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How I See Myself

MargaretRachelRose's picture

“To be able to create our identity in terms of who and/or what we really are, we have to find out through individual interpretation and understanding of certain terms and connotations of language” (Fuss 1995; 233-240).

For my anti-self-portrait project, I asked my friends and family to describe me with their own words. Asking them to use language helped define different aspects of my personality. They used words like, “introspective,” “smart,” and “stubborn” to describe me. As the individual, I can interpret their meaning and gain an outside understanding of how I presebt myself through their choice of language.

Introspective, very self-aware. My best friend mentioned this, and she’s referencing countless times we stay up until 3 in the morning at sleepovers trying to figure out why we think and act the way we do. When I’m meeting new people or I’m in unfamiliar social settings, I’m thinking simultaneously about how I’m coming across to people (Am I being funny? Am I being friendly? Am I saying too much? Is it not enough to make an impression?). Sometimes I’m too trapped in this insecure, self-concious frame of mind that I don’t say much to someone I’m meeting for the first time.  

Smart. Every person that has known me for a year or more used “intelligent” or “hard working” to describe me. They experienced every day that I would spend my free period rereading the chapter we had been assigned in English class and every night I would leave dinner early to get the last few Calculus questions done before my favorite television shows came on at 8. They saw every sigh of relief at a good grade and every meltdown when I became overwhelmed with self-imposed stress.  My family, who had been with me through my high school career saw this side of me; this side of me, my work ethic and academic performance, is slowly showing in my personality to my new friends that I met at Bryn Mawr. 

Stubborn. My brother mentioned this aspect of my personality, and I would actually couple this with the “loyalty” my dad mentioned to describe me. It’s hard to change my mind if I am passionate and unbending about my beliefs and morals. When my mind was set that I would get the filming and editing for this project done in one afternoon, I worked out the times in my schedule, talked to everyone I wanted to interview, and got it done.

When the idea of self-performance was first presented to me in class when we read The Complete Persepolis  by Marjane Satrapi. When she lived abroad, she let her friends influence her perception and she altered her performance of herself in order to be accepted and integrated into European society. Once she was back in Iran, she felt alienated by her newfound Western identity. Before going to Europe, Satrapi’s grandmother told her to, “Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself” (Satrapi 2003; 150). However, it takes a deviance from this advice for Satrapi to realize what she truly believes in. She allows others to influence her, and in this way, realizes other parts of her personality. She uses her experiences as a foundation for the woman she becomes. From her multitude of experiences, she defines her morals and creates a version of herself that is more true.

This anti-self-portrait project gave me a chance to discover if my understanding of how I present myself to others correlated with their perception of me.

I’m quiet in the classroom but talkative when I’m back in my dorm; I’m very emotional internally but even-tempered externally; I’m confident to my family and friends but timid when meeting new people.

These contradictions in my personality dictate how I perform in a variety of social settings. When I’m in a social setting where I know people on a more comfortable level, I am more comfortable conversing with them freely and revealing different, deeper aspects of my personality. The presentation of my self becomes easier for me and easier for others to see.

In an essay on the phenomenology of consciousness, Hegel explains that self-consciousness “must set itself to sublate the other independent being, in order to become certain of itself and must secondly, proceed to sublate its own self, for this other is itself” (Hegel, 2013). So, parts of my personality, whether they make themselves apparent or not, are a reflection of other’s around me. These parts of other’s personalities had intertwined and joined to influence who I am today and will continue to as long as I live.

When my best friend Evelyn and I met, we were both anxious, insecure, and hopelessly lost high school freshman. We were a floor below where our physics classroom was when she said, “Oh no, looks like we’re stereotypical freshman!” I looked at this girl I’d never met before, laughing at the stressful (as I perceived it) situation we’d gotten ourselves into, and found myself laughing as well. It was then when I started to feel the similarities that have kept us so in-tune to each other, even four years later. In the video, I asked Evelyn to describe her first impression of me in a concise answer. She looked directly into her webcam at the digital projection of me on the other side and said, “You were a reflection of me.” Right when we met, she saw a part of herself in me. Like her, I was the quiet, shy, smart girl too. That realization that we were both similar in that way, is the idea that self-consciousness is “sublate its own self, for this other is itself.” Those parts of each other’s personality were easy to identify because we recognized them in ourselves as well.

My brother Dennis told me that when we were young, I used to “rather annoyingly” follow him around the house. He’d grow ever more irritated when I’d try to play with him. He’d throw a tantrum, run to my mom, and complain that I was “touchin’ his stuff.” His three-year-old else struggled with the idea that the second-born was threatening his hold on our parent’s attention and ridding him of his independence. But with hindsight, his twenty-one-year-old self told me it was nice that I had wanted to emulate him.

