What do these texts suggest to you about the interplay between how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others? (June 2012)
Theme Statement: When an individual is unable to relate their self-perception to the way they are perceived by others, said individual may use isolation to cope with their feelings of being misunderstood; this method, however, may perpetuate a lack of empathy in their relationships.
I am not particularly close to most of my family beyond my parents and brother. This is a fact I am sometimes embarrassed by, mostly when others shame me for it. Otherwise, I don’t think about it too much, and the thought disappears behind upcoming birthdays and overdue homework.
I mean, it’s not as if I know absolutely nothing about the people who are supposedly meant to be closer to my heart than all others; sorry to disappoint, but I don’t fancy myself a total narcissist.
There are some things I know right away; for example, they are all human. I think.
I mean, I know they are human, of course, but I suppose my lack of understanding prevents them from being fully human in my eyes in the same way as I am.
It’s easy for me to see myself as human – I like to think that I have some understanding of what my own flaws are. I know what my dreams are, what things make me happy or sad or lose all faith in humanity. I know how people react to me because I can see it.
Most of the time, however, it’s difficult for me to look at other people and understand that there is a mind control the body I see. Hidden somewhere in their physical being there is a metaphorical heart responsible for the emotions I can only perceive when expressed outwardly. It’s difficult for me to trace the movements of the spinning apparatuses inside their minds and even harder to understand their leaps of logic. My own? I know too well.
I think, to a certain extent, all humans want to feel that others understand them and that they are understood by others. And yet, the very nature of our existence only suggests to us that we are more alone in this world than we could ever fully comprehend.
It is because I feel as though I am the main character of a novel riddled with a plethora of side characters and overlooked faces that I know that everyone else simply must feel the same way. Therefore, it is disheartening to think of myself as a side character, something disposable, in someone else’s story.
I suppose this attitude lends itself to an obsession with becoming important.
When I think of the people who have become significant to me, I recall the events that I perceive as life-altering and the people there to experience them with me.
I remember hugging my father again after immigrating to Canada with my mother.
I remember holding my mother’s hand on the way to school.
I remember poking my younger brother’s cheek for the very first time.
I wonder if they perceive my important memories in the same light as I do. I doubt it.
And that doubt makes me realize the level of my insignificance in the majority of people’s lives. It’s not as if I want to be an inspiration to absolutely everyone on the planet now and forever or anything like that. But I can’t help but feel remorseful, plagued by the fact that most of my relatives have come up with some distorted perception of what I perceive myself as to fill the void of character I have yet to fix in their stories.
During those over-the-phone awkward conversations, they may compliment me on studiousness or humour or talent, but the words they may see as a confidence booster only make me feel as though I am an imposter, that any successes I may have experienced, whether that may be completing a challenging drawing or getting a good mark on a test, can be chalked up to luck and circumstance alone.
I do genuinely appreciate the sentiment behind their kind words, but perhaps the most obvious sign of a disconnection between how I see myself and how they see me is the fact that the people around me tend to put themselves down in order to compliment me.
In my mind, I am just an older version of the same little girl I remember being, sitting at a little desk, misusing a colouring book by tracing drawings out of it instead of filling in the black space while swinging her legs under the desk. I’m simply not worth the extent to which people take an interest in my achievements.
Somehow, it always seems as if I am sitting when my relatives are standing, trying to get a glimpse into my psyche, and vice versa.
And my hand will instinctively travel to cover the papers on my desk, obscuring the most accessible view into who I am.
I am a painter, after all – if all of the people around me knew the exact convolutions of my mind, my art would lose its ability to affect people with what they see as uncanny realism.
I may draw you, but in your graphite lines I see myself, and it scares me.
What if, by chance, they see the picture the same way as I do? I dislike the thought of other people seeing my own sense of unimportance as I do. And thus I create justification to keep others at a distance.
I suppose, therefore, it is my fault for not being more proactive in my relationships; I try to live through the art, creating the stories I imagine in the lives of others. It’s a beautiful illusion of form and shape and colour, and though I feel guilty for indulging in it, I am not ready to give it up, either.
But what does that make me to them? Am I merely the girl sitting at her little table, pencil in hand, expression blank?
Perhaps they look at me and see a creature as inhuman as I see when looking at them. That seems at least somewhat likely.
And in this thought, I take comfort. That, even as estranged as my cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents may be to me, I am the same to them.
They may not be as important as they should be in my story – and though this pains me – at the very least, hopefully, they feel a similar pain when thinking of my significance in theirs.
And with that realization, I feel much less alone when surrounded by family.
- Lorenzo Plus – can be found at this link; however, I screenshotted the image used from the pdf of exemplars released by Alberta Education for June 2012, which can be found here.
- Anne Drawing – https://museum.oglethorpe.edu/files/2014/07/Maury-Anne.jpg