Peer pressure is a problem that plagues more than just teenagers. The immersions of media combined with existence in the bustle of society conspire to create a falsified image of the perfection of our fellow citizens. Viewing the seeming infallibilities of others as expressed through Instagram and its ilk, it is understandable for one to feel inferior and despondent. When everyone appears beautiful and constantly on vacation, it is normal to wonder what you might be doing wrong. A vociferous self-critic, I am not immune to the disease of self-doubt. But the self-flagellation is so wasteful and unnecessary: we are all human and, as such, are flawed in ways that may not be readily apparent.
The legal system ignores this maxim, choosing to cling to its own peculiar fictions. But, as most operate outside of the orbit of courtrooms, we need not subject ourselves to the tyranny of supposed faultlessness. It is an oppression that is either the symptom or the cause of our current ruthless dialogue on matters political, social, economic, and religious. Believing that others may be perfect forces us to think that we need to be perfect which leads to us criticizing ourselves and others for any perceived deviation from this impossible norm. It is a vicious cycle in which the embrace of empathy is immolated beyond recognition.
To dissipate this vortex of doom, we need to take ownership of our flaws, to celebrate them, to signal to the rest of the world that we are comfortable with ourselves. An occasional Facebooker, my favorite feed is that of a local mom whose musings are refreshingly blunt. She never attempts to sugarcoat the bitterness of life or to airbrush away proverbial warts, yet avoids a descent into depressing territory. Her recounting of her family’s life is simply real and for that it is gorgeous.
Such honesty is inspiring to those that suffer from this particular species of poor self-esteem. It helps us understand that we are wrong when we assume that the crowd through which we walk is comprised of people who all have their acts together. They do not; they are more insecure than we would ever imagine. Indeed, the people that you fear are judging you are so busy worrying about their own issues that they don’t even notice your bad hair day, pimple, and/or horrid mood.
Perhaps we simply need to externalize our internal torments in order to help the world see our truest iteration. We could wear personalized T-shirts that list the top five things that we do not like about ourselves. While initially terrifying, it would free us from the weight of our inhibitions. And it would unleash a groundswell of empathy as we understood that others grapple with the very same issues. It is the same type of open communication that underlays any successful relationship, merely extrapolated to encompass a much, much larger scope.
Next time I contemplate posting a picture of a beautiful biking landscape, I will instead post the shot of me chickening out on a technical rock section and walking my bike down it. My bike may look fast, but its pilot is anything but smooth. There, I feel better already!