The 1957 winner of the Nobel Prize of Literature, Albert Camus, jotted in what later became his famous ‘Notebooks’, the simple yet poignant affirmation, “But above all, in order to be, never try to seem”.
“But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.”
― Albert Camus, ‘Notebooks’
If everyone took on a look or an attitude to appear what they wish the world to believe that they are, then the entire world would be made up of appearances!
Surely, nobody gains from pretending to be someone else. Such layers of lies only hinder and slow down real, authentic progress. It takes a lot of time and effort to do away with unnecessarily thick and toxic coating – precious time and energy that could be spent on productive actions to positively move ahead.
Betraying our true selves in the name of society – in whatever form – is a clear sign of fear.
What does the society as a whole have to gain by its citizens’ pretending and playing the ‘appearance game’? And, most importantly, what do we as individuals gain by desperately trying to conform to some so-called standard or norm? The ‘benefit’ – if there is one – may only be short lived and counterproductive. In the end, deceiving oneself and others is bound to backfire.
Diluting or exaggerating our personalities and beliefs to appear in a certain way does not do service to anyone. From a collective perspective, it perverts the entire group or institution that we are trying to please.
Sure, in some contexts, being our authentic selves does take strength and courage. It is thus all the more honourable.
The 19th century New England transcendentalist philosophers believed that society and its institutions – particularly organised religion and political parties – corrupt the purity of the individual. In particular, Ralph Waldo Emerson was strongly convinced that people are at their best when truly ‘self-reliant’ and independent. In his 1841 essay, ‘Self-Reliance’, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions”.
“I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Self-Reliance’
If we feel we have to be appearing and pretending instead of truly being, are certain institutions or social settings really worth adhering to?
What a ridiculously expensive price to pay to ‘belong’!