The projection of ourselves through our actions is a strong mandating factor in the preconceived notions of those around us. The expectations which this creates contribute to their understanding of your image, the persona they have associated with you. Therefore, image is the most powerful tool we have… and the most dangerous.
At a very young age, probably near second grade, I realized that the acknowledgment of intelligence instills a multitude of fears in most people. To witness one who portrays more capacity for intellect than a person believes themselves to be capable of results in a form of envy and the triggering of the human competitive drive.
Many psychologists in our history have theorized that humanity is driven by many things, including fear, competition and assertion of dominance, the goal to “feel good”, and other instinctive interests, including self-preservation on a physical and intellectual level (pride). Particularly in immature people, like children in the school yard who are yet to fathom the depths of reality.
As a result, I had determined that, in order to have friends and be accepted, I needed to be less than everyone else and allow those around me to feel superior, to feel good about themselves comparatively, and just maybe they would want to keep me around. That is a driving force in a substantial amount of unconscious decisions, isn’t it? To feel good? It seemed perfect, and it seemed very obvious what to do in order to attain this goal.
I have been using this quote of mine since late high school, which I will get to soon in my story,
“Image is the ultimate deception. The manipulation of image is the manipulation of the subconscious of the people around you. However, the continuation of this manipulation will ultimately result in your own subconscious conforming to the image you’ve projected around yourself.”
Allow me to elaborate. Our schools and the youth within them are segregated into classifications, “clicks” or cliché groups which are branded with labels like “Jock”, “Goth”, “Prep”, “Druggy”, etc. Within the first few seconds of meeting a person our minds have already associated the individual with a category (that is right, as a race we are far more judgmental than most of us are willing to admit); this association will have discerning qualities and auto-responses built into all of us – many of which are media driven or society’s accepted standards.
You can think of it like basic ladder logic software, “If person/classification says ‘phrase,’ respond with ‘emotion’ and/or ‘statement’”. Each statement, emotion, response, and belief we have is programmed into our minds – we communicate most of the time by listening to reply, not listening to listen. The reply we give is an automatic, pre-programmed function based on the classification (and a multitude of other variables) and initial circumstances. Purely based on how you appear, your image, your presence, how you carry yourself, people will categorize you and they will respond to you the way society has taught them is appropriate for who their persona is attempting to be.
Now, referring back to my quote. The second statement, “However, the continuation of this manipulation will ultimately result in your own subconscious conforming to the image you’ve projected around yourself”, is a severe warning. As I stated previously, image is the most powerful tool we have… and the most dangerous.
When I was nearing tenth grade, after having coasted through school with ease and trying to make sure I was a C-, D average student just getting by, I began to consider my future. I began to consider the repercussions of having spent my life hiding behind a mask of ignorance and below average intellectual capacity. I was soon to discover that all of the subterfuge I had built around my persona as a means of psychological manipulation for those around me eventually had a depreciative effect on my capabilities. Essentially, much like the Goosebumps story written by R.L. Stine, I had put on my mask far too many times, and now it is stuck to my face; difficult and painful to remove.
We may all use other people’s perceptions of us to our advantage. Every person I know acts differently depending on who they’re around, and most of them are willing to openly admit this. It isn’t a bad thing and has become the societal standard for interaction, particularly in extroverted personality types and directors. Be careful, though, to always remember who you are – be sure to keep those who are content with the ‘true you’ (if you can even figure out who/what that is) close, or you will be at risk of involuntarily manipulating yourself to become something you aren’t.