Goffman and me.

I am currently in the middle of my second term of of the year.  Around this time is when I have a moment of panic and realise that oops, I didn’t take the last 5 weeks to ease myself into my coursework and have learnt nothing from the past 3 terms of uni. C’est la vie. Instead now I have 4 weeks until all my deadlines, including my Spanish oral exam, and I’ve booked a holiday for 3 days during that week to see my friend Meagan and her family in Paris. Livin lyfe on the edge.

I’m writing an essay on Goffman for my Key Thinkers in Sociology course.  Goffman’s theory of Presentation of the Self compares individuals with actors on a stage.  He theorised that we are all giving a performance to an audience; depending on which setting you are in is dependant on the type of performance given.  I find this to be true, especially in relation to my performance at work.  I am the black sheep at my work (a fancy French small plates restaurant on Brick Lane).  When I first started in November, before my coworkers knew me well, I was showing up devastatingly hungover or with hardly any sleep, and would throw on black skinny jeans and a Carhartt t-shirt.  After a while, I began to dress more smart for work. It’s a classy establishment, I should at least pretend I’m a classy lady.  I began to adopt a more professional attitude, towards the clients and my coworkers.  Now I’ve been there for around 4 months and have eased in I’ve realised I can be myself, a little scruffy and off balance, and still get the job done properly.  But it’s interesting to think about how we adapt to our surroundings depending on how we believe we should behave.

I don’t do this much anymore.  I am at a comfortable state with myself where I know I am a nice person, who’s a little goofy, and there to guide those in need.  These personality traits are deemed acceptable in most walks of society and situations I find myself in, so I am often always myself unless I feel slightly uncomfortable (i.e. my work situation) but this often goes away over time.

During my research on my Goffman essay I came across a quote by Robert Ezra Park in Race and Culture (1950)-

“In a sense, and in so far as this mask represents the conception we have formed of ourselves- the role we are striving to live up to- this mask is our truer self, the self we would like to be. In the end, our conception of our role becomes second nature and an integral part of our personality.”

This quote directly relates exactly to HOW I have become so comfortable with myself over the years.  When I was living in Brighton from 18 to 20 (and now being 24), I was lost, confused and so insecure I cried many days and drunken nights about it.  But I knew who I wanted to become.  I would find myself in situations, grappling at my identity and being ashamed of my behaviour. “Never again.” I would think.

I’ve always been one to write down my feelings.  I don’t write “Dear diary” everyday, and the trivial details, but when I do find my head becoming muddled I find it therapeutic to write it down- to compartmentalise it so I can figure out how to stop worrying (because worrying does NOTHING) and be proactive in the situation.

This is the process which had led me to the secure and confident person I am today.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments, but in general I am happy. If you know who you want to be, and you’re not happy with your current situation, you CAN get there.  You just need to take the time to realise what it is that is making you unhappy, if you can do something about it, and if you can, then do.  Self improvement is a hugely productive and worthwhile task, and it’s what leads to my general everyday happiness.  But I would be lying if I said it was easy.  It’s taken me 6 years, and I’m still learning every day.  

The main message of this is that it gets easier, and it gets even more easier when you start becoming happy with yourself. Keep on striving, cause it’s well worth the effort.


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