I read a random post on the internet long ago that went a little something like this: “If you were a book character, imagine how beloved you would be for your quirks and imperfections.” This simple concept changed the way I read books from that moment on.
People are inherently hard on themselves, making us our own worst critics. We see our reflections, personalities, and actions as so imperfect that we couldn’t possibly be interesting to anyone else. Sometimes, we even mentally conjure up what others might say or think about us so we can avoid acting in a way that inspires such ideas. Ultimately though, the truth is that the way we view ourselves (or imagine how others view us) can be far off from reality.
Having experienced the human struggle of creating good self-esteem myself, as everyone does, that golden line from a stranger on the internet stuck with me and has influenced my perspective ever since. If the characters I read about suddenly became real, they would be as imperfect, unique, and interesting as I am, right? So why is it that when we read about people that could easily be real– aside from the extra magic, mystery, or drama – we hold them up on pedestals?
One reading experience that cemented this fact for me was The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. Without spoiling the intricacies of the plot, this book follows a girl named Addie over hundreds of years as she navigates life under a mysterious oath she made in her youth. Cursed to remain forgotten for as long as she lives, she becomes a fly on the wall to the ordinary lives of people from all eras and all parts of the world. I began to imagine myself as one of those passing, nameless people and even as Addie herself. What would it be like to live forever, but remain forgotten? Like Addie ends up doing, it would mean learning to see and know yourself and others as works of art that are part of the bigger picture.
Those background people, though only involved in passing, felt important to me as I read the captivating novel. It reminded me that every one of them has their own little world filled with concerns, dreams, and responsibilities as unique to them as the next person. If I were to read a book about them, I am sure that I’d fall in love with their life story as deeply as I did Addie’s. It then clicked in my head that if I were a character in a novel, I too could be passionately loved and championed for both my shining qualities and my negative ones. What makes me– and us– makes us art.
Though they aren’t the cure for the ups and downs of life, I hope those words from a random internet connoisseur ring true to you. A little literary romanticizing can’t hurt every once in a while, right?