Perception and the Creation of Identity

Anyone who has read even a small sample of my fiction1, will be familiar with the concept of perception and the questioning of a universal reality.  It is a common subtext, scratch away the zombie or whatever and you will find it lurking there.3  It is one of those concepts that I find endlessly fascinating and one that is not far from my mind at any given time.

Another favorite, often interrelated topic, is the difference between self-identification and public perception.  It is this aspect of my perception obsession which has been popping up a lot lately.  

Most of the triggers have been little things.  I went out with a number of people from my new job recently and everyone was surprised to discover that I have a number of tattoos.
4  I usually wear long sleeved dress shirts at work, so the chances of catching a glimpse of any of them is pretty damn small.  I have also explained the time post-college but pre-NaNo6, where I gave up writing and how much of a jerk I was.  A big reason that I am less of a jerk, as mentioned elsewhere, is that self-identifying as a writer is very important to me.

All of this came to a head this weekend and the Global Domination Retreat sponsored by the fine people at
The Daily Nightmare with special guest Maurice Broaddus.  It was an enlightening day with some of my favorite writerly folks.7  One of the exercises which we performed was an introduction in which we were not allowed to speak.8  Instead, all of the other people in the room suggested things which they knew about us.

It should come as no surprise that “Dog Lover” was the first thing that anyone said.

As the retreat was focused on writing, many of the items mentioned were at least tangentially related to writing and various roles I play (editor, ghost-writer, publisher, panelist, Penguicon Literature Track Head, etc.).  Other items included Halloween and haunting, some personal descriptors which I don’t think necessarily apply
9, and one which I thought was especially telling in how it was worded: “Shameless in Costume.”

This was a reference to my ability to speak in front of people, network, and do all of those things which weird, extroverted people are able to do with such ease when at conventions or similar settings.  I recently saw an article about the false dichotomy of the introvert/extrovert classification system which discussed a third option, the ambivert.  I do not believe I would fall into this category.  My extroverted moments all come in very specific situations.  They are frequently accompanied by feelings of playing a role.  These extended periods of extroversion are also quite exhausting.

Oh, so very exhausting.

All of this got me thinking about how other groups may or may not see me.  How much overlap would there be if I had each group of friends, coworkers, family, etc. create similar lists of descriptors?  What would that particular Venn diagram look like?

Now for the big questions: would that area of intersection be the “real me?”  Are we an amalgam of how other people see us or are there aspects of our personality which create some essential “self?”

Naturally, I don’t have the answers to these questions, but you can bet I’ll be asking them in one form or another in the next couple of stories I churn out.

1  By which I mean the stuff that I have written, not “a portion of my library” or “lies I tell about myself.”

2  What?  We all do it.  It’s part of how we create who we are.

3  Lurking like, oh I don’t know, a zombie waiting to chomp on your brains.

4  That number is five.

5  For now.

6  We will call them the dark years.

7  Some of whom also did not know about the tattoos.

8  Some of us were better at the not speaking thing than others.

9  Those were “kind” and “generous.”