Perfect vs. Real: Why We Live to Impress Others

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In a world where everyone’s telling you to “be yourself,” why is it so hard for us to do just that? We’re living to achieve and portray a certain image of ourselves to others. These titles mean so much to us.

It has become a real issue for our generation. We’ve taken dress to impress to a whole new level, and now we have to ask ourselves: How much of our aesthetic is real, and how much of our aesthetic is only to achieve a certain image?

People pick and choose what parts of their personality or their image they want to display around others. We adapt and change to different social situations to be accepted by those around us; we do this so naturally we don’t even notice. Our natural instinct isn’t to stick to our true personalities, but instead to adapt our behavior to fit in. We fear rejection.

Nearly every decision we make is meant to achieve a label. We identify as hipsters, punks or free spirits. Some strive to be fitness gurus and some are happy with just being “basic.” We mash up all the infinite aspects of our life to fit into one specific ideal image–but that isn’t normal.

In a time of our lives when where we’re meant to be finding our own identities, we’re conforming instead. Dr. Nicholas Pearson, a Professor of Psychology at Penn State, said that we have a basic human motive to conform.

“One the one hand we are motivated by a need to have an accurate understanding of the world around us. The other major motive is to protect our self-esteem. People generally want to feel that they are good, decent, capable individuals,” said Pearson. “Young people are trying to figure out all sorts of things about the world. Dating, careers, and what to wear are all a process of discovery that often involves looking to the actions and attitudes of others to inform ourselves about what is the right thing to do, say, wear. In other situations we might have a good idea about what is the “right thing to do” but we are motivated to maintain a positive sense of self-esteem, so we conform.”

We shouldn’t be putting in time, money or effort to make others happy before ourselves; we need to be satisfied with ourselves first and foremost. We need to make it a priority to make ourselves happy and not fear the opinions of others.

Think about those girls in high school who would buy Kurt Cobain shirts because they said it made them look “grunge.” They spent so much money on clothing just to look a certain way instead of reflecting their true interests. Sure, they attained the look they wanted, but they made sacrifices for something that didn’t matter.

We’re all forgetting that one aspect of our personalities doesn’t have to wholly define us or contribute to building an image. Just because you post Neutral Milk Hotel lyrics on Twitter, everything about you doesn’t have to be “hipster.” You’re allowed to drink Starbucks without shouting to the heavens that you’re “basic.” Buying your clothes from Vineyard Vines doesn’t make you a frat star.

Take a step back and look at the things you do. How much of it expresses your true interests, and how much of it is truly just for show? Do you listen to specific music and wear certain brands just to build a look, or because it makes you happy? More often than not, we put our happiness on the back burner to appease those around us.

Lauren Coffman, a St. Vincent Psychology graduate, says that with increasing pressures all throughout our lifetime to fit in and be accepted it can be very hard to make our own happiness a priority.

“With pressures from every direction, whether it’s family, friends, teachers or even celebrities, it can be overwhelming for young adults to handle,” Coffman said. “Without proper guidance some young adults may turn to substance abuse, develop eating disorders, depression or anxiety in order to help cope with what’s going on around them.”

We could be a lot happier if we lived our lives genuinely–making ourselves happy and no longer living to appeal to others. Forget about self-titling ourselves or trying to impress others with our taste in music and style. It would be a lot more impressive if we could just be ourselves without worrying about the aesthetic.

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” – Dita Von Teese

Writer. Far too sarcastic for my own good. Dad Music Enthusiast. Sophomore at Penn State studying Journalism.

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