As Above, So Below: How Our Friendships Reveal the Ways We See Ourselves

‘As above, so below’ is an adage often attributed to ancient Egyptian philosophy; it means that the micro-universe, our world, is a mere reflection of the cosmos. While the truth of that phrase is debatable in the wider realm, its significance shouldn’t be overlooked in the deeper one. Our lives are the projections of our thoughts, and our beliefs are presented back to us in striking detail.

Sometimes, I find myself thinking about a girl I was friends with when I was a teenager; she was beautiful, so she was frequently pursued by multiple guys at any given period. But, she didn’t believe it, and her friends didn’t, either. Interestingly, in my recollections of our conversations about her, I recall them being as perplexed as she was about all of the attention she received. They couldn’t accept it. Both she and they held the same interpretation of who she was: inadequate. So, her friends were her echo-chamber.

To me, and all of the others, she was lovely and kind, but she couldn’t see it. And, unfortunately, her friends didn’t want to. In the film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the protagonist asks his teacher why people accept inferior love, and he answers, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” In essence, we believe that the only way to mitigate our fear of rejection and the discomfort of being around someone who perceives us in a brighter light is to find solace in familiar arms, which betray the tattoos of our inner universes. As above, so below.

And most of us can recall moments in which we were surrounded by people who made us feel how we already felt. It took me a long time to acknowledge that most of my friends were reflections of me, because the chamber is closed, mentally if not physically. And that’s what made it nearly impossible to break out of. Beliefs tend to get stronger, not weaker. With each hateful comment and each subversive act, my self-conception just grew in intensity. And I wonder if it was the same for that girl. Her friends were similar to mine, but with the addition of jealousy. Their comments, which made no sense to me at the time, obviously stemmed from it. And it’s as simple as that.

Beliefs are the foundations of our lives; they inform how we think about ourselves, the choices we make and avoid, the people we invite and those whom we leave, and the interpretations we accept. It’s easy but often false to believe that someone telling us what we already think is “just being honest.” Sometimes, both parties are wrong. And (more maliciously) at others, one of them preys on the other. That girl’s friends, despite the envy, needed her; they needed her to aid themselves, much like Cinderella’s stepsisters needed Cinderella to accept their interpretations of her in order to feel less isolated and sad; misery’s boat affords plenty of room.

Sometimes, friends truly are being honest, but they can also be haters. If the pattern of your friendship is one in which your friend consistently points to and exaggerates your flaws, then they’re likely the latter. So, maybe you should heed the faint whisper of doubt telling you that you deserve better. Or, you can always choose to keep running back into misery’s arms.

1 Comment

  1. So insightful and true . I’m learning how important it is to surround ourselves with a circle of people that recognize our value and build upon our self esteem.We teach people how to treat us .

    Liked by 1 person

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