I have had this dilemma on social media. I can present myself as a person that I am not really. But I could be very successful as this person. I could make a lot of money as this person. But this person is not an authentic expression of my true self. Or I could present myself as my true self and probably damage my earning potential. Damage the person who could be very successful and make a lot of money as that person. Damage my cultural legitimacy. This is a dilemma I have each day.
When I told my friend about this she said, “This is the fundamental dilemma for us all. This is what our society does to us. It creates a fractured self where the fake self can make enough money to be able to be the real self on the weekends. We all struggle with this.”
“Great,” I sarcastically thought. Do I really want to play this game? Is this how I really want to spend my one life? Playing a game so I can make a lot of money to be able to comfortably be myself on the weekends? This is a real dilemma.
If America is famous for anything it is famous for this creation of the fractured self. I suppose the fractured self is a byproduct of neoliberal capitalism. The objects we buy are not the only commodities we trade in. In our late capitalist society, we must make ourselves into commodities that we can sell and trade if we want to be successful. We ourselves are the ultimate commodities and as a result we have become completely full of shit.
We do it to ourselves. We have no one to blame for this synthetic and fraudulent way of life but ourselves. We have been frozen by fear into submission. The only reason I do not present myself as the man that I actually am and want to be on social media (and in my life) is because I am terrified that I will lose cultural legitimacy and diminish myself in the professional work I do. That people will turn against me and I will end up discrediting myself. I am sure we all feel this way to some extent. But we all do it to one another.
We all enable this fractured self because it is you that is judging me and discrediting me in your mind when I present myself as the man I really am. You are the problem. Your inability to value and practice authenticity, your continual fear and fraudulence in your own life is what makes you demand the same behavior from me. This is herd mentality in a nut shell. You are the one perpetuating this herd mentality.
Personally, I would prefer to have a doctor, dentist, banker, lawyer, therapist, painter, teacher, friend and waiter who is not lying to me about who they really are. I would feel much safer and more trusting of a person who is trying hard not to be a fractured self. Fractured selves are not safe because they have commodified themselves and to commodify oneself is to diminish the quality of whatever services they are providing. When something becomes impersonal it becomes less important to a person. And when something is less important to a person they do a worse job.
The epidemic of the fractured self is what is responsible for most of the anxiety, depression and various other forms of mental illness in our society. I can’t prove this for certain but I feel it is a safe assumption. It has done it to me so I presume it has done it to you. More people take psychiatric pills in America than any country in the world! Imagine that.
When we have a fractured self we obviously don’t feel good about it even though the money is good. The job security is good. But we feel like shit. We do not feel like ourselves. We feel like a stained glass version of who we really are. We are continually terrified that we will be seen as the imposter we really are. We will be found out. Our fractured self will be exposed. It is a continual game of hide and seek that eventually makes of sick and miserable.
Who wants to spend their life in this way? Is the money and the material comforts really worth is? Is the cultural legitimacy really worth it? These are the questions I ask myself and I always think, “No way man. It is not worth it. Just take the risk and be yourself. I don’t want to be that successful person whose real self is stuck someplace deep within. You have helped a lot of people. You are good at what you do because you have suffered a lot. The key is to take a risk and carve out a nitch for yourself where you are being yourself. Trust that it will work out. And if not, I am sure that when it comes time to die you will at least feel better about how you lived your one life.”
The irony is that even in writing this, I am damaging my fake self. The self that you all demand that I be.