There is no such thing as a good influence…All influence is immoral…because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him…He becomes an echo of someone else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To for. People are afraid of themselves nowadays. – Oscar Wilde
I remember when I first read this passage from The Picture of Dorian Gray, it was late at night and I was in bed. But after reading that chapter where Lord Henry speaks with Dorian in the courtyard that includes the above passage, I was up and out of bed and couldn’t sleep because of how interesting it was. It was a treatise on individualism and self-respect and art and indulgence and free will. It was exciting!
That was written in the 1800’s in Ireland, but it still applies. People are still afraid of themselves. Only now, we have the internet, hundreds of tv shows, movies, talk show hosts, comedians—Media! And so the amount of influences on us as people and as creators of things has grown and is still growing at an astounding rate. It is impossible to live in a pure state, free of influence, without living in Plato’s cave. We are all influenced by others at some level, whether we like it or not.
As a person who is very interested in media—and creating media—I consume a lot of it, and therefore, whether it be conscious or not, am influenced by it when I am creating on my own. However, when you’re working in an established medium, with conventions, it is important to understand these conventions which puts you at risk of being influenced by them; if you can understand the conventions, appreciate them for what they are, and then build off of them or break them down entirely—well then you are creating and you are insisting on yourself and your voice. We all have a voice, but we must allow ourselves to find it.
I have been influenced by a lot of people. On a interpersonal level, my dad, my siblings, some of my close friends—on a indirect level–artists, musicians, writers, comedians, philosophers and filmmakers. I am influenced by many.
As a person, I think I am very prone to imitation. I do not have very high self-esteem which stems from childhood, and is my largest obstacle. I moved to different schools when I was a kid, eight of them before I was in 7th grade—and it derailed my development. I was at a delicate age, where I was desperate for friendship and acceptance—scared of being an outcast. So when I went to a new school, I found the people I was interested in and started to act like I thought they wanted me to act so that they would accept me. And it worked. I was good at it. At a certain point, I stopped truly being myself. I was impure and dishonest. To this day, I am confused about who I am and what I really believe in. I have certainly started to become less concerned with what others think, but it is still there. The need for approval, it’s so small and so petty and yet so immensely powerful. I have never felt truly comfortable in really any environment because of my anxiety problems. I feel like a wanderer. I’m accustomed to change and I feel more comfortable now in the unknown, out on the edge with the fray because I’ve never known a stationary world. I think right now, the essence of who I am is a person searching for something within; I’m trying to understand myself so that I can become better equipped to love and to know joy.
I am still an individual, no one shares my experiences, no one shares all of my desires, or beliefs or interests or knowledge. There are similar people no doubt, but no one else is me. I’m me and that’s it. I have to have the strength to keep that individual spirit going when I’m in the midst of a mob of colliding forces and opinion and belief. I have to stand or I will drown into a sea of sameness. We all do.