Perfection and the Public Persona

Why are celebrities, successful people, influential people always deemed to be perfect? There is the Public Persona and there is the private persona. Sometimes famous people are so busy living up to their public image, their real self gets lost and diminishes. The outside has such a great makeover, the inside is neglected, is hollow. The reason I say this is because I was so shocked by the suicide of Kate Spade (my favourite designer) and Anthony Bourdain. Why did they kill themselves?  Why did they end their lives? They seemed to be living such an envious life — but in reality this public perception was completely incorrect.

I think we all are made up of so many “selves”, so many parts make up our whole. And the whole is nowhere near perfect. I think if everyone aligned themselves with theatre at some point in their lives, they would learn, “not to be perfect but to be brave.” The greater a public figure one is, the more one needs to be brave. Courageous!  As Sophia Loren so beautifully said, “Success introduces the world to you. Failure introduces you to the world.” We were not born to be perfect, we were born to live with our imperfections. We were born to take risks and learn from our failures! Actors and actresses learn to take risks, think out of the box, jump off the monkey bars, swing high and improvise... going on that self journey. Actors are brave souls, because they lay themselves open to public opinion at all times and also lay themselves open to judgement.

As Krishna told Arjun, your job is to take action. Detach yourself from the end result.

It must be tough. To fuse the public self with the private self with ease. Look at Princess Diana! She paid the price too! If we were to ask ourselves a single important question, could it be, “Are we born to be happy?”. The answer undoubtedly is, Yes! To be happy we need to be able to look at life with our eyes open. We need to realise it is full of joys and sorrows, highs and lows, doubts and regrets. That is the nature of circumstances which vary from moment to moment. But our inner life force can stay stable. Decoded it means: we can have a high life force. It’s a choice.  But we have to work at it. A strong person is one who has control, control over the mind. Because our thoughts can run amuck all over us, that s what we need to filter, that is what we need to control. One negative thought gives rise to a tidal wave of negative thoughts, which converts into negative energy. Which permeates into every cell of the body and then depression and hopelessness sets in .

To have control over the self, we need to recognise our strengths and weaknesses. It is the first lesson in theatre — to recognise our strengths and weaknesses. To speak about them, to air them out. Once you recognise a flaw, you can fix it. But its important to recognise it! For example: Anita has very low self-esteem, her central life tendency is to always to doubt herself. She marries a man, who is dominating and on the surface very macho, but in reality is a bully. He will feed into that very trait of hers. She will always feel unworthy, so nothing she does can please him or herself. This is the subject on which a very famous play, A Dolls House, written by Ibsen, is based.

We all want to be loved and accepted. But to be loved by the world, we first need to love ourselves. We need to first accept our failures, our weaknesses and work on them. Like an actor, who knows his weakness is an unclear voice, he spends years working on clarity. It’s a daily practice. The practice of breathing right when speaking. The practice of, say for example, the tip of the tongue hitting the back of the upper teeth when enunciating the T sound. Like the simple tongue twister “Tick-tock, Tick-tack”, said slow, then fast, then faster. It makes us open our mouth and use our lips and the top of the tongue. There are many such diction lessons. My point is its always a lesson in self growth.

None of us are born perfect. We are all dealt a hand, it’s how best we handle the hand we are dealt that determines our future. Today the world needs to be more compassionate, more forgiving and more tolerant. The younger generation need to know that a Miss World may not stay a Miss World forever. She will change; life changes us all. It’s how resilient, brave and empathetic we are that matters. Not how perfect we look! I think we need to become the “best human being possible.”

(Bubbles Sabharwal is a theatre director and author)

Bubbles Sabharwal