© Robin Mair
Our bodies are a canvas for us to colour with self-expression. However, this also leaves us vulnerable to others picking up the brush and painting their own perceptions onto us.
Existing in a world where our lives intertwine with many others’, it is impossible to live and breathe without their opinions and interpretations of us. While this is not something we can avoid, we do have the ability to choose whether to let ourselves be defined by it.
Here, we explore how other people’s, potentially harmful and often incorrect, perceptions of ourselves can be translated into something positive that we can incorporate into our own identity and project into the world as we decide.
This editorial tells the story of five people’s reinterpretations.
I recognise that everyone deserves to be put first sometimes, including myself, which has had me labelled “selfish” in the past. Prioritising yourself and not caring about others are two very different things, too often considered synonyms. Reinterpreting the accusatory “selfish” as “driven” empowers me to support myself in achieving what I aspire to, and is a projection of my ambition rather than an egocentric treatment of others.
Growing up I was never afraid to speak my mind which meant that from an early age I was deemed “bossy”. Though this was often intended to insult, I quickly realised that being bossy wasn’t necessarily all that bad. Over the years, I have come to appreciate my desire to speak up and take charge. Whether these qualities make me “bossy” or a “natural leader”, I still don’t know. But that’s okay, because I value these traits and other people’s projections don’t define my love for, or perception of, myself.
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I have always pushed myself to achieve as much as possible. I think I have been perceived as “pretentious” because of this: people assume that I work as hard as I do in order to lord it over others, to make myself feel more important. “Authentic” is my reinterpretation of this assumption because I aim high for myself and, if I achieve what I aspire to, I celebrate for myself - not for anyone else.
Growing up, I always loved talking, making people laugh and listening to their stories. However, this had me branded as someone who was loud and obnoxious, simply because I found engaging with people a genuinely exciting and fun experience. People calling you “loud” or “obnoxious” just because you love talking can really damage your confidence, especially as a young person.
Yet, as I’ve grown up, the less I care what people think of me. Yes, I am loud and some may call it obnoxious - but I call it confidence. I’m proud to be loud and I’m proud to be confident. It makes me who I am.
For historically marginalised identities especially, “stubborn” is often experienced as a loaded term, used to undermine calls for change and protect hierarchies of power. If you strongly believe in seeking change, are you instantly at higher risk of being called “stubborn”?
It’s a term which only reveals the power of strong beliefs, the potential to create change if you pursue it determinedly enough.
Creative Director and Writer: Lucy Faulkner
Photographer: Robin Mair
Models: Chris Glaz, Stella Gage, Lucy Faulkner, Archie Bell-Higgs and Zoë Berkley