“You’re so happy all the time.” “You’re just so sweet.” “Do you ever cry?”
These are the comments I’ve been inundated with nearly all my life, but I hadn’t really thought about them until college. Hearing these comments on a daily basis has caused me to struggle with finding my true personality. I’ve questioned whether my enthusiasm and smiles are a facade I put on to please others or to prove something about myself to the world.
Our identities are defined based on how we present ourselves in a situation. These definitions shape who we think we are and contribute to who we become. Because of definitions that have been socially ingrained, I felt myself being shaped into a certain personality type – and I wasn’t sure it was fully representative of who I really am.
The other night I came across a recording made by British-American philosopher Alan Watts, called, “Exploring Your Dark Side.” Life is like embroidery, he said. Imagine a piece of embroidered fabric. One side — the portion that faces the world — is beautiful, ornate and seemingly flawless. Flip it over and you’ll find an uglier version with wrinkles and rogue stitching zig-zagging harshly across the back. That’s how life is.
We all have an embroidered side and a stitched side. Our embroidered side is the part of ourselves we consciously share with the world. We’re composed, happy, social, involved and intelligent with our lives all planned out. But, inside of us, that stitched side – the one with the imperfections, flaws and shortcuts – still exists.
Now, as a science major, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on social media, so up until I became friends with public relations and advertising majors at Chapman, I thought an “influencer” was someone who was responsible for influencing thoughts in psychology, not someone with a popular Instagram account.
Then the “finsta” rage began, which took me another month or so to understand. I told myself that I’d never create one because who cares about how my banana peel didn’t make it into the trash can this morning and I ended up tripping on it five minutes later? Eventually, though, through good old friendly encouragement, I created a finsta – also known as a private Instagram account.
I started with posting silly but memorable photos with my friends to document my senior year at Chapman, but quickly, the account transformed into an outlet for the stress of juggling commitments and school with being a good friend. It provides me a safe space to share my authentic thoughts and feelings with people who don’t judge me for not being optimistic every second of my life.
I tend to run the other way when my stitched side starts to show. I worry that a slight lapse in my optimism will be construed as a disinterest in others. I worry that if I cancel plans to get work done, I’ll be letting people down. But Watts begs to differ. Our stitched sides are what add interest and genuine beauty to our lives, so we should embrace and be more honest about them.
Because of my finsta, this idea resonates with me. Finstas are based on presenting authentic moments of life that are so personal and revealing, that we only share them with our closest friends. Having a finsta gives us a chance to reveal our stitched side and alleviate some of the struggle that comes with balancing our poised exterior with a frantic interior.
By having a finsta, I’ve come in contact with my stitched side, my more authentic side. It gives me a space to express my thoughts and feelings without external influence. I’m allowed to feel stressed, I’m allowed to feel sad and I’m allowed to ramble about my self-reflections on this platform.
I advocate for finstas because of their ability to maintain our sense of true self and give us the opportunity to love our imperfections. So thank you, finsta, for making the previously one-sided fabric of our lives into a reversible work of art. Thread on, my friends.