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Paraphrasing a quote I read-If you act like a certain person, after some time you become that person.  I have also read many books purporting the value of being true to oneself.  Hence, there is a dichotomy between projecting an image and staying true to oneself.

We live in a world where the image supersedes substance. 

Image creation, image projection, image control, these are new age buzz terms revolving around creating an appearance, an illusion, an impression.

Image creation and control businesses are booming these days.  Stars are being created overnight with little, marginal or negative talent.  Case in point, reality television stars with an international fan following.  Interestingly enough, their only talent being a ceaseless and impressively seamless supply of profane vocabulary.  Or bloggers whose fashion lexicon includes a repetitive use of the words “chic” “stylish” and “to die for” and yet their Twitter and Facebook following has far surpassed the actual designers they are blogging about.  Or for that matter most people in the entertainment industry whose “talent” is an inebriated night out on the (in)famous Sunset Strip or a one night stand with an underage Lolita or putting their fallopian tubes on overdrive by producing kids that would be akin to a bombshell being dropped on the policies of Premier Wen Jiabao.

Projection of an image has become crucial for people in the public eye for example in the entertainment industry, sports, politics or even religious leaders.  Even the Pope is seen wearing Prada loafers!  To give him the benefit of doubt, he lives in Italy, so most likely it is his personal style rather than projection of an image!

To some degree we are all in the public eye at one point of time or the other.  We present a certain image to the various people we deal with during the day.  Most of the times, the image varies from person to person.  It is not an image that is uniformly consistent.  We present an eager, ready to take on the world image to our bosses, a workaholic image to our co-workers, a sexy, coquettish image to our new love interest, and if you are a lawyer, a ball**** image to your clients!

For mortals like us, even though our images may not be meticulously managed by a high-priced agent, we are still projecting an image.

 If we are projecting an image then how much of that image is a projection and how much of it is a true representation of our true selves, or is it an amalgamation of both.  Or could it be that at some point the projected image takes over and the true self merely becomes a caricature.  Could it even be that we actually become the projected image and loose ourselves?

I sometimes take an introspective look at myself.  By profession I am a lawyer and I am mandated to project a certain image.  An image of being aggressive, fearless, combative and for a lack of a better term a bitch!

My true self is contrary to the projected image; I am creative, sensitive and shy.

I have noticed that since I spend a greater part of the day projecting an image, it has tendency to creep into my personal life as well, where the image is not needed.  It makes me wonder, have I allowed my projected image to perform a hostile takeover of myself.  Does my true self exist anymore?  Or have I simply become the projected image?

Since, I am writing this introspective piece there is probably still hope.  Possibly a conjunction of the self and the projected image.  Or on a higher, more spiritual plane letting the Self shine such that the Self is the Image.

  • It must be our Virgo sensibilities because I too project an image that differs a bit from who I am when I am alone. Out in the world I am tough and have it all together (pfft!) but at home I like to relax and be disheveled. In my experience we choose the personas we present and oft times we project the persona we feel people will most likely accept. I don’t think we are being false, we are just projecting certain parts of ourselves and shielding others.

    Fantastic post as usual. You always pique my thoughts.

  • Albert:

    I think a lot depends on why the image. If it’s to fool someone and rip them off, bad. If it’s totally not you and you’re just trying to impress, it’s draining after a while. If it’s just fantasy and entertainment (actors, maybe some bloggers), it’s kind of superficial but maybe harmless entertainment. But if you’re projecting a particular image to comfort, reassure, encourage or inspire others–or even yourself–I think that’s a good thing.

  • Bere:

    Wow, that was such a great post Ambu!!! Thank you…I think that the image issue poses a very interesting and revealing contradiction to each of us. On the one hand, if you focus too much on the ‘image’ you lose sight of what’s truly important. However, if you neglect your image, and the image of others around you – by ‘neglect’ I mean: pay no attention, or adopt one that has nothing to do with who you truly are because you’re forced to do so by society, i.e. your school, teachers, parents, friends, etc. – your life also gets seriously affected in a negative way. I think it’s a matter of balance and of trying to manifest who you are, what you think and how you feel through the image you project, as well as being really conscious of how the images around you are influencing you. Octavio Paz, in his poem “Sunstone” said this quite well: “life is nobody’s, we are life – sun bread for the others, all the others which we are – I am other when I am, my actions are more mine if they’re also everybody’s, in order to be myself I must be another, get out of myself, look for myself among the others, the others who are not if I don’t exist, the others who make my existence full, I am not, there is no me, it’s always us…”.

