A simple affair

I recently attended my cousin’s wedding. COVID the bully dictated the terms and conditions of the ceremony and like all COVID weddings, this one was also a simple affair. It was the first COVID wedding I have attended. It was a beautiful outside event with just the close family members. There was minimal catering staff, a simple but delicious menu, no cameraman annoying the life out of guests directing people and everyone happily took the wedding photos themselves. What struck me was how relaxed we all were, unlike weddings before where there is a chain of events that cause stress at so many levels. Getting a series of clothes made, to taking that time out every day to participate, leading to total exhaustion on the final day. Earlier, weddings were taxing to say the least, at least for me. But it’s also true that many people have expressed their appreciation of how weddings are being celebrated these days.
What I want to highlight here is a poignant but difficult question to answer. Once we don’t have the COVID excuse anymore, will we have the courage to continue with simplicity? Can we continue to make wedding affairs modest and unpretentious? To muster up the courage to redefine the social and cultural norms that we have adapted since decades and can’t find the will to change?
This wedding was arranged how weddings used to be like in earlier times. They took place at home amongst close family and friends celebrated simply. And then decade after decade we started becoming more extravagant and started converting our occasions into huge affairs, where how other people saw us meant more than what we truly wanted. I personally know of friends and families who sold their assets to throw lavish events just to beat the rat race—just to create an impression on others even if it meant personal loss of assets etc.
We all have a presenting self. A self that we create for the outer world and then there is the real self that only we are witness to. To a certain extent it makes sense to have a private self but there is a difference between choosing what to share of yourself with others and to have a false strong presenting self.
A presenting self refers to how people try to control or define how others see them. They express themselves and behave in a way to create a certain impression that they desire. Self-presentation to a minimal extent is valid as not all that is precious to one’s self needs to be shared with others. But some people only have an external locus of evaluation and mostly rooted in low self-esteem are only invested in being perceived in a certain way by others. They choose to present a certain self to the world that they feel safe about. Showing who they really are is unimaginable for them.
A real self is connected to one’s own reality and comfortable in accepting it to oneself and to present the same to others. It chooses to share information about himself with others but doesn’t create a false presenting self.
An example would be a person who knows his financial reality and chooses to spend a little extra when throwing a party. He knows that he dipped in his savings for it and it’s a choice that he made. Unlike someone who is in denial of his financial reality and splurges on throwing a grand affair just to prove to others that he is doing well. It’s like lying to others and lying to yourself. They start internalising this false image that they present and eventually start believing that’s who they are.
Our wedding affairs are a perfect example of that. Millions are spent just to feed into this presenting self. It’s time to realise that investing in a marriage is more important than a wedding. So let’s collectively help each other to redefine these false norms in our society that don’t benefit anyone. A simple event can be as beautiful as a lavish one. Let’s bring out our real selves and facilitate an enriching society.

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool@yahoo.com or her official website.

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