self portraiture

it's a somewhat perplexing preoccupation– and, I would imagine, easy to misconstrue. someone who simply glimpsed my compulsive webcam workday diary could hardly be blamed for at least a mild suspicion of narcissism or self-obsession– and, in all honesty, these things are true of me, though not exactly in the way they sound– it's not that I'm so in love with the way I look, it's more like a cipher to me– something I have to keep revisiting over and over again because I can't quite come to terms with it.

I live so very much of my life on the inside of my head– my capacities for interiority are seriously galactic– so the self-portraiture I've engaged in throughout my life very much seems to be an ongoing effort to reconcile the shock of having, of being primarily in the world and to others' perceptions, an external persona: a person who looks like x, y, and z, and that looking-like having far more impact on my relations with other people than any interior selfscape I might experience.
I am a girl– ergo, sometimes, probably far more frequently than is optimal, I seriously dislike my own appearance– never satisfied, really, with the way clothing fits, etcetera– all too typical, I expect. I have my self-conscious points about my own physical features, and snapshots I see of me inevitably make me cringe– as if, ogod, is that what I look like to people?? maybe this is vanity, but it seems more to me to be a form of cognitive dissonance.

please please please don't respond to this post with comments about my looks– that is so not what this thing is about. what I wanted to explore here a bit was that phenomenon of self-portraiture– which has been around for ages– we are, if not our own first subjects, close to it. just who the hell is that person in the mirror? there is a disconnect between the physical self and the self who is and speaks and feels and acts. or at least to me there is.

some parts of life bring these two pieces a bit closer together, for instance intimacy– when you are intensively engaged in exploring and experiencing another's interior and exterior selves and vice versa, the two seem to move closer to one another. this is a real gift to experience.

but generally, I don't know exactly, we're more like mental beings, mare's nests of our own histories and preoccupations and predilections, wandering around the world, and making some effort to interact with it through our physical manifestations– which sometimes get wildly misjudged or misinterpreted.

I've represented my "self" in all sorts of media: pastels, oil paints, photographic film, photographic pixels– these are the imagistic counterparts to the words, stories, poems. why must the self become such a compulsive subject? well, I've learned a lot about the cycle of narcissism in recent years– and without going too much into who's done what in my personal history, let me say that I've learned that narcissistic relations are powerfully effecting and play out down the road in all sorts of ways– one might, in response, become themselves a full-blown narcissist, unable to see others really at all– or one might become someone who gravitates toward such people, who tends to render themselves relationally invisible, claiming a persistent supporting role, a kind of hiding-out in the greater glare of another. I've tended to follow the latter pattern, drawn to big personalities and so-called sublimating myself. whatever, it's all a little warped and bent– and much of the effort I make in my ongoing life is to reclaim my own self from these dysfunctional scenarios and to reinvest it more equitably and consciously and responsibly.

okay. I'm not quite sure how to close such a post. lettin' it all hang out, as it were. que sera. who I am is to some extent made day-to-day– this is one of the main ways I track it.

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6 Replies to “self portraiture”

  1. I get what you mean about cognitive dissonance. Mine extends also to my name. When I actually think that I am called "Lisa" by people it weirds me out. I look at the letters, say it, but there is just this gap. I realize that may not make sense but I don't identify that name with my identity. I also feel that way about my external looks. The name thing, though, causes much more existential questions for me.

  2. I don't think of it as narcissism either. For me, it's more about control. We have so little power daily on how others perceive us that it's nice to take a little back.

  3. It is strange how we see ourselves and how others see us. I was looking through a batch of photos, years ago, of my sisters bridal shower, I saw a picture of a really pretty woman with my dress on, it actually took me a second to recognize myself. It was not the same image of myself that I had created in my head. I have been striving to see myself this way for months now. I am getting closer. I do not believe it is narcissism for me, but…… I have a friend who LOVES her own image, she cannot get enough of herself. She wants me to take pictures of her , a day long photoshoot. I have been dragging my feet with this one for a while now. Haha!

  4. I hear ya. And I feel the same way about my name, Een. 30 years later, I still don't "hear" people call me by it most of the time. I just don't connect with it. I don't know if it's a general lack of awareness or what. I also tend to not realize my own physical attributes. I think that's why mirrors are so mysterious. It's like visually pinching oneself to confirm that there is indeed a body associated with the mind.

  5. I am not overly concerned with my image. When I was younger everyone used to tell me I had beautiful eyes and long beautiful eye lashes. Then I had to have one eye removed. My eyes are no longer all that beautful. So I had to deal with my image changing and I learnt that my image really didn't make any difference to what was going on in my head. Zilch. I guess I also learned not to be vain as beauty is really only skin deep! Nothing lasts forever. I still achieved all I wanted, well, most of what I wanted, though not always in the way I wanted!
    To me it is not my image, or my name, neither of which is great, it is what is going on inside me that makes or breaks my day. Which voice I unleash that day! My choices.

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