In the world of appearances, the essence is lost. To be or to appear ... The more we worry about appearing, the more we move away from our true "I". The more we build on the outside, the more the inside crumbles, to the point that that seemingly ideal image can end up swallowing up our identity, turning us into our own jailers.
Social networks are the best example of this as they have become the showcase in which we project a seemingly perfect life. But although few, there are already some dissident voices, such as that of the Australian influencer Essena O'Neill who, with over half a million followers, hundreds of perfect photos and thousands of euros in profits, closed her Instagram account saying: " it is a sincere life, neither exceptional nor stimulating. It is the artificial perfection created to attract attention. "
Many do not realize that the validation they receive from social networks relies solely on parameters fabricated ad hoc to confuse attention with affection and inflated vanity with true value.
However, the truth is that the tendency to live to appear does not originate with social networks - these have only spread it widely - but have much deeper roots, based on the need for social approval to reassert a status, even if illusory and built on a house of cards. People with the Herostratus complex - those who seek fame or notoriety regardless of the means - have always existed and will continue to exist. But if we want to emulate them, we will condemn ourselves to live an empty and insignificant life.
To be or to appear: tell me what you want to show and I'll tell you what you miss
The eagerness to highlight certain socially attractive or positive characteristics or properties hides a deep personal insecurity. Ultimately, we likely think we're not interesting, smart, attractive, or accomplished enough to draw attention to who we are, and we need to go overboard or even make things up to gain social approval.
This need to constantly demonstrate our worth, happiness or intelligence actually hides a compensation mechanism: we try to balance our insecurity by playing the role of the safe person.
Compensation, a psychological mechanism proposed by Alfred Adler in relation to feelings of inferiority, is a strategy through which we cover - consciously or unconsciously - those weaknesses, frustrations, desires or incompetences by seeking success, real or imaginary, which can balance the balance or overturn it in our favor.
But offsetting does not usually solve the underlying problem. Posting smiling photos on social networks will not make us feel better and showing how big our house is will not make the feeling of loneliness vanish. In reality, compensation usually only strengthens the inferiority complex by triggering a highly toxic mechanism for our mental balance.
Living to appear: the trap of modern society
Society does not help us develop a confident, self-determined and authentic 'me'. By creating a false correlation between who we are and our properties, “the fullness of consumer pleasure becomes synonymous with the fullness of life. I buy, therefore I am. To buy or not to buy, that is the problem, ”wrote Zygmunt Bauman. The problem is that "for poor consumers, the displaced ones of our day, not buying is the discordant and purulent stigma of an unfulfilled life (and of its insignificance and uselessness)," he added.
The shift of the center of attention, from the inside to the outside, from who you are to what you have, generates enormous pressure to consume, be happy and successful that ends up "destroying" the most vulnerable personalities, in such a way that these people feel practically obligated to build a life that looks beautiful from the outside, to project the image that is expected of them.
That pressure doesn't allow them to talk about their real problems, which continue to grow behind a perfect facade. And by not seeking help, they fall even further into the chasm of frustration. Then they get stuck in a vicious circle where the more they try to appear, the less they work to solve the problems that cause this discomfort. They live avoiding the real problem, focusing on insignificant things that give nothing but an ephemeral rush of adrenaline that is confused with happiness.
Curiously, the society we live in that gives rise to these dysfunctional behaviors cannot even be called materialistic. “It is absolutely incorrect to say that modern civilization is materialist, if by materialist we mean the person who loves matter. The modern brain does not like things but measures, not solids but surfaces. He drinks for the percentage of alcohol and not for the "body" and the taste of the liquid. It builds to show a facade rather than to have a space to live in, ”wrote Alan Watts.
In reality, we are living in the era of perfectionism at all costs, of the cult of the container, forgetting about the content, which generates too high and often unreal expectations, about us and the rest of people, creating a toxic environment for our emotional well-being.
We must not forget that by building a social hierarchy it is very easy to strengthen cultural models of perfection and success. And when a cultural model of perfection or success is strengthened, our anxiety increases because we feel deficient or inferior. Someone is always ahead of us, which inevitably leads to comparisons. And this leads us to continue to feed the "beast", in the secret hope that we will finally live up to a false feeling of happiness and success, however illusory and ephemeral.
It is a terrible mechanism that condemns us to live an empty life, in which we do not build what we really want, but what we believe to be beautiful from the outside and that others will applaud or look on with envy. This is why we urgently need to change the focus and build a life that makes us feel good on the inside, not one that looks perfect on the outside. Because life doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be wonderful for you. And this is more than enough.