When I think of an image-conscious person, I think of someone who refuses to shop anywhere other than high-end boutiques, manipulates others and acts fake in order to gain higher status, and can’t stop talking about all their lofty achievements. I would never think of myself, because I’m none of these things. But I am. Image-conscious, I mean.
I have always cared too much about what people think of me. When I was in upper elementary and early middle school, that meant being popular. Now, I don’t care about being popular. In fact, I’m very much averse to the mainstream conformity that comes with being popular, at least in the common sense of the word. Still, I’m concerned with how people see me. I want to be seen as unique, interesting, and kind. If I suspect that someone doesn’t like me, I start overanalyzing myself and how I must have come across. Then I overcompensate by pushing my identity too far. For example, if somebody thought I was unkind, I would go out of my way to be sweet and gentle – to them and front of them. It’s like saying, “You’re wrong! I’m a good person! I promise that I’m not what you must think I am!”
I don’t want people to have the incorrect image of me. I’m hyperaware of who I am (and often how I’m presenting myself), and I want others to know my true identity. When I do something that could harm people’s view of me, I mentally freak out a little. I don’t want anybody to see me as someone I’m not. The very thought of it unsettles me.
What’s the root of all this? Only more introspection will reveal the answer. For now, though, I’ll attribute it to wanting to be loved. That desire seems to be central to my life, after all.