Swipe Left

Read My Lips. This piece reflects fear of commitment: the hesitation to label our relationships in a society that encourages us to compete to seem the least invested. It emphasizes the way we hide behind screens, while highlighting the confusion and misinterpretation that comes along with digital communication. Confessions of love are never made aloud. We have forgotten how to communicate face to face.
Unsolicited Hot Dog. This collage explores the concept of consent in a digital world. It most explicitly portrays the unsolicited and unwanted revealing of oneself over text. It also highlights a power dynamic in which pressure is put on an individual to reciprocate uninvited behavior, whether by sexting or sending similar, revealing photographs.
Too Easy. This image demonstrates the everyday acceptance of slut-shaming and victim-blaming. As women, we are encouraged to show skin but scolded when we do. We are “easy” if we want sex and a “tease” if we don’t. We are governed by dress codes. We are taught to be polite and complacent. We are looked at, we are spoken about, but we have voices too.
Hot Sauce. This individual work serves a double purpose. Firstly, it functions as a self-reflection in which I tell myself that nobody will think I am enough unless I agree to be physically intimate with them, and in which I ration that my personality holds less weight to men than both my physical appearance and the capabilities of my body. The piece can also be interpreted as mirroring the media’s notion that a woman is not enough unless she is objectively beautiful and referred to as such by those around her.

Bad Mouth. This piece reveals society’s role in romanticizing abusive relationships. It underscores the prioritization of attraction over personal safety and the ongoing promotion and selling of narratives in which women find fulfillment in “fixing” men. Feelings of fear become confused with feelings of attraction, and excuses are made that fuel a culture in which men continue to be seen as dominant.
Grease Up. This collage extends the “bad boy” narrative and symbolizes the media’s impact on not only what we come to expect, but what we begin to see as reality. The expectation that all people have good intentions fuels excuses for the ways we are used. The handwritten love letter has been replaced by the “You up?” text. First dates have gone from movie-and-dinner to Netflix-and-chill. There is no longer a process of “wooing” or “being wooed,” and we no longer expect there to be. Yet we silently hope our lives will turn out like the movies.

Time to Break. This piece exhibits a pattern in which I seek out romantic partners and the “happily ever after” that movies promise but then quickly push people away before they expect me to be intimate with them. Having such strong feelings for people yet not being able to feel sexual desire towards them often leaves me feeling broken. And along the way, hearts are broken on both sides.

Swipe Left is a collage series that illustrates modern-day hook-up culture while shedding light on issues of objectification and consent. The works are also a reflection of my own personal feelings towards intimacy and relationships as an asexual heteromantic female living in a society that judges women both for having sex and for not having sex.

By Rebecca McLaren

Awakening: A Playlist

This is a playlist containing songs that I associate with how I'm working on being my better self, and songs that inspire me to let go of all the negativity that circles within metoxic people, anxiety, self-doubt, family issues, etc., and I want to share them with you! 

By Chloe Taal

Life Music

I first listened to Frank Ocean in 2016, when Blonde came out. It was the first full album I had listened to, and prior to Blonde, I was only familiar with whatever three-minute pop singles were on the charts. Listening to Blonde, then, was like seeing new colors. The significance of listening to sounds I had never heard or imagined before was what secured Blonde as a special work of art for me. I was obsessed with these new sounds–Frank’s engineered high-pitched voice, reverberating notes, hazy noises, and mysterious, fragmented lyrics. Blonde was my soundtrack for more than a year, and the more I listened to it, the more personal it became.

Through Blonde, I discovered other sounds and artists, and my musical landscape shifted to encompass a larger range of styles. Now when I listen to Blonde, it’s not as new and otherworldly, because I have listened to so much more. But the experience of enlightenment that it gave me isn’t forgotten or lost. The music means different things to me now, two years later, than it did when it first came out. I’m still discovering new things in the albumnew sounds that can only seem to be heard with the volume on full blast, sitting in otherwise absolute silence and peace.

Music intertwines so tightly with our lives that some music is unbearable to listen to after a moment in life has passed. It’s just like scent, taste, and touch. A single melody can bring up the most visceral feelings or memories. The personal possession and investment that we put into music is what makes it one of the easiest ways to reach back in time, to grasp the intangible. There are songs that we listen to during a time of heartbreak or a time of depression. There are songs reserved for every specific feeling. In some instances, the music that we listen to during an experience becomes the majority of the experience, compounded into a song. In others, music is a guiding light for realizations and our own selves.

