I always assumed that I couldn’t wear yellow. This dress from Kitri is out of my comfort zone given its colour, empire line and lack of print. I feel a little odd wearing it, even though it is pretty on brand for me; a long, 70s inspired dress isn’t exactly groundbreaking. I thought yellow would make me look like I was running a low grade fever but I think this works because it’s a warm, sunny shade with orange undertones. I’m often surprised by how wrong I can be about myself, even if it’s only something as trivial as wearing a different colour.
My assumption about yellow made me consider some other ways in which it’s possible to have a warped self-image. Having bipolar often means that I can’t trust my own judgement but one of the advantages of blogging is that I have a documented my life every week since I started. I can see how incorrect I was about myself in the past; I reason that if I was over-criticising myself then, I’m probably doing it now. Being a fashion blogger sometimes makes me feel awkward because I am somewhat abashed about plastering my corner of the internet with pictures of myself. When I think about this for any length of time, I’m forced to acknowledge my own ego, which is uncomfortable. Creatives often have rapacious egos because the business of creation involves taking centre-stage in another person’s consciousness, while they listen to, view or read the artist’s work. It’s something that I have to be mindful of because in the past my ego has run amuck and made me difficult to be around. I used to act out to attract attention or not take enough interest in other people, prattling on about myself and failing to listen. Quitting alcohol has helped with this as I am more self-aware and my inhibitions are restrained by my sobriety. Having a child also tames the ego, as there’s someone else who needs my attention and care and my world no longer revolves around myself. I’ve also learnt that being in a constant entanglement with my own ego is damaging. It can quickly turn toxic and it’s easy to fall into a vortex of obsessive self-loathing. Admitting all this to myself is highly uncomfortable but I think self-awareness is essential because if you don’t know that some element of your behaviour is problematic, it’s impossible to change.
Although it makes me squirm, I realise that I’m not alone. We live in an era of normalised narcissism and many of us star in a self-created, Hollywood version of our lives on social media. The great misconception of the digital age is the assumption that everyone is looking at our feeds and judging us. In reality we’re all just looking at ourselves. However, I don’t believe there’s any point in trying to expunge the ego altogether because it’s not only unrealistic but fundamentally unachievable. The ego is omnipresent, even in the most seemingly modest and unassuming of people. In fact, donning a pious persona and insisting that one is unaffected by vanity of any kind, is a form of narcism in itself. This is not only dishonest but a way of asserting holier-than-thou superiority. It’s also really dull; if you do this, please stop.
One of the biggest problems with our egomaniacal culture is that we’re not only self-obsessed, but hyper-critical.There’s a massive disconnect between the polished image we present online vs the reality of our lives. No one is publishing their failures and we all know this to be true, but we can’t help but compare our darkest moments to someone else’s highlight reel. These photos in the blog post are a perfect example of presenting a glamourised version of normality. On the day, I had a nasty case of conjunctivitis – hence the presence of the sunglasses. I’ve had a couple of eye infections recently, thanks to bacteria from the nursery ferried on my toddler’s chubby little hands. I wasn’t going to post images of me with a bloodshot, oozing eye; no one needs to see that. Instead I covered up with massive sunglasses by Celine, smiled and pretended everything was normal.
So how to move forward? How do we emotionally grow in a world where self-absorption is par for the course? I think there are a few ways to be healthier online and in real life. My first suggestion is not to pretend you don’t have an ego; we’ve all got one and fighting against that is a waste of time. Feeling ashamed for taking selfies is also counter productive. Equally, railing against the evils of social media is squandering precious energy. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. are here to stay so we might as well accept it and find ways to use it positively. Rather than constantly looking inwards, put your focus outside of yourself. I don’t mean look to people to make you happy, but find ways to help others. Do whatever way you can: volunteer, donate to charity or just check in with your friends and family and make sure they’re ok. If they’re not, take practical steps to help. Don’t focus on things that will look good on Instagram. Acts of kindness and charity don’t need to be publicised, in fact that rather defeats the point. Do take a break from social media from time to time, re-connect with your loved ones and ground yourself in the presence of people who know the real you, not your publicly sanctioned, polished persona. If you feel more secure in yourself, you will be less likely to ‘compare and despair’. When you return to social media and post your own image, maybe drop in a bit of reality along with the flattering selfies, fun nights out and sun-drenched holiday shots. Staying real and humble keeps your ego in check and saves you from becoming a modern day Narcissus, drowning in your own reflection in the cyber river.