(Please read this article, From “13 Reasons Why” to “Facing Your Truth”— “Truth” first to understand the above conceptual map.)
Sadly, most of the people live their lives through the motion. We don’t reflect too much on how we see ourselves, and we don’t think carefully about how we see other people. We tend to focus on the tasks at hand and just try to get through the day.
We try to do the best we can and to uphold the “good person” image in front of others. Our image in the world is like the “credit score” that can decide whether we can get the loan from others when we needed.
There is nothing wrong with maintaining an image. However, when keeping the image becomes the only glasses we put on to see the world, our worldview might become very biased.
Some people have a hard time to face him/herself. They try to maintain an image in front of others. They spend a lot of time to keep up with this image, and it becomes the primary goal of their lives.
Underlining the needs to maintain this image is the fear. They are fearful to see and to accept who they truly are, and fearful for people to find out who they truly are.
To cover up their fear, they will go to the extent to please other people, to blame the victims, to avoid or to reject people or topics that will make them face the truth about themselves.
In this story, most of the characters fall into this category, including Courtney, Marcus, Ryan, Zach, and Bryce. Courtney’s needs are to hide her sexuality. She is fearful to have people find out her sexuality is her motivation to shut Hannah out. She goes to the extent by refusing to be Hannah’s friend and to see Bryce as a rapist. Marcus’ need is to maintain a perfect reputation and to have people see him as a “popular guy” who knows how to get the girl into bed because of his charm. He went to the extent by using Hannah as an example to teach his friends how to “date and score” a girl. Ryan’s needs are to maintain his image as a creative writer/editor on campus. To do so, he stole Hannah’s work to show his talents. Zach’s need is to maintain his image as a reliable and sensible person, especially in front of his family. He goes to the extent by stealing Hannah’s list to cover his arrogant ego because Hannah rejected him.
As to Bryce, his needs is to maintain his popularity and leadership status in the school because of his rich and influential family in the community. Essentially, his need is to feel the power he has over other people. He goes to the extent to believe that his rape behaviors are justifiable because of who he is and his family background.
Last but not the least, Mr. Potter, the school guidance counselor. From the beginning, he tried very hard to hide the fact that Hannah sought him out. As a mental health professional myself, I got furious when I saw him destroy the evidence of Hannah’s seeking help from him. Why? He wanted to cut ties of his responsibility for the sake of him being a teacher. His colleague went to him and voiced her concerns about missing the signs from Hannah. Clay went to him to confront him missing signs about Hannah. He overlooked the bullying behaviors in the school. All of these actions are to maintain the image of himself as a capable and responsible counselor that can manage students well. His fear is the legal trouble and the possibility to lose his job (and license, maybe).
For some people, like Courtney and Marcus, their fears are so strong that they can’t admit Bryce behaviors as rape. They also try to placate other people’s needs and put on a people pleaser front to interact with everyone. For Zack and Ryan, they go to the extent to steal from Hannah because of their strong ego to fulfill their image in front of other people.
The reasons we are scared to have people see who we are often because of our fear to see we are. Why? There is a certain part of ourselves that we cannot accept. Or, there is a certain part of ourselves contradicts with our values or the cultural expectations. For example, Courtney’s fear is her sexuality. She grows up in a homosexual family, and she is uncertain about her sexuality. She worries to stand out in the crowd and viewed as different in the group.
There is no right or wrong for the way you want people to see you. However, it is when maintaining these images becomes the criteria for your decision making about your behaviors and to the point that controls your life that we lose the sight of our true self. So, if fear and the needs to maintain a particular image is the underlying reasons we can’t face ourselves, we have to tackle these two goals to accept who we are as a person.
(“Reflection Exercise” To Be Continued)
Friendly Reminder (Again)
If I have learned something about being a therapist, that is: no one is perfect, and there is no therapist or a friend can be your savior. You have to be your savior no matter what happened. I tell my clients all the time: “If I am not a good match for you as a therapist, by all means, please fire me and go find someone else. At the end of the day, your life is much more important than my feelings.”
Please remember: “YOU ARE IMPORTANT” and don’t let anyone decide whether you are going to seek help or not. If you are in a difficult spot in your life right now, please continue to seek help no matter how many people you have to talk to find that person who can help you.
Here is the link to the original novel of “13 reasons why”
Here is the link to the Netflix drama of “13 reasons why”
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network hotline 800-656-4673
National Suicide Prevention Hotline hotline 1-800-273-8255
From Fiction to Reality: “13 Reasons Why” Series Articles