Have you noticed the spreading efforts of making people know that mental health matters? Have you noticed the number of artists taken down by depression? And it’s always the ones you’d least expect. It’s always the happy person that takes the fall, the one whose personality doesn’t seem to need any emotional processing because they seem to have life figured out anyway. They always seem okay. We are only under the impression that they are perfectly fine all the time because our culture has shaped this generation into a “be seen” kind of people.
The image is everything. Being seen as the strong one. Being seen as the funny friend. Being seen as the wise. We all want to “be seen” in a certain way. We project ourselves for everyone to see how we seemingly walk through life with ease, we paint our lives through our social media posts — our status updates and photos of where we are, what we’re doing, and who we are with. But the whole thing can be performative. You can post about being in a coffee shop and it would gather likes because people can see that you are at peace, you are calm and collected. Yet they don’t see the thoughts that were bothering you while you were there. You can post about being in a party, the whole set up with lights and booze. It gathers likes because people love seeing other people having fun, it depicts that you are living your life, that you are young and carefree. But they don’t see the sadness that creeps in when the party’s over. People only know what we show. And more often than not, we show the things we show because we think this is what would depict the life we want other people to think we have. Unfortunately, this kind of culture has also developed a habit of suppressing emotions.
Since the image has primarily become our priority, we tend to set our true feelings aside to give way to put on a mask of fabricated emotions. We can sometimes think that we’re not supposed to feel a certain way because the image and status we’ve built our lives upon is of the opposite. For example, if a teenager projects himself as the cool kid on campus and his whole “be seen” mindset revolves around doing things that other teenagers would find him cool for, it is most likely that he won’t entertain the thought of opening himself up to discuss his true emotions about his parents. Another example is when a husband who always seems so stern and strong feels like he can’t be tender with his wife in public with small gestures that show how much he appreciates her because he doesn’t want people to think that he indeed has a soft spot.
What is cultivated by this kind of thinking is the fear of vulnerability. And maybe that’s partly because we’re also afraid that no one would listen. Or that the person who will listen won’t feel your story in the way that you meant it to feel like. Or maybe we’re simply afraid of not knowing what to say and how to say it. But we need to understand the importance of telling the right stories at the right time. It is crucial to express our feelings towards the people we care about while they’re still around to appreciate it fully. Expressing emotions don’t necessarily have to be done with beautiful words. It can be through a universal platform that goes beyond language — like a photograph or a video gift that captures and shows your love, appreciation, and gratitude to whom it is presented to.
You can honor your parents or tell your wife how much you love her through images that show how you really feel. This way, you are not just seen for who you are but your stories are also heard, finally, by those who matter most. Always remember to speak your truth. Because your memories can be lifetime gifts.