Self-Image is All About Perspective

Since moving to Seattle, my self-image has drastically changed. When I was in Florida, I was usually the most radically liberal, open-minded and adventurous person in the room. When I talked about the environment, people would roll their eyes. When I went out of my way to recycle something, I’d be scoffed at. When I said I approved of gay marriage, people were horrified. The fact that I often travelled alone was considered scandalous.

Here in Seattle, on the other hand, I actually appear to be relatively conservative. When I mentioned that in fact I did not want to rid the entire city of cars, I was met with stunned silence the other day. When I asked a question about composting, I was looked at as if I had a single digit IQ. (As in, “How is it that you don’t already know this?”) People have lifestyles here that I’d never even contemplated before. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just new to me.) And when I was too shy to enter a club until my friend arrived, she told me I was old fashioned.

I also never thought of myself as a tomboy in Florida. Maybe it’s because in the land of shorts and t-shirts, it’s hard to stand out as particularly androgynous. Here, I’ve been told by a surprising number of people that I’m not girly. Here I am at 51, trying to incorporate this fact into my emotional resume. It’s a strange feeling, albeit true to the very marrow of my bones.

It seems that one’s self-image depends a great deal upon one’s environment. If you’re a baby swan and you’re surrounded by other baby swans, it would never occur to you that you might be considered an ugly duckling. So, how much of your self-image is actually SELF? Something to think about.

Another thing to think about is why do we care? Why do we compare ourselves to others? What difference do our differences make? I have to admit that it’s a hard habit to break, though.

[Image credit:]

19 thoughts on “Self-Image is All About Perspective

  1. Angiportus

    The seemingly infinite variety of things people can make up to dump on other people about, has me amazed. Knowing about composting and so on is great, but I don’t think much of those who lack the patience/respect to deal with honest ignorance.
    But there’s better things to talk about. I’m in Mount Vernon, recovering from an operation, and here there are 2 swing bridges on the Skagit. I’m not much into that kind myself, but I recall that they are your favorite. I understand that with traffic pattern changes neither of them have swung since the 60’s or so, but they are still there.
    One of them is in the middle of downtown. It dates from 1954, I found out, somewhat after the heyday of swing spans. The other one, some ways upstream toward Sedro Woolley, apparently once carried a railroad. I got the feeling it might be real old. Well, I did a bit of Googling yesterday and sure enough it was built in 1906.
    There used to be more of them in this region; I myself recall at least one that’s been replaced with a fixed span, near Marysville. East of Everett, there was a vertical lift that I still miss. It was a twin of one of the 2 that remain on Everett’s north side, the one that has a spiral stairway built into its towers.
    If you visit Everett Station, the hub for train and bus users, you will see a wonderful pattern on the floor, representing the waterways of the area; it is best appreciated from the upper levels. You might want to check it out some time!

  2. very true observations – why anyone expects you to be girly defeats me….however, how you feel about yourself truly does depend on the environment, because of how you are treated and maybe also because we feel safest when we fit in (probably much like the bison out in the prairie realising that if it’s the odd one out (sick, old, or very young) we know that we are likely to be attacked ….think of all the mobbing scenarios of “odd” people ..
    I believe that.the easiest place to fit in is somewhere where people have traveled enough, or worked internationally enough, to realise that there are infinite variations on what is normal depending on environment and that this is in actual fact often a good thing as it helps expand our horizons. On the other hand I imagine for you it is not easy at all…… Good luck with everything and just imagine how hard it would be if you were a non-US foreigner not just from out of state, had a wildly different religious belief system or were in other ways obviously different. I think about what that must be like often.

      1. 🙂 you shouldn’t feel foolish at all – after all it’s your reality and it’s probably not fun – once we get to 51 we have kind of made peace with who we are .- being in an environment that consistently comments on the fact that who we are is “odd” – is definitely disconcerting, as frankly, how much one wants to change just to fit in, is a big question. The discomfort factor is large, and maybe being American, it’s even more shocking as you would have expected to fit right in 🙂 – I’d consider thinking up some “humourous” cease and desist comments – that while, not putting the other person down, do highlight the fact, that there are so many different ways of being and that they are all ok. Mostly people who make the types of comment you are describing just don’t know any better and are judging based on their belief system – developing some comments to have on hand as a “defusing” defence strategy – or even just saying – isn’t it odd that this was totally normal in Florida but it’s considered strange here, goes to show that there are all types of normal, would likely make you feel less vulnerable – and might make people think a bit. When I traveled in the US a lady on a train said – ah you are from Europe, we hear that you don’t have much running water and don’t shower regularly and have a different approach to hygiene is that true (I thought it was funny…and kudos to the lady for asking, very sincerely, at least she was interested in learning :)) -anyhow – good luck – I’ve lived all over the place and it always takes some getting used to – take care Poli

      2. That woman on the train was woefully ignorant. I think everyone should be required to travel out of country at least once to dispel such stupidity. It’s scary that people like that are allowed to vote for the “leader of the free world”. And yes, your defusing idea is a good one. I’ll give it some thought. Thanks, Poli.

      3. 🙂 – agree, travel helps dispel ignorance, but you cannot force people…as regards the election for the “leader of the free world” – all eyes are on you guys, with, considering some of the candidates world views, a certain amount of trepidation (maybe more people will travel before they vote..)

  3. lyn sutton

    I only compare myself with animals and embrace the differences and similarities we share. A better, healthier gauge to define and shape my own self-image …and that photo captures it purrrfectly. 🙂

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