To this day, I’m still looking to emulate him. With his Dean’s List recognition every semester, his leadership endeavors (he runs several clubs on his campus), and his ability to selflessly give money, time, or friendship to others – why wouldn’t I want to be led by his example? These traits are what I admire most about my brother. This idea of a person’s personality being based on another’s can be described through Hegel’s notion that “[personality] is a consciousness existing on its own account which is mediated with itself through an other consciousness…” (Hegel 2013) In other words, part of my personality is based strictly on what I can extract from other personalities. Together, they create a consciousness of self that I try to express in the way that I am living. To me, realizing these benevolent qualities of other’s personalities, like Dennis’s achievements and Evelyn’s optimism, and trying to emulate them, will improve the parts of my personality where I see that achievement or optimism is lacking. This self-consciousness and awareness of other’s personalities has become a way I can realize my own definition of self. Meditating on these better parts of other’s personalities helps me reflect on the better or worse facets of my own personality.

So this leaves me with the question: is our personality essentially our own or is it a reflection of what we see in others?

From the stories of my best friend and brother, I can conclude that my personality is not entirely my own. I am a reflection of what I see in others. Hegel wrote that self-consciousness “must on the one hand be strictly kept apart in detailed distinctiveness, and, on the other, in this distinction must, at the same time, also be taken as not distinguished” (Hegel 2013). So, although important parts of myself mirror those I admire, I have enough individuality that I can distinguish myself from them.  I am my own person. This duality of my personality makes up my identity because the person I perceive myself to be and the person that others perceive me as is the same. My personality is a reflection of others and it is essentially my own. 

I interviewed my friends and family so I could use their words to paint a picture of myself for others to see. From their description I have learned, although language can have many understandings and connotations, that my friends and family could describe only one person: me.


Fuss, Diana. "Inside/Out." Critical Encounters: Reference and Responsibility in Deconstructive    

Writing. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995. 233-240.

Hegel, George Wilhelm Frederich. "A: Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness:

Lordship and Bondage." The Phenomenology of Mind B: Self-Conscious.

Web. 5 Oct 2013. 

Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. Paris: L'Association, 2003. Print. 

See video


Anne Dalke's picture

interactive and defractive

Your video got a lot of attention in the critique that Laura Swanson conducted in class; she was struck, as many of us were, by your attempt to represent yourself through others’ descriptions of you.

What strikes me, reading your analysis of this process, is how much you see yourself as a copy, or “mirror,” or “reflection,” or “emulation” of others: “the person I perceive myself to be and the person that others perceive me as is the same. My personality is a reflection of others.”

This is actually quite different than the concept Hegel develops, which is that we discover who we are in reaction to an encounter with an “other,” when we realize that we differ from them. Hegel calls this dynamic aspect of his thinking the power of "negation." It is by means of this "negativity" of thought that the static (or habitual) becomes discarded or dissolved, made fluid and adaptable, and recovers its eagerness to push on towards "the whole.” Dialectical thinking derives its dynamic of negation from its ability to reveal "contradictions" within almost any category or identity. By negation or contradiction, Hegel means a wide variety of relations of difference, opposition, and contradiction.

All this is very different than mirroring back the same. And a more “Hegelian” reading of your anti-self-portrait may help you better address the question you raise @ the end of the paper, of whether “our personality is essentially our own or a reflection of what we see in others.” Hegel would refuse the binary structure of that question, and say that identity is much more interactive and defractive than reflective. We give back, but in altered form, what others see in us. Think of a house of mirrors rather than a clear pane of reflection.

shainarobin's picture

Identity and Personality

By flipping the idea of categorization upside down on its head, you were able to use the adjectives and comments that you got from your family, friends, and peers to reflect on how you view yourself. In many ways this differs from how I use categorization in my paper. While I tended to analyze how Fuss interpreted categorization and how that in turn affected my idea of it, you decided to take a more personal approach and used your own identity as something to analyze. Our differences in our use of categorization was continued when you started talking about how people perform in front of others. I don't think I touched upon this in my paper, while you used Persepolis to talk about the idea of changing identities and being both "inside/outside" at the same time. I started to see a lot of similarities between our papers however after you said: "This anti-self-portrait project gave me a chance to discover if my understanding of how I present myself to others correlated with their perception of me."  I felt like this related to my paper since I talk about my relationship with my twin sister and how we perceive ourselves  (often times) based on how others perceive us when we're together. This relation happens again when you use personality to describe and convey the idea that we are defined not only by what we are but by what we are not as well. This is similar to how I use my relationship with my sister in my paper to describe how our personalites and self-expression have been formed by what we've extracted from the media, books, and toys. You've done the same with family and friends. Finally, our papers come to conclusions that reflect each other in many ways, including the idea that identity is not completely independant. 

Maya's picture

Defining myself relationally

While reading MargaretRachelRose's blog, I found myself thinking back on my own paper and how similiar they are. The idea she talks about with how she interacts in different settings, fits perfectly with my argument that we present ourselves differently depending on the people we are interacting with and the setting we find ourselves in. When we see someone we admire do something, we ususally try to emulate that person. She also talked about defining others based on their best characteristics and I took a slightly different view and said that society as a whole looks at people and compares them to themselves and usually finds themselves lacking. Defining people by their best characteristics versus seeing yourself only in light of the people around you leads to a different set of ideas. One is where you only see the best in others and the other is you only see the worst parts of yourself and others. I would hope most people would do the first option, but unfortunately, a lot of society is based off of who is on the 'inside' versus who is on the 'outside', or the marginalized side.