Self-Image (plus some existentialism)

I have always struggled with positive self-image. I believe most people in this world have. But though this is the case, it does not mean that it is something to strive for and normalize. 

I feel like I constantly need to be achieving something. Instead of allowing my accomplishments to sink in, I seem to be elated for a split second, and then run after another goal to conquer. 

This also seems to apply to body image. Although my body image was very good during quarantine, recently a couple of my friends came over for my birthday. I absolutely loved having them and enjoyed every second of it; but afterwards, looking at the pictures my mom took, I felt bad. Not seeing my peers prevented me from comparing myself—so when I finally did see them, I became more prone to this comparison. Looking at myself in the camera, I began to nitpick every detail. The problem was, my family and friends didn’t see it this way at all. Their positive messages only confused me more; why were my close ones lying to me? The conflict between my self-image and that which external factors were telling me contrasted to an absurd degree. It made me angry at myself… for being angry at myself.

The strange thing is, my self-image changes drastically. At some points, I have very positive thoughts about myself. At other moments, I have negative thoughts.

This disparity of my reality is what frustrates me. How can I go from one viewpoint to another so easily? Which one is the truth? Is there such a thing as reality, if everyone—including your own self—has these disparate mindsets?

Switching the topic a bit, I’ve recently been obsessed with Albert Camus. When I study a certain person’s work or philosophies, I begin to adopt their mindset. This is definitely what has happened with Camus; I’ve read The Stranger and The Plague, and have just begun reading The Myth of Sisyphus (DEFINITELY recommend all of these).

Though some people may immediately write off his ideas as nihilistic, I disagree. Camus’ ideas are actually of the opposite nature. He supports Absurdism, the “conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe.

This is not a reason to despair. “A meaningless universe is actually an opportunity to free ourselves from the shackles of hope and experience existence more fully” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hJZEq61KeM). This idea took me a while to truly grasp.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

–Albert Camus

Anyways, what is my point with this? It is that the universe is absurd (at least from Camus’ perspective). It is random and arbitrary, and there is no reason in it. But that is not a cause for despair.It is instead a reason to create our own morals and values, to fully commit to living our own life.

A meaningless life means that these standards of beauty, these pre-written societal paths of accomplishments and set roads to some distant point, are fallacies. We are free to revolt against these constraints. To become what Camus refers to as an absurd hero, I must live life to its absolute fullest, despite the absurd. 

To me, this applies to my self-image. I must rebel against the ever-clashing realities I am constantly barraged with, and live my life fully. I must make absolutely the most I can with it, instead of restricting myself to what society tells me to do or look like.

I hope you enjoyed this philosophical approach to some recent thoughts about self-image! The more I learn about philosophy, the more I realize how intrinsically connected it is with our human reality. Philosophy is not knowledge of abstract, unusable ideas; but rather, the study of innate human nature and behavior.

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