Embracing our real selves is something which we have forgotten today, in the world of social media. Photos show our life as we want it to be, rather than what it is. When Tara Westover graduated a decade ago from Brigham Young University, she posted on Facebook three smiling photographs, one where she stood alongside her mother and father. The photo shows her as a happy graduate filled with hope for what’s coming next standing with her parents. But she calls this photo a fiction.
Westover’s New York Times bestselling memoir, Educated,recounts her resilient ascent from the isolated and dysfunctional world in which she was raised: at the foot of a mountain in rural Idaho, working in a junkyard for a father who kept his seven children from school, medical care, and many other elements of mainstream society. The message she is delivering to the graduates is that they should look beyond the facile images that define them on social media. The most important things that you will achieve will not be Instagram-worthy.
In her speech, at Northeastern University she explained that her own graduation ceremony was the first she had ever experienced.
“I’d been raised in the mountains of Idaho by survivalist parents who had a particular set of beliefs that meant that I was never allowed to go to school,” She calls it a miracle that she finally made it to university because she was a kindergarten dropout.
The painful exercise of writing her book helped Westover discern the narrative beneath the surface. There was much more to her than she ever could have imagined. We, as humans have two personalities. One is who we are with ourselves and the other who we are when we are around others. But now we have a third personality, this third self: the virtual avatar we create and share with the world. Sometimes I think that when we deny what is worst about ourselves, we also deny what is best, we repress our faults, and thus we deny our capacity to change. We forget that it is our flawed human self, not our avatar, who creates things, and reconsiders, and forgives, and shows mercy.
When Westover posted misleading, smiling images after her own graduation ceremony, she was engaging in a kind of self-rejection. This behaviour makes us think that we are not good enough. We must appreciate ourselves, embrace our un-instagrammable selves, especially the parts we don’t put online. Thank yourself for how far you have come. We all have a duty to be true to our self and love all our parts.