If someone was asked what comes to mind when they think about social media, they might say ‘Selfies’. These are rarely pictures that people just take and then share; they are pictures that are usually altered so that they look right and after this has taken place, they are shared with their ‘friends’.
The point of focus is not on simply taking pictures; it is for one to ‘look right’. It then doesn’t matter how they feel or whether the image reflects their current experience, what matters is that one creates the right impression.
Eating a Meal
Another way of looking at this would be to imagine that one is eating a meal and this is not something they enjoy eating, it is something that they don’t like. The normal response would be for one to show how much they don’t like it through their facial expression and then to stop eating it.
If, on the other hand, one continued to eat it and pretended that they were enjoying it, they would be going against themselves. This would show that one is more concerned about gaining others approval then they are with eating something they enjoy.
Point Of Focus
It could be said that when one is not going against themselves when they take a selfie and that when they eat something they don’t enjoy, they are. However, it is not so much about one going against themselves as it is about one ignoring what is taking place within them.
Being approved of by others is then one’s highest priority, and this means that their needs will be secondary. It could be said one is taking care of their needs by being approved of by others and it will take care of certain needs, but it is also going to mean that one has to ignore certain needs.
The feedback that one receives is the result of them fulfilling certain conditions and unless one fulfils these conditions, the positive feedback will soon come to an end. One is then receiving approval for the image that they present to the world and the person behind the image is then nowhere to be seen.
One is then receiving approval and this will enable them to feel good but at the same time, it is not for who they are, it is for what they do. This means that one is not just being objectified by others, they are objectifying themselves.
One’s feelings are then put to one side and the only thing that matters is how one comes across to others. As one is likely to be disconnected from how they feel, they might not realise that there is another way to live.
And that one doesn’t need to constantly seek approval from others and to be who others want them to be. That it is possible for one to feel good without the approval of everyone they meet and how one’s worth is not defined by others.
While Selfies are one example of how one’s image is seen as the most important part of them, there are many others. What it comes down to is that one’s looks good in the eyes of others. So there is how one looks physically, but then there are also other standards that are set.
This could mean that one believes they have to: wear the ‘right’ clothes, have been to the ‘right’ countries, drive the ‘right’ car, have the ‘right’ education, know the ‘right’ people, believe the ‘right’ things and even support the ‘right’ charities. The list goes on and these are just a few examples.
It would be easy to say that social media has caused people to be obsessed with their image, but this would be wide of the mark. This is something that existed before social media was even invented.
What this shows is that there are other factors involved and one of those factors is the kind of childhood that one had. When one is caught up in how they look in the eyes of others, it shows their sense of self is not fully developed.
Sense of Self
In fact, it could mean that one doesn’t have a self of self and this is why they are obsessed with their image. Just because one looks like an adult, it doesn’t mean they feel like an adult. When one is born, they see themselves as an extension of their caregiver (and everything else for that matter) and this is because their sense of self has not been developed yet.
So providing they receive the right care, they will start to develop a sense of self and to separate from their caregiver. Yet, this doesn’t always take place and this can stop one from developing a sense of self and emotionally separating from their caregiver.
Instead of one having their needs met and their feelings validated by their caregivers, one can end up having to put their caregiver’s needs first and having their feelings ignored. And their caregivers may have also been disconnected from their true self and been focused on looking right.
At this stage of one’s life, receiving their caregiver’s approval would have been a matter of life or death. When one doesn’t get their needs met and has to fulfil their caregivers needs, their true self is going to remain undeveloped.
Playing a Role
The person they think they are is then a role that they had to play in order for them to survive. And as this is likely to have been a time where it didn’t matter what their needs were or how one felt, doing what they can to please others is going to be normal.
As one’s caregivers ignored their true self, one can end up doing the same thing. The approval that one looked towards their caregivers for as a child is what they now look towards other people for as an adult.
Beyond the need to look good all the time is likely to be the feeling that one is not good enough and that they would be abandoned if others found out who they really are. This is the result of one being brought up in an environment where they were not supported for who they were; the only way they could survive was to be who others wanted them to be.
They are then carrying toxic shame and until this has been dealt with, one will continue to hide their true self. One will need to grieve their unmet childhood needs and it will be important for them to be affirmed for who they are.
Through this process, one will gradually develop their sense of self and no longer need to look perfect in the eyes of others. This can take place with the assistance of a therapist, healer and/or a support group.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.