Imagine a world where being 180cm, 60kg, with long blonde hair, makes you AVERAGE. In Scandinavia, for the first time in my life, I felt short. It was a strange feeling. Used to towering over people and always kind-of standing out because of my height, blending into the crowd provoked a new stream of thought.
It got me thinking about my identity, and the definitions of “self” in relation to “other”. While we tend to be drawn to people that are similar to ourselves, we tend to define ourselves by the points of difference.
In Japan I had a very strong identity – not only was a foot taller than most people around me, I also had very different hair, eye, skin colour, facial features, etc.
In South America my identity based on difference was much like Japan – eyes looking towards me with a sense of curiosity.
In Sydney, and even in Paris and most countries I’ve visited, I’m still considered tall, and combined with a quirky hair cut and dress sense, eyes tend to look my way.
In Stockholm and Copenhagen I blended into the crowd more than I have ever before. My ego wasn’t really sure what to make of it. On one hand it was nice to feel unnoticed, to feel I am just like everyone else. On the other hand I started to question: what is it that makes me me?
It made me realize that the characteristics and stories that define me are completely inseparable from the people I am surrounded by.
I guess it’s the same for lots of ways we define our identities:
If you get the highest grades class B you feel smart. If you get the lowest grades in class A you feel dumb, even if you are smarter than all of class B.
If you have a house and a car, but they are not as nice as your friend’s house and car then you feel poor. If you have food and your friend doesn’t, you feel rich.
Surrounded by beautiful people you feel ugly, surrounded by beautiful people you feel ugly.
You think your “individual identity” is you, but really you don’t know who “you” are without knowing something about the people around you.
Everything is RELATIVE, even “YOU” and “ME”.
So that was my take-away lesson from Stockholm and Copenhagen. Above and below are some photos of Lisa, my friend of over twenty-years, and our little adventures in Copenhagen and Stockholm.