I had a bit of a shock to the system – and a blow to my self-image and indeed self-esteem – on Friday.
A younger member of the family was doing what people of her generation do from time to time, viz. downloading onto a computer some of the thousand or so photographs that she had taken on her smartphone, both to ‘back them up’ and/or make them more secure and (presumably) to clear memory space on her smartphone so she could fill it up again by taking more images in the future.
The images she was downloading went back over the past five years or so. At some point during her project by chance I happened to be in the vicinity and she then scanned through a number of them in order to show me some of these past moments of history.
One thing then struck me with the force of a sledgehammer.
In many of the images concerned [all containing people I knew well – the camera doesn’t lie] from time to time was an elderly balding white-haired gentleman of rotund, or shall we say ‘prosperous’, figure.
It was me.
It is a fact of life that humans retain an image in their minds of how they present themselves to the world, and indeed how they are. I suspect, most of the time, these images are ‘idealised’ to some degree and/or perhaps it is just the case that most of us delude ourselves as to how we come across to others.
I have to record that I was mightily shocked. All these years I may have been kidding myself that my family and others see – and accept – me as I ‘see’ myself … and that I was treated as I was – almost exclusively positively, I might add – because of this.
On Friday’s evidence, however, this plainly isn’t true. I kept this secret from my family member during the above-mentioned ‘image-viewing’ session. What came home to me (with bells on) was that my family reacted as positively towards me as they had, not because they saw me as I saw myself, but because they saw me as I had accidentally become in real life, i.e. a portly and white-haired senior citizen!
I’m still trying to come to terms with this revelation today.
The only similar self-image shock or realisation I can compare this to – which took place when I was about the age of 10 or 12 – was the point at which our family acquired its first home tape recorder.
Hitherto I had felt sure that my dulcet tones must have sounded to others rather in the mould of a combination of Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Sean Connery, The Lone Ranger and the man who read the football results on BBC radio [was that James Alexander Gordon?].
Instead, emanating from the large box-like tape recorder were what I accepted were my very words, albeit spoken in distinctly unpleasant nasal whine that had apparently been recorded whilst the orator concerned was sitting, 12 feet underwater, at the deep end of the school swimming pool.
Surely that couldn’t be me? That couldn’t possibly be what people heard whenever I spoke, could it?
Apparently it was.
It took me 48 years to ‘get over that particular shock.
I’m just hoping that it doesn’t take me that long to come to terms with what I learned on Friday!