people take looks for granted and value brainpower, I’ve rebelled against that and done the opposite.  Perhaps that’s a little bit stupid or ditzy, I don’t know. Because really, the best thing in the world (and my overarching aim) would be, of course, to have it all.

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beautiful.

February 28, 2010

This song by Vivian Green is one of my new favourites at the moment.  It’s what real R&B is (not this dance/pop/Timbaland hybrid nonsense), about self-esteem, relationships and beauty.  Her voice is lovely on the song, and the lyrics are so poignant.  It’s inspired me to write this blog, because over the last 6-9 months, I’ve grown to feel a lot more comfortable in my skin.  I’ve gained a lot of new friendships (Nick and Toby met today! We had a lot of fun banter and coffee/tea in Starbucks), I’ve entered into a really lovely relationship in which I’m starting to feel comfortable, and my body and image are finally reflecting the man that I am, that I’ve become.  In short, it’s taken 24 years but nobody can make me feel ugly anymore.  Sometimes I might be hard on myself, and I’m pretty vain and heavily self-critical, but at the end of the day I’ve come to a place where I’m good.  Although it doesn’t matter whether other people validate you and the most important person you have to please is yourself, it has been a revelation just how valued I am by my friends, both old and new.  I entered into university and despite my closest friends being quite different from me, they support me and I support them.  We value each other, respect each other, and nobody can convince me now that I’m an ugly person.  Over the past 6 months, I’ve let people in on some heavy secrets of mine, and nobody ran away.  They all embraced me, and that’s meant a lot to me – I’m a beautiful person inside and out.  Not because they say so necessarily – after all, I worked damn hard to get to this point and feeling this way is still incredibly new to me.  But for example, I got home tonight and my parents were sniping at each other regarding a possible new car (which would be expensive), and they tried to ensnare me in the discussion.  I’ve grown to the point where I won’t be bullied by my mother or shouted down by her neverending arguments from her fixed point of view.  And neither will I be wound up by my father’s surreptitious planted comments, nor intimidated by his own feelings of superiority, inferiority or jealousy.  I love my parents, but so often these days I feel like the adult in this house and I won’t be made to feel inferior, naïve or ugly by either of them.  It took a very long time (longer than it should have), and it took more newly-formed friendships than it should have, but I’m strong enough to see their faults for what they are, rather than just taking them into me and feeling guilty about myself.  It’s not my fault, and I’m not the problem.  I’m not perfect, but I’m beautiful and I deserve to love myself and believe in myself as much as anyone else.  And finally, even though I can often waver or doubt myself (as we all can), I more or less do.  It’s a work-in-progress, as with anything.

In both of the essays I’ve submitted on my careers guidance course so far, not only have I got pretty decent marks, but I’ve received praise on how well I write.  This stands in contrast to when I was at Oxford and my tutors would complain about my essay structure and my use of language.  Perhaps part of it is that I’ve taken these past criticisms on board, perhaps I’ve grown not only in age but in maturity and the ability to express myself in a subject or arena that I enjoy, but it’s true that you can’t please everyone.  At the end of the day, I appreciate the compliments and try to improve from criticism, but it’s a lot harder to knock me down.  I feel happier, stronger and more sure of myself, and what’s most important to me when I’m handing in an essay, when I’m selecting my outfit for the day, when I’m singing a song to an audience, is that I’m happy and believe confidently in my self-expression.  Criticism from other people can help me to grow, praise from others lets me know I’m on the right path, but at the end of the day I have to be alright with me and nobody else can disguise whether I’m good or uneasy with myself.

So I realise that this entry can be construed as me giving myself a massive pat on my back, and to an extent it’s true 😉 But in the past when I’ve kept diaries or expressed myself in some form, it’s often fixated on the negative and become quite self-deprecating.  I won’t deny that there are entries on this blog where I’ve still been that way, but life doesn’t preclude negativity.  We all have good days and bad days, but I’m determined to acknowledge the good just as much as the bad.  I feel happier than I’ve possibly ever felt in my life, and I want to celebrate that and encourage you all to celebrate your own good days and happiness.  I’m determined to celebrate myself, even if nobody else will – but the greatest thing is that in the past 6-9 months, enough of my friends have reinforced me and held me up when I’ve not quite had the energy to see the good in myself or do it myself.  I truly appreciate that, and you know who you are – thankyou 🙂 So in connection with Vivian Green’s “Beautiful”, please listen to the song and put not only your loved ones but your friends and those who matter “on a pedestal / let them know that they’re beautiful”.  A compliment costs nothing but if it comes from the heart, it can make all the difference and encourage or remind people of the good in themselves. In a recent entry I talked about the value of letting people know that you appreciate them, and I wanted to reiterate that in this entry.  I appreciate myself, I feel appreciated and I won’t be downtrodden the way I used to be.  And neither should my friends be, and neither should you be.  Love yourselves, love one another, and we can all succeed together. 🙂

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façades.