I asked some Lithium team members what music came to mind with awakening and enlightenment, and what personal, special experiences they had with the music.

1. "Reborn" by KIDS SEE GHOSTS (Kid Cudi and Kanye West)

Yves Esapa: I had a deep experience with this specific song. When you listen to it, it makes you feel that there is always room for new beginnings and there’s hope that people can change. Once you know about the artist who made the song, it makes it much deeper. Both of these artists have dealt with drug abuse and mental issues. After they both got help, they looked at the world differently and were able to develop and become reborn. The line that resonates throughout the song is “I’m moving forward.” That specific line is why I’m so attached to the song. Because like Kanye and Kid Cudi, there “ain’t no stress on me, Lord, I’m moving forward.” I’ve come from a mundane place that I didn’t think I could get past, and look at me now, I’m moving forward.

2. Bon Iver by Bon Iver

Brígh Johnston: For me, Bon Iver’s self-titled album felt like something I still can’t explain. Justin Vernon’s songwriting is immaculate. Specifically songs such as "Wash," "Hinnom, TX," "Minnesota, WI," and "Holocene" were among my favorites and really expressed the feeling of “rebirth” or “awakening.” In "Holocene," there is a line that goes: “And at once I knew, I was not magnificent.” It’s like he is recognizing his role in the universe. We are not God, we are not magnificent, we are just humans, and that’s okay.

I am constantly having small epiphanies about my life’s purpose and I always resort to music and art to help me through. I find that while the Bon Iver album is one about rebirth and awakening, it is also about routine and the mundane. Sometimes I’ll just lay on the floor staring at the ceiling and have the album on repeat knowing that everyone, even the musician I’m listening to, has constant change in their life. If he can transform those emotions into art, then so can I. He and I have never met, but I feel so personal, we go through things together.

3. "Shake It Out" by Florence + the Machine

Ines Donfack: The song carries underlying themes of stripping off old habits and embracing the new. She talks about how she’s “done with her graceless heart. So tonight [I'm] gonna cut it off and restart.”

This song has resonated with me because of its powerful lyrics. I feel like I want to strip off the old habits, regret, pride, greed, and all the other flaws that peg me as human. I want to just cut that old heart and restart. The song propelled me into an understanding that the only thing standing between myself and a better version of myself is resolve and a decision to make the change.

4. "Ten Things" by Paul Baribeau

Dharma Gilley: It’s all about making sure you do everything you want to before you die and how death will come to us all one day, and all we can do is live our best lives. I have had a lot of really rough nights [during which] I haven’t been happy and I listen to “Ten Things” and I cry and I feel so much better because it reminds me that even if things get hard, I can try to live my life to the fullest and it gives me hope.

5. Melodrama by Lorde

Allison Barr: I think Melodrama by Lorde is a really good symbol of rebirth because it was only her second album, and released five years after her first. Her first album was about adolescence, and though her second is about that as well, it is explores themes of adulthood in a youthful way.

I listened to the first Lorde album throughout my high school years, and Melodrama came out after my first year of college right before I transferred to another school. The release day was while I was visiting New York for the first time, and I remember walking through the city at night listening to it in my headphones. I associate this album with my personal  fear of growing up, and the phenomenon of over-romanticizing those feelings because of the city.

6. "A Change of Heart" by The 1975

Charlotte Smith: What I love so much about this song is that it references lyrics to the song “Robbers” from The 1975’s previous album. In “Robbers,” Healy sings about a girl with “a face straight out of a magazine” with whom he is enamored. In “A Change of Heart," he references this, singing, “You used to have a face straight out of a magazine / Now you just look like anyone.” I always thought that was such a profound development: realizing you’ve been romanticizing someone and coming to terms with moving on.

I loved this song from the moment I heard it, probably because haunting, sad songs tend to be my favorites. This song has also helped me out when I’ve dealt with breakups or letting people go in my own life. Sometimes you have to let people go. Sometimes you need to have a change of heart.

Here are a few more from me.

7. "The Rose" - Bette Midler
8. "What Kind Of Love" - Childish Gambino
9. "Une Barque Sur L’océan" - Recorded by André Laplante (by Maurice Ravel)
10. "Green Arrow" - Yo La Tengo
11. "Purple Rain" - Prince
12. "Strawberry Swing" - Frank Ocean
13. "Coney Island Baby" - Lou Reed
14. "Sospetti e Tenerezze" - Ennio Morricone

Thanks to everyone who participated.

