Category Archives: Problem Practices

Communication behavior or analysis that is often counter-productive

Our Fragile Selves

It’s been a burden to go through life having an uncanny resemblance to Cary Grant. The great Hollywood star remains an iconic example of the perfect leading man. You can undoubtedly see the resemblance and imagine the confusion.  

I’m on the left.

                    Me
                Cary Grant

Believe me, it was not easy to be mistaken for the famous movie star.

In his day a lot of guys wanted to be Cary Grant.  Even the former Archie Leach said that even he wanted to be the suave persona he portrayed in movies with Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and others.

Personal Identity is one of the most fragile of our perceptions. Media researchers remind us that the young–especially girls and young women–are  endlessly needled by messages that undermine shaky egos.  “I’m not attractive enough” is the generic effect of viewing advertising and other elements of popular culture. It is delivered incessantly, sabotaging a person’s birthright for an intact and resilient self image.  Even so the Grant example is a reminder that we easily imagine a form of our idealized selves.

Advertising is an interesting case because we usually don’t usually think of it as a vessel for delivering messages of inadequacy.  Ads come in the form of ‘good news’ and upbeat reminders. But those dealing with what the industry calls “personal care products” are filled with remedies to trumped up problems created specifically to sell a product.  Ads destabilize a young consumer.  They beg an individual to worry about problems they might not have known they had: blemishes, hair that is the wrong color, or a body type that deviates from an idealized norm.  In fact, film, advertising and the gatekeepers of media content (especially in fashion, dance and television casting )generally prefer “ectomorph” women who straddle the borderlands of the anorexic.

“Body dysmorphia” begins for some males and females during adolescence.  This  consuming obsession over appearance affects almost 3 in 100.  But much larger percentages have issues accepting their physical appearance.  This is all made worse by the ironic fact that our general appearance is a relatively fixed part of ourselves, often getting more attention than the thoughts we utter: aspects of ourselves that are within our control.

When we are young, we often assume that what we offer as our physical selves should be enough to secure our place and our status with our peers.  It’s one of the vulnerabilities of youth that we regard our lithe bodies as our best calling card. What else do muscled men or pretty young woman need to offer?  A racetrack of a mind or verbal facility might only complicate things.

Soon enough our identities must deepen. Who we “are” must be much more than how we look. For many that takes a degree of self-induced emancipation, as in this personal declaration from comedian Margaret Cho:

I fly my flag of self esteem for all those who have been told they were ugly and fat and hurt and shamed and violated and abused for the way they look and told time and time again that they were ‘different’ and therefore unlovable. Come to me and I will tell you and show you how beautiful and loved you are and you will see it and feel it and know it and then look in the mirror and truly believe it.

ANNIVERSARY TOP FIVE

With this week’s post The Perfect Response reaches a milestone. This is the 200th weekly offering on this site. Each has addressed issues common to all of us in this “age of distraction.”  Our Analytics numbers indicate that there are about 1000 active users who visit the site each month.  Thank you for being one of them. Here’s a look back at five posts that garnered responses from readers. Click the title to see the full essay.  All others are listed and accessible using the “Published Posts” link below the masthead. 

1. Lunch Anyone? 

Singer-songwriter Paul Simon was suggested as  a good lunch companion.  He  has been a stream-of-consciousness poet for several generations.  Another liked the idea of sharing a meal with Jesus.  It’s hard to quarrel with that choice.  But the guest of honor would probably make me a nervous eater. Did I order to much? Should I have shared it? And why didn’t I suppress the joke about turning my water into wine?  (September 2, 2017)

2. Sometimes the Best Response is No Response

There are many circumstances when the urge to respond is worth suppressing.  Sometimes saying nothing is better than any other alternative: less wounding or hurtful, or simply the best option in the presence of a communication partner who is out for the sport of a take-down. (July 4, 2014)

3. Close Quarters

As little closets expected to hold 10 or 12 people, elevators represent the triumph of necessity over comfort. Walking twelve flights is a good workout. But no one wants to arrive at their business destination looking like they just finished the New York Marathon. So in the cramped space of the little vertical room, eyes are averted to the ceiling, the poster advertising the restaurant in the lobby, or to a middle distance that is supposed to relieve others of the need to respond.  (December 5, 2014)

4. The Necessity of Acknowledgement 

The essential ritual of acknowledging another is a cornerstone of our sociality. “Communication” can mean transferring the most complex of ideas or feelings.  But stripped to its essential core, it usually includes a gesture that confirms another person’s worth. (November 1, 2014)

5. Are We Losing Our Kids to Conversational Silence?

Until the advent of widespread electric telegraphy in the 1850s, and with the exception of the printed word, direct communication with another in the same space has always anchored human communities. The very idea of a sociology of human relationships is mostly predicated on the expectation that we have direct and real-time access to each other. (December 9, 2015).