As I wandered along the laneway surrounded by so much street art, this image struck me as different to many of the other images. It had a presence that I couldn’t ignore. It at once frightened me and intrigued me. I wanted to take away the image in the lens of my camera and think about it a bit more later.
Looking at that photograph now it reminds me of the complexity of the human being. The two, or more, sides of ourselves. The public side we present to the world, made up to be beautiful and acceptable to others. Then the private side that sits just underneath. Not far from the surface. The vulnerable side we all have, the weaknesses, the nuts and bolts that keeps our bodies and minds functioning.
This private self can even have an evil aspect to it. A nastiness, our intolerances, our selfishness. It’s this private self that we can attempt to hold down, diminish its impact, but sometimes it creeps through across into the public self. It’s the private self that has been squashed out of us since childhood. That self that we need to hide away, protect ourselves and others from. That self we might feel ashamed of, not want to acknowledge, want to keep away from other's view, concern or query.
The public self can become the side of ourselves we most feel comfortable with. We can work hard at finding the self we want others to see. This may or may not be the self we want ourselves to be or to see. We invest heavily in noticing the way we appear to ourselves in the mirror and to others. We might consider our hair, our makeup, our clothes and adornments. We notice the way we move, the way we speak, the way we relate to others.
We know that the private self, the nastier side, is never far away, and can always sneak into our public self. The private self can be scary, to ourselves and perhaps to others. Yet it’s there, it’s part of who we are, it’s not going to go away even when we try to squash it back down and tuck it away from public view.
How can we be truly whole without at least acknowledging this private self along with our public self? How can we give voice and value what the private self is trying to tell us? Are there ways we can use the nastiness and reshape it so it does no harm, to ourselves or others? What are the many messages we are missing from ignoring our private self? How do we know that our private self is not our “real self” and the public self is fake, a pretense? Even though we may not recognize it in this form, perhaps these are some of life’s biggest questions.