By Hannah Yang



Reality, vivid colors, and loud noises are at a halt. Splash, pressure, eyes open. Nothing makes a difference now—it is all blue and blurry. Your body is distant from gravity and tangibility. It is only retained by water. The mind is tranquil and silent; it will not be reached by outer distractions. The consciousness is detached from the surroundings and is only focused on its own serenity.

Thoughts stayed up on the surface—they will be reclaimed by the mind when the body is afloat. The awakening—when one is plunged back into reality—will give birth to new, firm decisions and plans that will revitalize and invigorate. So be it: lack of air, push up, breathe in. Awoke.

By Alyona Baranova


This series of collages is based on the general attitude of self-betterment. The past year has been filled with growth and expansion for me, and I felt that a combination of raw visuals and quotes would sufficiently describe the atmosphere of change and awakening that is ever-present in my life. 

The piece aesthetically explores three different mindscapes regarding waking up and developing new insights about life. Within each image is the juxtapositioning of various natural environments and human figures. This contrast highlights the constant journey of someone adapting to and growing with their surroundings.

Each image contains various emotions and energies that are very fluid and open to interpretation. Although the quotes are hard to read and somewhat ambiguous, I truly feel that these quotes deeply embody attitudes—even subtle ones—that are important to the concept of change. I really enjoyed experimenting with a new style of collage through this piece. Although the piece is abstract and somewhat vague, the vagueness is pleasant to me because it lends itself to endless possibilities.

By Paloma Williams

Honey, Your Name is White.

When It Rains, Restless Heart Syndrome, World So Cold…I scrolled through my finished playlist with decided satisfaction, hitting the spacebar on my bulky hand-me-down Mac and turning up the volume in my headphones. The soft guitar and choir voices of Yellowcard’s Paper Walls title track played through the speakers in my ears, coming to a quiet stop right before the amps kicked in and began to dissolve the churning sensation in my gut.

Let’s take what hurts and write it all down on these paper walls in this empty house. The words echoed in my head alongside those whispered about me earlier that day at school. Gorilla, gorilla, gorilla. I wrote them all down in my current journal. I glanced at my violin sitting in its case at the foot of my bed, then at the computer’s clock. I’ll practice after a few more songs.

I was determined to be conventionally different.

When I was in elementary school, I avoided talent shows because my performing art needed to be explained. I, a rebellious ten-year-old, could not muster the interest to publicly share my culture’s music; as a result, I raised myself on rock, delving into a world of electric guitars to escape the scrutinizing eyes of my classmates.

I’ve been studying and playing Indian Classical–Carnatic–music throughout my entire life, with my primary instrument being the violin. I spent the majority of my free time going to classes, preparing for performances, and learning new pieces. For a long time, my music library consisted of varnams, kritis, and thillanas that I would listen to on repeat in order to learn them for myself; however, I quickly realized it was difficult to connect with fifth, sixth, and seventh graders who had interests of their own, especially when those interests lay within a realm familiar to the Western world…so just as quickly, my music library accumulated the pop punk that is so often associated with angsty, early teen years. My classmates sang along with the pop tunes on the radio, but I danced in my room to tracks from American Idiot and Ocean Avenue. I established myself as the girl with “different” taste–the kind of different that didn’t need any context to be understood.

As I listened through my playlists, I created worlds with pen and paper. I’d write stories, sketch characters, and build a universe I wished could become my reality. One of my friends’ dads shared a similar love for stories. He’d regularly encourage me to continue creating, asking me about my current projects. “Tell me a story,” he’d say as he, my friend, and I would go for weekly runs on various trails near our homes.

“So, the character’s name is Kat, and she loves to read and write, and one day this random typewriter shows up on her doorstep addressed to her, but she doesn’t know who sent it,” I explained, “and she suspects her best friend David but turns out it’s not actually him. She’s thirteen and going to be a freshman, her favorite food is peanut butter sandwiches, and she has two older brothers, one younger sister, and a dog named Moose.”

“I like it, Arya,” my friend’s dad smiled. “She sounds a lot like you. What if she grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha stories and her favorite food was any dish with paneer?"

I felt my head start to hurt. “I don’t know, maybe.” No, thanks. Kat had shiny, long, auburn hair and intelligent green eyes. Kat had cute freckles and cheeks that would flush slightly pink when she was at a loss for words. Kat looked like the characters I had read about in all my favorite books, and Kat was pretty. She didn’t need any frame of reference, and anything suited her.

