Why you’re always going to cringe at your past self

Art by Ina Jacobe

It was interesting to see people playing that game going around on Twitter, the one that tells you to post a picture of yourself from four years ago, then one for every year after that until now. Friends you thought you knew, displaying half a decade of growth, everything a little charged with pride.

Usually pictured: five different hairstyles, a mouthful of braces no longer there, some questionable style sensibilities, potato quality resolution from an older model of phone. Not pictured: some old beliefs, the circles you ghosted out of, other reasons to be embarrassed.

That game, you could say, is a prompted version of something we already do, or at least I do. You go to a friend’s Facebook page, click on the profile picture, and press left. Start from the beginning. That one in 2007 with the family trip; they are standing next to a monument. 2008, that one night with the sleepover and the ratty pajamas. At some point in the 2010’s they meet a photographer friend (God bless ‘em) and their young adult face looks a little more crisp and clear. You travel through years of an unwitting visual diary — another thing social media is — and watch your friends grow, laugh a little bit about how nene or totoy they used to be, then stare in awe as they transform into cute, accomplished citizens. You do the same for yourself, for your profile pictures. You wonder why you ever thought that People Are People shirt was the hottest thing. You wonder why you thought large, side swept bangs wouldn’t be regrettable.

It’s a lesson in self-actualization, sure — a reminder that growth is possible and you’re doing it all the time. But then you never think what you’re doing is going to look alien to the future until well, the future happens. So what makes you think you’re getting it right now?

Give it another five years and maybe you’ll look at a picture of yourself now with a little bile coming up your throat, because who’s to say what changes, what goes out of style, what parts of ourselves we wish we left behind sooner? It’s easy to equate the present to a vaguely defined, final stage for coolness. You’re not there. You’re never going to be there, it’s fine.

We’re always going to be nene. We’re always going to be totoy. Best not to get embarrassed — life’s too short for you to take yourself too seriously.


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