The excerpt I chose to focus on for this IRJE is taken from the book Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross. In this snapshot of the fictional world, the protagonist is writing about their confusion – both towards their identity and their figurative appearance. It is clear that the character is struggling with internal conflict, and this letter captures the struggle many face in navigating the judgements of others while living a life authentic to themselves.
Do you ever feel as if you wear armor, day after day? That when people look at you, they see only the shine of steel that you’ve carefully encased yourself in? They see what they want to see in you – the warped reflection of their own face, or a piece of the sky, or a shadow cast between buildings. They see all the times you’ve made mistakes, all the times you’ve failed, all the times you’ve hurt them or disappointed them. As if that is all you will ever be in their eyes. How do you change something like that? How do you make your life your own and not feel guilt over it?
This excerpt can be considered relatable to many, including myself, as it perfectly captures the struggle between being wholly yourself and putting on a mask or, as the character puts it, armour, to portray yourself as the version you want others to see. Vulnerability is difficult; it takes courage to let down your armour, to welcome people to see you as you are. It also highlights the impact of first impressions and prejudgements. The protagonist states that everyone “sees all the times you’ve made mistakes, all the times you’ve failed, all the times you’ve hurt them or disappointed them. As if that is all you will ever be in their eyes.” Shortly after, they question how to change such undeviating perceptions. I, myself, have struggled with shaping the way others view me once they think they know exactly who I am. The fear of being defined by past errors or disappointments can be paralyzing, which can in turn prevent personal growth and the ability to redefine oneself. This is why it is so important to remain open-minded and to take on your life as your own, and no one else’s.