There wasn’t a way I could maintain that if her background was that close to mine. Kat was supposed to be who I wanted to be, not who I was.

I aged with my stories. A year after Kat was born, I entered high school myself. I switched out from my tiny private school to a much larger public school–I knew no one going in, but I was excited by the prospect of a completely fresh start. Through the first couple years, many of my classmates had no idea I played an instrument until my junior year, when I picked up my practice and classes even further.

“Hey, we’re going to get milkshakes after school, wanna come?”

“Sorry, I can’t, I have violin class.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you did music. Why aren’t you in orchestra?”

“Uh…I just do enough music outside of school.”

Senior year rolled around, friend groups shifted, and I found my music library rapidly shifting once again, this time introducing hip hop and R&B. I started to subconsciously break down lyrics as I did with the stories we read in English classes, slowly registering the differences in style and culture between these artists and ones to which I had previously listened. I listened to To Pimp a Butterfly and Lemonade religiously, and I stumbled on Raja Kumari, a South Indian musician making a name for herself through her style that takes influences from Carnatic music. I wrote and wrote as I began to piece together a new perspective on my own life; growing up as a person of color in America is very different than growing up as a white person. A simple revelation, yes–but one that took me sixteen years to reach. The quietly disgusted glances at my lunches as a child, the whispers and giggles as pre-teen girls called me “gorilla,” and the reluctance to share my musical background were illuminated. My lunches were parathas or sambar sadam instead of PB&Js; the hair on my body is dark, not blonde; the kind of violin I play is Indian, not “normal.”

That year, a couple people in my class published a powerful article in our school newspaper addressing a year-old Leadership-organized event: the Color Dyephoon. Much like the well-known Color Run, it centered around the act of dousing people in colored powders of all shades. “Wear all white and get your cameras ready!”

The article spoke about the importance of acknowledging casual cultural appropriation; the Color Dyephoon was yet another example of claiming aspects of a culture as an “original idea,” and as a result, profiting from it. It was refreshing to see criticism much like what had been going through my head written in print, published through a vehicle accessible to the entire student body.

In all the advertising that Leadership pushed around the school, there was not a single mention of the Indian festival Holi and its origins. Frustration bubbled inside me as images of Coldplay’s “Hymn For A Weekend” video flashed across my mind: white skin coated in color, religious and spiritual symbols serving as a psychedelic background for this dreamy song. “I don’t know why people are calling it cultural appropriation, I thought it was a beautiful video,” my uncle had said when it released. That’s because you already know this is just a fraction of what exists in our culture. The majority of the people in America don’t.

The Color Dyephoon, yet another example of narrowed and diluted culture taken for profit, was happening right next to my everyday existence, and I wished that the Leadership team would simply acknowledge the inspiration behind the event, especially since it was taking place in the same time frame as proper Holi celebrations across the Bay Area. This event was inspired by an Indian festival in which the arrival of spring is celebrated. I discussed my frustrations with friends and teachers in hopes of sparking bigger conversation about how things like this could be avoided in the future.

After the article’s release and a week before the second annual Color Dyephoon, some friends and I roamed downtown in search of a place for lunch. “Sushi?” “Nah, the good place is closed today.”

“Curry Up Now?” one of them suggested, referring to a restaurant inspired by North Indian street food.

“Eh, I’m not really feeling Indian food right now.” “What, too ‘cultural appropriation-ey’ for you?” someone else taunted.

No. I just don’t feel like eating Indian food.

I hated that an outside perspective was needed to deem my heritage as “cool.” I hated being labeled as over-reactive and hypersensitive when I brought up how easy, little things could be changed to avoid adding to a bigger, harmful narrative created for a culture by people not in it. I hated the canned aesthetic that my background along with those of so many others had been reduced to by the need for props and themes.

I couldn’t wait for another fresh start.

I came into college armed with pride in my culture, comfortable with the idea that I can define my own relationship with my heritage. I'm very involved with our campus' radio station, and I've found that I'm one of the few people of color (and even fewer Indian people) who inhabit it; this sparked a desire to involve myself even further. I found myself spending longer afternoons at the station, hanging around even after my classes for the day had finished and I had the option to go back to my dorm. I sometimes stayed back late nights, sitting cross-legged in the orange chair in the closet-sized office attached to the station lobby, working on chemistry homework in the company of extensive playlists and Genelec speakers.

