If you know me, you know that I take weekly trips to GoodWill. I probably clean out my closets every other month–at the moment, I’m in the middle of cleaning/organizing our bedroom closet, and boy does it feel good.
I’ve been getting rid of trinkets–you know, the little collectibles that sit on your shelf and collect dust. I have limited myself to a very few; it has to be pretty special to me if it has a place on my shelf. I have recently gotten rid of a few shiny things that I had only been keeping because of how they might make me appear to others.
Which, by the way, is a crappy, soul-sucking reason to keep anything.
I started to wonder (in true over-thinker fashion) if I do the same thing with people.
Do I befriend people, in part, because of how they’ll make me look by association or what being friends with them will imply to everyone else–that I am worthy/creative/artsy/witty/talented/stylish/etc.?
I think we all do to a certain extent, but I’ve seen it happening more frequently lately in our culture, especially among the 20-30s age range. But before I get into the meat and potatoes of the problem–first, a definition!
Shininess (my own definition)
Shininess is a person’s surface desirability as a friend. Shininess has nothing to do with the things that really matter like a person’s integrity or faithfulness or authenticity. It has to do with the wrapping paper on the outside: what a person wears, what style a person emulates, what trinkets a person collects and displays in one’s house.
And to a degree, shininess isn’t bad. People are attracted to other people when they’re interests are similar–it’s natural. Shininess becomes damaging when people are sought out for friendship only because of their level of shininess and when others are marginalized or left out because of their “lack of shiny.”
I get it.
I get gravitating to those people whose houses are so “effortlessly” stylish.
I get being fascinated by beautiful clothes and carefully chosen accessories, assuming that what’s on the inside must be as intriguing as what’s on the outside.
But I’ve found that the whole shininess ranking system turns people into objects–almost like trinkets on a shelf.
I think the ranking system is so sewn into the social fabric of my age group that, oftentimes, we don’t even know we’re operating in it.
I might seem shiny to some, but I have felt the pain of being rejected by a person or a group, and I’ve wondered whether it wasn’t because my house/clothes/accessories weren’t up to their particular shininess standards. And I wonder how many genuinely incredible people I have glossed over because I didn’t deem them shiny enough.
I know what it feels like to be valued for what I can do and not for who I am–it’s how I’ve operated with myself my entire life. Carrie, if you just get this part in this play, then you’ll be good enough. If you get an “A” on this paper, you will have proven that you’re smart enough. If you look a certain way, people will think you’re shiny enough to be their friend.
I don’t think this system promotes real and lasting relationships.
It’s actually very lonely; when we value people for how they look/what they have/who they’re friends with/what they do instead of for who they really are, we’re dehumanizing them–they’re a clean, cold, shiny object, not a warm sea of emotions and thoughts and intricacies and messiness.
How do we fix the problem?
It has to start with inside. If I value myself for who I am, I believe I will naturally also value others for who they are as well. If I truly value myself, I am secure in who I am, and I don’t need others to validate who I am; I can befriend people across the spectrum–people whose houses are void of style as well as the people whose houses are straight out of an Anthropologie catalog–people who look like they have it all together but who are actually falling apart as well as people who have their own societally-unsanctioned style but who actually make the most faithful of friends if we gave them the chance.