The Chinese New Year celebrations have come and gone, and I’m reminded — for the second time in as many months — of new beginnings and the chance to reinvent ourselves and our lives. Some cultures view a person’s position and outward presentation as stable and perhaps even pre-determined; others, including my own culture-of-origin, envision an endless opportunity for recreation of oneself.
From a psychological perspective, how we present ourselves to others is not fixed but fluid, and we make decisions every day toward this goal. It’s an interactive process, however, dependent not only on the choices we make but on the perceptions of others; we as humans are continually projecting from our own subconscious what we imagine others to be. So how much of our self-representation is actually within our control?
Who am I? What aspects of myself do I want to reveal to others? What are my strengths? How can I build on that? If I want to show self-confidence to the world, what does that look like? When I think of someone I know who exudes self-confidence, what gives me this impression? Is he at ease physically? Does she speak with authority of her topic? If I genuinely feel the qualities I wish to project, and I focus on them, and I analyze others who exhibit the same, I’ll learn to create – and allow for – the presentation that I desire.
Yes, “allow for” – as, while we may perceive that we have the quality we wish to project, we don’t always give ourselves permission to display it. A woman who is self-confident, for example, may be viewed as a leader in one setting, sexy in another, and threatening in a third. Society and our own inner beliefs can dictate what characteristics we exhibit, and to what degree.
And how can I be aware of my own self-presentation, yet not become self-conscious? While I want to consider the qualities and characteristics that I’m portraying to those around me, I don’t want to continually second-guess myself or to worry about what others might be thinking of me. It’s a delicate balance.
The Buddhist practice of mindfulness can be most useful. By increasing awareness of detail, both internal and external, yet not attaching strongly to any particular aspect, one can gain a deeper self-understanding; this leads to modification of those characteristics that we consider “negative”, while allowing our strengths to emerge. Naturally, then, we outwardly manifest a more authentic “self” while not attaching our self-worth to the perception, or projection, of others.
Kung hei fat choi, everyone. And happy (re)presentation of your Self.