When you consider what we believe, incorporating the things we have been taught into our lives, how we define ourselves can be the ultimate illusion. One of the first things any culture does is put people in boxes. Some of this was doubtless done for survival in the past; but today, I am not sure of the why of it. Control maybe? Schools are advanced laboratories for doing this. A little hyperactive, ahha ADD. If the system doesn't do it, the peer group will. Those boxes often don't fit anyone but who cares.
How we define ourselves is often through our relationships, our roles in society. Who are you? someone asks. We answer by what we do or who our family is.
We can spend a lifetime never going below our own surface. There is no requirement that we must ask ourselves if we are following our own dream or someone else's. We can accept the interpretations others present us for who we are. There is nothing written into our biology that demands we think about our choices, our actions, our inactions, and our view of ourselves. We don't have to do it because there are plenty of people willing to do it for us.
It is not as though I think none of us know ourselves, but it's not easy. So much of what we think is 'us' comes out of how others have seen us and told us we must be. Expectations of parents and community are a big part of how we end up seeing us. She's the pretty one. He's the smart one. He helps others. She's so selfish.
In raising a child, a parent is constantly up against helping that child see themselves for who they truly are against who the parent wants them to be, and who the world tells them they must be. When we reach adulthood and it's no longer anyone else telling us who we are, it's often us hiding behind those illusions.
And the illusion can seem safer, more acceptable. Steady reliable translates into doing what we are told. The world is eager to tell us who we are and uses many measuring sticks to do it. We read, we watch, we see how others live, and somewhere along the way, we form opinions about ourselves. Some are based on reality but not likely all.
Some of us purposely create illusions for ourselves and for others. Some of us lie, create false identities because who we think we are doesn't seem important enough. In my opinion, the most damaging of this is when we are lying to ourselves.
To get past our own illusions, those of the world, and dig into our own inner self can take a lifetime. It's not always fun, but I believe we are better off to not live with illusions whether they are about others, our world, or ourselves. Part of what, I think, makes life so endlessly fascinating is getting past those barriers to our truth and then living it.
The photos represent different ways I see myself. Are any of them me? You know they are not because a photo, fun though it might be, is the ultimate illusion.