Narcissism, humility, posturing, and authenticity

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
    My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. – Psalm 139:13-16

1-DSC_0926-002This morning, I simply want to have a chat with you, my online friends. If you want photos, then click here for yesterday’s entry. It’s our Christmas newsletter, summarizing all the “Rebekah and Derek” news for the year.

What I’m interested in today is the perception of self. My thinking comes from a couple of places and probably too much self-reflection. First, one of my editors asked for a new “head-shot” or self-portrait (you can see both the images I took for her in this post, along with one that was rejected). Then, my Wednesday evening men’s group had an illuminating conversation about narcissism and humility.


I’ll be the first to admit I’m typically far too glib when it comes to throwing around photos. Usually, I’m the one with the camera, so I have to rely on some kind of a selfie to mark myself present. I’m not that discriminating so they’re not always the most flattering images.

But then, upon reflection, isn’t it the off-the-cuff, “whatever”, no-frills photo that more truly represents who I am in the context of real life? And isn’t one of the more pressing problems of 21st-Century social engagement the inauthentic presentation of self and our tendency to create contrived personas – even in our primary relationships?

IMG_6001Yes, that’s what goes through my over-analytical brain when an editor asks for a new mug shot. So I decided to go for informal and emailed a selfie I’d taken at the beach (I’ll paste it in next to this paragraph). The photo was turned down for being a little too informal, so I grabbed my tripod and tried for something in between.

Here’s where – to me at least – it gets interesting. Thousands of people are going to be looking at the mug-shot, alongside the articles I write, and I want the image to be authentic. Not pristine, not flawless, not dashing, not necessarily flattering; what I’m going for is “true”.

I believe this is a critically important concept, especially at this moment in history when “spin” is applied to just about everything, where appearance rates ahead of substance, and where posturing is as natural a behavior as combing our hair before stepping out into public.

I’m all Weathering and Patina:

The truth is that I am sixty-one years old, I carry between five and ten pounds of surplus stored fuel I don’t need, I don’t like to dress up, and my face has accumulated six decades of what the antique experts like to call “patina” (also known as character, wear-and-tear, weathering, etc.).

I don’t want all that disguised by the photograph; well, maybe just a little.

In my men’s Bible study we talked about the balance between valuing the gifts and opportunities God has provided, and living in humility. It turns out that it’s healthy to feel good about what we’re doing when what we’re doing is aligned with God’s will and purpose. The problem comes when it’s all about us, rather than about advancing God’s kingdom via love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

1-DSC_0943-002So, rather than fretting about how we present ourselves, what other people think of us, and trying to project an image that we believe is favorable or self-serving, we can simply thank God for the gifts we have been given, follow Jesus, pursue excellence in all that we do, and use our talents to serve God as well as one another.

It was God who formed our inward parts, who knit us together in the womb. For we are fearfully and wonderfully made…


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