Video Transcript and Companion Post
When I made my first video three years ago, I started by saying, “I don’t know what I am doing”. Back then, I didn’t know about the visual medium. I remember being taken aback by how much people read into things- what was in the background, my facial expressions (you look tired/sick/frustrated), whether I had a 5 o’clock shadow, and of course, what I was wearing.
As time went on, I started making tweaks to those things- my backdrop, my expressions, and my appearance. And that last bit, while seemingly the simplest of the changes I made, helped me learn so much about myself.
You see, for the longest time, I insisted on a very simple, basic, and regimented style of clothing. One or two colors, little to no patterns or ornamentation, clothing that gets out of the way, that never makes any statements. That was just the way I preferred to dress for many years, and I didn’t think about why I was so adamant on sitting on the fence, neither dressing to impress nor to express.
So, when I decided to wear a Hawaiian shirt on a workday, I expected it to be a little joke, a surprise to my coworkers battling zoom fatigue whilst working from home in the middle of a global pandemic. I thought they’d laugh, think it was silly- maybe they’d think I was a weirdo.
But, they didn’t laugh at me. At best, I got some smiles, nods, a compliment here and there. That was a pleasant surprise, but it raised an important question- why did I think they would all laugh at me?
I pondered this answer for a bit. I got to thinking about the several years of my plain, minimal dressing sense, my insistence on not making any statements, and my cringing at bright colors or patterns. I thought about how it felt wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt instead of a plain, single-color polo. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it felt to have a pop of color in an otherwise dull and drab existence that was full of sameness, especially in the times we live in.
I had a breakthrough when I went back to my past. I looked at pictures of me as a child. Of course, I didn’t buy my own clothes back then, but I saw I wore more colorful livelier clothing. So the question then became: what happened between my childhood and teenage or young adult years, that drastically changed my outlook towards how I presented myself?
After a lot of digging through memories, I found my answer. When I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old, I decided to wear a blue beanie, or monkey cap, to school. It had tassels hanging off the sides of it. Blue is my favorite color, and I wanted to keep my ears warm in the winter, so I decided to put it on. I was warm, I was cozy, and I was feeling pretty good about myself until I walked to the bus stop. You see, kids can be cruel. The other kids at the bus stop definitely decided to be cruel to me that winter morning, when they all pointed and laughed at me in unison.
I learned a lot about people and society that day. I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, and most importantly, I learned a lesson- that it was time to grow up: no more being childish and silly. I had to look and act like a grownup now, and that meant I had to change how I presented myself.
I had relegated this memory to a dark corner of my mind, I’d never thought about it in many years. But I believe this was the event that had so many far-reaching effects. It changed how I saw myself and other people.
This was a huge realization because it helped me see that I was viewing all my experiences through that lens for so long. So many of my behaviors started making sense to me. My aversion to being made fun of. Taking things as a personal attack. Staying under the radar and refusing to get into any conflict or confrontation. My bad habit of putting myself down as a precautionary measure so others couldn’t do it to me first.
What is the name of this lens, the concept that lies at the root of it all? The inner child. The simplest, most commonly known, and yet most neglected of all things. This neglect is almost universal, and it affects our lives even when we’re adults. We ignore this inner child as much as we can, as we inhabit a cold, cruel world run by calculating adult minds, but this inner child has a habit of making itself known, a habit of overpowering the wills of even the most headstrong and stubborn individuals, in some situations.
In my case, it was my seemingly inexplicable defensiveness in the face of questioning and criticism. My desire to stay away from conflicts, arguments, and confrontations. And as I have talked about before, my overly simplistic dressing sense.
So how do I move forward, how do I deal with this? I started by looking at the lesson that incident taught me. By realizing that I was stifling my desires just to appease some invisible force. By thinking of the things that brought me joy that I abandoned. By realizing that living up to these expectations was an unnecessary weight that I was carrying around.
And yes, these expectations are a burden. My whole life, the constant feeling of unmet potential. If only I was taller, if only I lost some weight, if only I was an extrovert, if only I was popular and had many friends, if only I was top of my class in school and college, if only I was more successful by now, if only I had enjoyed my 20s more, if only, if only, if only.
My whole life I’ve been told to measure up to some ideal vision of what a man is supposed to be. Whether it be a rich and successful professional, or a womanizing Casanova. And so far, I’ve fallen short every single time. Not rich enough, not famous enough, didn’t have enough girlfriends… it’s the tremendous weight of unmet expectations, the guilt of this unmet potential hanging over my head.
I realized my dressing sense was just emblematic of the greater problem of trying to live up to some warped ideals that I thought I had to live up to. Of chasing all that I ought to have wanted, but all the while ignoring that which I really wanted. In this relentless desire to be accepted, to be acknowledged by the outside world, to ideally have praise and admiration, but at least to avoid being made fun of, I ignored this wounded, hurt, helpless part of my psyche, hoping it would just go away, hoping I would find a way to overpower it once and for all.
So where do I find myself, with all of these revelations? I think back to an entry I made in my journal, many years ago. In it, I wrote, “I keep looking outside of myself because when I look inside, there’s just this absolute child.”
This whole time I was trying to suppress my inner child, but now, I’ve decided to go the other way. To acknowledge and heal this part of myself. To express myself in ways I had not before, for fear of criticism or ridicule. Changing what I wear is just the start.
I hope this video helps you all embrace your own inner children instead of trying to escape them. Thanks for watching, and remember:
Don’t try to kill the part of yourself that you find cringeworthy. Kill the part of yourself that cringes.