Often times, though, I wasn’t the only person present; I remember one night that began as studying turned into a music-planning session with a fellow radio station frequenter. We connected over a desire to keep up music practice just for the sake of learning as much as possible, shooting back and forth artist recommendations like Shankar Tucker and Blowzabella, and quickly came to the conclusion that we should try to create something together that brings together music from around the world. A few weeks later, we performed a Carnatic piece and a fiddle tune at the station’s quarterly open mic.

While I am one of few Indian people at the radio station, my school’s demographic as a whole is largely Asian, and especially South Asian. I found myself surrounded by more individuals who shared a similar background to me, and I would always feel a weight lift off my shoulders when someone would empathize with my childhood struggles of culture-based shame.

“I have friends who do that, too,” I once mentioned to my cousin when I noticed the alternate name he had given for his boba order: Sean. “Kinda sucks that people can learn names like Schwarzenegger but not long Indian names.”

“Yeah, well, lucky you,” my other cousin cut in, “you don’t have to change your name in coffee shops because your name is so white.”


“Um, I don’t think it’s a white name? I think it originated in India, but there are a lot of other regions with similar–”

“No, it’s a white name. Like, look at Game of Thrones. That came out way before you were born, the name has European roots.”

“But George R.R. Martin used an Indian name because he wanted ‘exotic’ fantasy na–”

“Honey, your name is white. Don’t even try to argue."

My throat turned raw. Don’t even try to argue. Later, I searched it up online: “arya name origin.” The first results:

आर्य / آریا

Gender: unisex.

Word/name: Sanskrit, Old Iranian.

Meaning: noble one. I held onto my Indian name just the other day as two large, white men shouted at me about their hatred for Indian women and their brown skin. I passed by them on the sidewalk, my bones rattling and heart pounding underneath my brown skin.

The shame I had felt growing up quickly manifested itself into anger. I try to channel most of it into productive reflection– I know that by no means can I completely understand the experiences of all people of color, but I want to at least be able to vocalize my own and create space for others to do the same.

However, there remains some anger that I will still don’t quite know how to address. Anger at little things, like never being able to find my first name on pre-personalized items found in gift stores or having to constantly hit “Ignore” to avoid the little red lines that appear below my last name as my computer tells me it’s a word spelled wrong. Anger that when the scarce opportunity for media representation arises, it’s often capitalized on by the wrong people. Anger that I felt the need to hide my culture for so long, and anger that so many others may feel similarly. Anger that some people now feel the need to tell me I’m whitewashed, that I’m not Indian enough, that I don’t have the capacity to understand my culture. Anger that there’s a seemingly set definition for “Indian,” anger that there’s one for “American” as well. Anger that I (and far too many people of color) have had to stomach being cussed out in broad daylight on a well-populated street based on appearance. Anger that people are physically and emotionally harmed.

Anger that people are killed, simply because of the way they look.

As terrifying as it is to be openly proud of my identity, I believe I must be because I’m lucky enough to have a platform to be so. I grew up in the Bay Area and now attend a large public school in which I personally have opportunities to express the need for change. The world is full of stories, and it’s a shame that only a select kind get to be told.

Fingers crossed that “I am conventionally different” eventually turns into “I exist without fear.”

By Arya Natarajan
Visual by author

Beauty in Faith

Growing up in a Muslim household,
I would constantly hear stories about Saudi Arabia.
Stories of courageous individuals making their mark.
I learnt of the journey that every Muslim made at least once in their life.
A short journey I was lucky enough to make.

The journey consisted of:
wake-up calls at one in the morning,
blisters on my feet
that I had never been more proud of,
and sipping coffee from nearly every stand I came across.

But I would always find peace in sitting alone near the Kaabah.
So sit I would.
With a cup of liquid courage held tightly in my hands,
I would remain enamored by the beauty of the city.
Whether it be the architecture to a unity amongst people performing Umrah,
to the ceilings that I couldn't tear my eyes from.
Murmurs of foreign languages I couldn't quite place 
would be carried through soft gusts of warm air.
My eyes would shut,
and I would breathe in the smell of ittar and marble.
Smiles would be shared with anyone I locked eyes with,
as an unsaid statement would pass between us.
"I, too, feel the same way."

By Meshall Awan
Photos by author


The way us females live, is it normal?

Growing up, magazines always told girls or women we stand beautifully wearing a dress, long and covered with sequins, showing us a way to be sexy when being in lingerie, our hair styled perfectly and face perfectly detailed with makeup.

But do we ever question if this is somehow wrong? Or, not wrong, but challenging our minds into thinking we can only wear certain clothing?

