Personality Formation: Beta Testing

Disclaimer: Due to prolonged exposure to the internet, all philosophical musings transform into flippant observations. 

“We are all in a stage play.”

This feeling echoed through me as I sat talking with a group of friends. I felt a strong wave of disconnect with my surroundings. The experience had a very out-of-body tinge to it: I was simultaneously observing and acting, with everybody around me playing their roles as per their scripts. The only difference between me and them was that I realised we were performing our parts, and they did not. And the only way to return to my true self was to break character – but a thespian never breaks character, at least not on stage.

We all wear selective shades of our personality in accordance with the spaces we inhabit and the people we meet. It is like donning different coats for different occasions. This, according to my amateur analysis, presents a barrage of unending dilemmas:

  1. Wearing one coat for too long makes people think it is our style, even if it is not. How does one cope with being something else without feeling intensely de-personalised?
  2. Who are we when we are not with people? Is our existence reactionary, or are we our own person with different facets?

Having a personality, I have come to believe, may not be as common as we think. Underneath all my ambition and performative-ness, I am sometimes content with existing as a bland blob of human flesh, avoiding things that require thinking. Ever since the pandemic, where we all ‘languished’, my previous personality has taken a hit and I desperately need a new one.

This new personality has to be all-encompassing and well-loved; it is the personality all of us want: funny, but in a smart way with niche references; intellectually informed with the likes of Foucault and Althusser while playing into the poetics of Elia, Faiz, and Plath. It should, of course, be as ‘woke’ as possible, and on top of all issues. And, as a cherry on top, it must practice dialectics in everything and yet not be neutral.

Also read: Growing Up in a Half-Progressive, Half-Conservative Family

Serious stuff aside, it should sometimes indulge in mainstream humour, frat-party chill and escapist shows that can be brought up in casual conversations. If I were to put it briefly, the new version of me has to be an artistic masterpiece ornate with the gems of Minerva herself, and also a cool girl who can fake a laugh.

It’s worthless, all these ministrations, if the personality does not overcome the ultimate hurdle: being liked. Even Rome must fall if it does not clear beta-testing. All this reflects what people make of us, and where we want to be. Spoiler alert: We are not there yet. But we have come too far to go back to our previous versions. It is as if we are in this personality-less limbo where we have nothing concrete to say about who we are.

So, what are we supposed to do? Should we keep on shuffling coats to match people’s preferences? See if anything fits well and can be kept on for longer than one season? Go down to the depths of the internet and curate our preferences according to what seems likable? I leave you with no answers, just an array of cliché questions and this rant. I hope you navigate them better than me.

Sukeerat Kaur Channi is a student of M.A. Convergent Journalism.

Featured image: Erwin Doorn/Unsplash