July 18, 2009

Driving home on the way back from my nan’s (oh, conundrum solved; we decided to choose a picture of my grandad for the funeral plaque after all), i catch glimpses of myself in shop windows, in the wing mirror and in people’s faces as we drive by.  I have big dark Prada glasses, a vaguely tanned face, black hair and a fitted black Zara top on, and we have a black Hyundai coupé.  I love the way it looks (everything matches!) but at the same time I see people looking and I wonder what judgment they make.  Most people who look just look away, occasionally you get the odd stare but that could tell you more about their own temperament than about what they think of you.  It’s the occasional extra rev of their car at the traffic lights, the look-look away-subtle double take that gives away someone’s competitive nature, their arrogance or insecurity.  You can never be sure which one it is, but the fact that I can elicit a reaction at all makes me feel a little bit powerful.

I’ve always been someone who can elicit reactions, since at school.  Praise from my teachers, makeups and breakups with my peers, hotly-debated criticisms of my voice / sexuality / fashion choices… I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to blend in and I’ve always been a topic of conversation and rumour.  Without even doing anything on purpose half the time, I was noteworthy.  And I would much rather that, as someone with aspirations to fame, than to blend into the background – but at the same time, I was never desperate for the gossip, it all seemed to happen by accident.  I have not worked at the Perfume Shop since June 4th, but when I last went in 2 weeks ago to see everyone, there was a barrage of news for me, and also criticism of my bag and of a couple of things I had done wrong a month and a half ago.  I guess I play on people’s minds.

I realise that by this point I sound incredibly conceited, but what I have always been hyper-aware of is image. I remember a long time ago reading an interview with Christina Aguilera, and she said something very true: you have to conduct yourself as a product for consumption.  Every single thing you say, do, wear, don’t say, don’t do, don’t wear, listen to, don’t listen to etc. becomes a part of your persona.  Anything that is done in public becomes a part of your image and the conception of “who you are”.  So you need to be happy with yourself, because if you’re not happy with anything you’re doing or not doing, you’re effectively lying to yourself and those around you.  Every day that we step out of the house and come into contact with others, in a way we are consumed by the public.  You don’t have to be famous for that to happen; how many times have you seen people walking past you down the street or in the mall, and made a snap judgement about them based on their clothing or their shoes or their walk or their accent?  We all do it. And genuine or not, façade or reality, the image we project is the summary of ourselves we portray to the world.  If somebody had one tweet (140 characters) to summarise their impression of you, what would it say?  If you had that same tweet to summarise your impression of yourself at any given moment, what would that tweet say?

The power that I mentioned at the end of the first paragraph stems, I believe, from an awareness of these reactions that we are able to elicit.  The façade I try to give off at most, if not all times, is one of icy confidence.  I have an interlude on my forthcoming Quiet Storm album called “Theory”, in which I briefly explain why I have grown to like designer clothes. The status of wealth that labels emit, whether true or false, gives out a certain image that can protect the inner me.  Whether I’m happy or depressed, whether I am feeling insecure about my body or thinking about my family, the image I portray is teflon confidence. I guess in a word, it’s my armour, and I use people’s presumptions to my advantage.  I know the real me, my friends who have penetrated beyond the façade know the real me, and know that I am deeper than Prada and Armani.  The rest of the world just knows I look fly, and that’s exactly how I like it.

I often get mocked for my vanity by family, friends and colleagues alike.  I’m always checking in mirrors (only glances, but I happily admit I glance quite often – when no mirror is available, the back of my ipod is most handy) that my hair is fine, my body is complimented by what I wear, my lips don’t look dry, that all is well.  That’s who I am, and that is not a façade!  But I am my own harshest critic.  I don’t go to the gym and wear what labels I wear solely because I want to fit a stereotype or be accepted socially.  I don’t seem to be able to fit a stereotype even when I do want to, and social acceptance seems to come to me as a thing of luck in any case – I am thankful to have family and friends around me in whom I can confide, even if sometimes I prefer to let my façade do the talking because there are things I want to keep to myself.  I exercise and work to my own diet (which you won’t find in any magazine, partly because it’s just a bit crazy and uneven!) because I have a drive to be the best I can be.  I can accept criticism if it’s something I’ve already conceived (which most of the time it is) because then it’s a work in progress that I’m aware of and looking to fix.  What throws me for a loop is the rare occasion when I’ve been completely misconstrued, misunderstood, or somebody has made a judgement that I couldn’t have seen coming in a million years.  Those occasions are very rare, but it’s at those times when my façade might slip, because I am taken by surprise.  Of course, it’s food for thought, and I probably do devote too much time to what other people think, but I see my own self-improvement (or masturbation, to quote Tyler Durden) as resulting from an exchange of ideas.  Sometimes criticism is ridiculously invasive, but other times it can be constructive.  At the end of the day it’s my decision to do something about it or not, and the decision I make is in order to carve out my identity and benefit me, not anyone else.  That’s why I choose to portray myself the way I do, wear the clothes I wear, sing the songs I sing, go where I go.  If I’m happy with the final product, then whatever people think is secondary… at least on the outside.  Of course, we all have insecure moments, but then who is really happy 100% of the time?  As long as people are thinking that I’m happy / successful / sexy / non-stick, then the façade is working 😉