In the film X Men First Class, a group of teenage mutants struggle with self acceptance. Raven, a blue skinned young woman with shocking red hair who can assume the form of anyone or anything, disguises her unusual form as a beautiful blond. Hank, a genius with hands instead of feet, works to produce a serum that will change his feet-hands into the more normal variety.
The fantasy is a metaphor for anyone who struggles to come to terms with their perception of themselves and the judgement of others, and tells the story of all of us. Each of us is a mutant in our own way. We are each one of a kind. We have all adapted to our surroundings, by developing some areas of ourselves at the cost of others. Each of us has areas of our personality or our bodies that we are less than happy about. Like Raven, we cover our true selves in something that we perceive will be more attractive to others. Like Hank, we hide the parts of us that are different, and pretend we’re the same, so as to fit in.
Whether it’s our physical shape (too fat, too thin, too tall, too small, the shape of our nose or hips, the way our hair curls etc), our personality (too accommodating, aggressive, demanding, needy), or perhaps achievements, we tell ourselves stories of why we’re not good enough just as we are.
Very few of us are without some level of artifice. Manners and social customs are taught from an early age, before we have time to question them. Those who are different are seen as threatening or in some way to be of curiosity value. As a society, we have love-hate relationship with those we perceive to be different. Often, we project onto others the fear and loathing we feel towards some aspect of ourselves.
In fantasy land, someone whose opinion is important to the heroine, makes some remark that changes their perspective completely. At the end of X Men, First Class, Raven, embracing her blueness, and echoing the words of her lover, says defiantly “Mutant and proud.” Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes the right words spoken at the right time can indeed create a huge change in the way we see ourselves. However, it’s often not that straightforward.
Often, the experiences of our childhood have so ingrained the “not good enough” belief that it takes on the certainty of fact. We believe we are not good enough, and walk through life seeing events in that way. We interpret everything that happens to us through the lens of that belief.
The question arises, good enough for whom? If we allow others to be the guide as to what is and isn’t good enough then we are subject to their whims and fancies, to their moods and colours. And whose opinion do we listen to? For no matter how wise, how exalted, how powerful another person might be, their opinion is always going to be just that, their opinion. We may listen and learn from others, but we can also discard their view if it doesn’t fit for us. The “not good enough” belief has as it’s core assumption that our value or worth is what others agree it to be.
Their view is very important, you might say. Perhaps it is. Or perhaps not. Maybe they’re wrong, and maybe they’re right. It’s your life, you get to choose.