  • I think that our images changes with time, circumstances, age and the company that we keep. Our self image and the image of others is something that in my personal experience can fluctuates like the North wind.
    At the end of the day I project the image that I want or that I need to project depending on my environment or need. As an educator I can’t say what I think or behave like I did during my years in college in The University of Puerto Rico and I have no problem following the code of my chosen profession because its what I want for my life and I’m at a different time in my life than when I was a college student.

    One of my favorite movies of all times is The Rainmaker because of Katherine Hepburn character; when Burt Lancaster tells her that she is beautiful and she internalizes and it come through in her eyes and on her face and it illuminates the entire screen. For me its a magical moment and an example of the power of self empowerment and acceptance.

    I love the Papa and Prada connection and complete agree with you on the talentless celeb that adorn our pop culture right now is a sad reflection of our society.

  • Very thought provoking post on a subject that demands our personal attention. Well, for those of us for whom authenticity resonates. Clients of Image consultants are a whole post on the psychology of . . . hmm. . . of what? If we’re focusing on the Kardashians of the world we think we can simplify a judgement. Maybe. What what about image consultants for politicians, entire countries, product branding (a bottle of Coke or Timberlake as a product)?
    You’ve opened up a can of worms, Pandora’s box – - circuitry of the human brain – no wait the animal species brain – think about the role of the male in the mating ritual.

    Image. Is it what we think other people want us to be or our perception of what we need to be in order to be valuable? That’s one study for a thesis.

    On the personal level, it’s understandable that a lawyer, doctor, teacher, tinkerperson would have to sometimes appropriately adopt a professional persona – which to my thinking is a bit different than an image, maybe because it seems to me that that kind of role play is legitimate and beneficial to a situation, and hopefully understood by the player to be an illusion – not a “make-over – and it follows that it washes off in the shower. The trick is to
    always remember it’s an illusion. It’s a really tricky trick.

    Story: Train travel in India with our Tibetan teachers. Train travel in India I’m sure you know about. I’m talking about cheap train travel. Okay, so there we were. The more senior of our teachers gets up from his sit for a stretch or the loo, don’t remember. Of course, it’s instantly occupied. Lama returns and see young guy in his seat. Young guy won’t give back the seat. Lama’la starts ranting at him – we were stunned into paralysis – Khenchen angry? yelling? Okay, Lama is now sitting down – smiling reassurance at us – he begins his chanting. Later, I asked him about it. Anger, his anger, his teachings about how to tame anger – Rinpoche? “Only my mouth was angry.” Wrathful image? A teaching? Whatever -discarded in a heartbeat offering young man an apple. They start to chat.

    Is the need to have an “image” or follow an “image”, to be something other, part of our often pathetic, tiny organism.

    On to more serious matters – where oh where do you buy your hats?

  • I am very similar to Fajr’s response. I am not 100% the woman I project but I’m definitely still that woman and I don’t necessarily feel false about it either, I”m a private person and in general I want to project something positive in the world, but that certainly doesn’t mean my life has been all roses.

    What I do find interesting is this rise of the manufactured person! It’s crazy and fascinating and w/ media the way it is today it is unbelievable how much a branded image matters and is curated to be so specific. I really think this is especially interesting/heart-breaking in politics. The political camps seem to think it’s better to rally behind a singular polarizing image instead of a complex person or set of ideas and I think it’s so super tragic.

  • I always love your posts. So thoughtful and thought-provoking. Love the hat!

  • i will be thinking about this all day now! :) “My image” What am I projecting?

    You are definitely projecting intellect, sensitivity and power to express! :)

    ∞ © tanvii.com ∞

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