I must confess, I am a little obsessed with the premise of Gone Girl. All that anger stemming from a betrayal of the heart, funnelled into such calculated, meticulous revenge – it’s fascinating, in the best, most macabre way. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten around to reading the novel, so I can only speak in the context of the film (which blew me away, not gonna lie). In particular I found myself relating to Amy Dunne’s infamous “Cool Girl” rant. She talks about how, after setting her heart on her future husband, she tailored herself to his wants in order to appear irresistibly appealing – the perfect girl, in other words. She essentially cons ‘Nick’ into falling for her, hook line and sinker. A pretty twisted way to go about cultivating a relationship, you might think, and I wouldn’t completely disagree with you. However, I also feel a deep sympathy for Amy, for it is insecurity in her own adequacy that motivates her to be so manipulative in the first place. And that got me thinking about my own daily worries concerning self-worth.
I feel, after some reflection over my short life experiences thus far, that I’ve existed far too often for the sole purpose of people-pleasing. I battle with myself about my flaws – it’s part of who I am to analyse my own shortcomings so I can recognise them fully and then proceed to take a scalpel to them whenever possible. I’m a prime example of a perfectionist. Self-alteration is almost an emotional safety net for me.
I’ll start at the beginning of this ‘self-altering’ process that I’m talking about; falling in love. It’s hard for me to find myself romantically involved with anyone, most likely because I have a warped sense of pride that leaps in to prevent me from even admitting to myself that I might have feelings for another person. If I find myself falling for someone, it becomes a game of mental hide-and-seek, as on one hand I try to coax myself into allowing some semblance of love to begin forming, and on the other I diligently push any snippets of emotion away into my memory ‘trashcan’, in the hope that they’ll eventually go away. Hence why it’s usually hard to guess if I’m attracted to a person, as I go out of my way to hide it, even from myself. It’s a ridiculous form of repression that I don’t recommend to anyone else. But attraction is incredibly hard to ignore if it endures. If you find yourself recognising your own behaviour in my descriptions, then please read on, I have some advice for you.
I think I can explain why I’m like this, why I’m so reluctant to open myself up to other people. After some thought, I’ve gathered that it all lies in within my personal history, specifically to do with past rejections. Of course, heartbreak is an awful thing to experience, after so vulnerably placing your trust in the hands of another human being. It makes you want to seal away your heart forever, so it can’t be battered and bruised again. But inevitably no matter how hard you tell yourself that emotions and love are a weakness, you do come across somebody new, who you feel compelled to draw close to yourself. After all, you have so much pent up affection to give! This time though, you tell yourself, you’ll be ‘smart,’ you won’t lose the game this time – you’ll make an offer they can’t refuse. And out comes the knife. Like an amateur surgeon you’ll butcher yourself for the sake of someone else’s attraction, hoping that this time, that will guarantee the absence of a painful goodbye. Whether you edit your speech, alter your sense of style or mirror their likes and dislikes, you’re sandpapering your own personality into something crude and shadowy in the name of being somebody else’s idea of perfection.
I’ve come to realise that it isn’t weak to be in love with somebody, or to even have a minor attachment. Being open to heartache isn’t a flaw; it’s part of the human experience, and ultimately is strengthening, as it gives us a chance to reflect on what does, and doesn’t work for us in relationships. It’s far more destructive and damaging to convince somebody else to be in love with a façade. True strength lies in accepting when he or she “just isn’t that into to you,” and being okay with that and moving on.
As Dita Von Teese so wonderfully put it, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” You can’t be everyone’s Great Star of Africa – some people think jewels are just absurdly gaudy signposts of wealth, no matter how highly praised they are by everyone else. In other words, you can’t help how somebody else reacts towards your existence, you can’t help who you are. And you especially shouldn’t assume that everyone is going to react in similar ways. Unfortunately, our subconscious seems hellbent on creating cruel emotional situations that go against such simple logic. Sometimes we find ourselves developing feelings for those random strangers that have an inbuilt aversion to what we personally have to offer. And it really fucking hurts when we realise this. That’s just life. So it only makes sense to make effective use of our ever-depleting time spent being alive, and make the logical decision to move on as soon as possible, from those who are ‘ill-disposed to peaches’, instead of wasting valuable time, energy and emotion on trying to mutilate ourselves into something we are not.
Amy Dunne would most likely scoff at my advice. But we aren’t fictional characters, and therefore we have the choice to behave unabashedly as ourselves. To fetter our personality with falsehoods for the sake of another person is futile; you can’t build a lasting, healthy relationship on lies. And to blur the lines of your true self and the cultivated self in due course, only serves to heap a whole lot more psychological damage onto yourself when the relationship inevitably comes to an end. Hence why some relationships end and leave you feeling like you’ve lost a limb, or can’t quite collect who you actually are into a cohesive, functional picture anymore.
There’s a quote, from one of my favourite artists, that my parents got engraved onto one of my possessions for my 18th birthday, and I think it’s time I started to pay it a little more attention; “Be unique and different… shine in your own way.” – Lady Gaga. Revel in your true self; its an effortless state of being, and those worthy of your company will find that more than enough. Those who don’t, aren’t worth your time.