Embrace the style and way you wish to show yourself.

By Sophie Allsop

Alive Again

Alive Again is the embodiment of summertime and rebirth to me. It is a feeling that I believe many experience: being trapped in a never-ending cycle of work, or emotional detachment, on a large or small scale. At the time when these images were taken, I had just been released from something that was adding stress to my life, and it felt like my creative energy and happiness were given back to me. I chose to take these photos on film, in a location with both thriving greens and rocks that represent the death-like state my mind was in before. Using a prism and working with my lens, the images were refracted and given a dreamy mood. This fit perfectly, as, when waking up, one often feels groggy and still shrouded by dreams. In post-processing, I altered the saturation of each photo so it increases with each new image. As the photo set progresses, it symbolizes the awakening and rousing of the soul/mind after a period of grey coldness. Also, the model’s positioning goes from just hands grasping to be freed, to lying down, to sitting up, and lastly, reaching into the sky. I hope this series' viewer feels the sun on their skin, their mind being relinquished; I hope they feel alive again.  

By Anova Hou

On Not Fitting the Latina/x Stereotype

There was never a succinct moment in which I realized I didn’t look like I was supposed to. In reality, it was more of a slow understanding, like the unfurling of petals. Surrounded by relatives with umber-colored hair and skin that was two shades darker than mine, there I stood, the little, unaware white girl. Freckles upon fair skin and almost golden hair decorating my round head, I couldn’t have looked any more alien. Yet, growing up, the pieces didn’t seem to click. The thought was never even conceived that I might not belong.

However, as I blossomed into the tumult of adolescence, my confidence began to waver. In school, I noticed other Latina classmatesor, rather, noticed how unalike we looked. I was the chubby, pale one contrasting sharply with the other curvy Latinas frequenting my grade. Flipping through magazine pages, I saw the same dark-haired, hourglass-shaped women holding perfume bottles and staring seductively at the reader. Looking in the mirror, I could only see a sad lump of fat, frizzy hair, and most of all, whiteness. It was like a slap, my pallor only contrasted by the freckles that lay atop it.

You look a lot like your mom, I would hear people say. While my sister had inherited my father’s Peruvian genes, I was the same shade as my mother, if not lighter. Yet my mother’s family lived thousands of miles away, so I was the odd one out. My cousins, all older than me, shared the same 'look,' the same one that my sister inherited. She’s the lucky one, I’d think. She actually fit in.

Slowly, I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t belong. The outlier among the people who actually looked Hispanic. So, in middle school, my circle of friends included mainly whites. I was too intimidated and afraid to try to befriend any of the Latinx in my school. I also refrained from speaking any form of Spanish, either afraid of butchering the beautiful language or afraid to be rejected by those listening. I believed I was too white to speak to those to whom the language belonged, a foreigner trampling upon sacred soil.

But I never felt fully assimilated into white culture. Something didn’t feel right. I spent my days treading between two chain-linked fences, trapped in the middle. I didn’t realize that I could climb over to either side whenever I wanted to. Once I melted the fences down, I stopped wondering whether I should mark Hispanic as my ethnicity on forms. I started speaking Spanish to anyone who would listen, unafraid of making mistakes. I made friends of all different backgrounds, knowing they wouldn’t judge me for my own blended culture. When I accepted who I was, it was like stepping into the light. Instead of looking through fractured glass, my lenses were clear and the world glowed.

By Sophie Sebastiani

The Id, Ego, and Superego (My Friends)

“The mind is like an iceberg; it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.”

Picture this: a painstaking decision is at hand. Do I kill this troll with kindness, or would a weapon better suffice? On your left shoulder, a little devil, red like Louboutin bottoms, hops up and down in excitement.

“Do it!” he urges, “What can I say? Karma’s a savage.”

On your right, an angel shimmers whiter than bleached sheets with a floating halo reminiscent of an iced doughnut. It warms your heart in the same way.

It says, “Love thy neighbour as thy

“You’re in love with yourself, aren’t you?” Mr. Devil. “You might as well quote the Confederate Constitution if in the mood of reciting fossilized declarations.”

The real struggle of so many of the internal battles we face, I’ve begun to realize, lies not in the issue at hand, but in how we interact with ourselves. This finding has rooting and relevance in every aspect of our lives, whether that be our mental wellbeing, how we feel in new or unfamiliar circumstances, or simply what we see when we look in the mirror. If we want to talk psychology, (and we want to talk psychology,) our minds are made up of three distinct parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. And while I’m not the person and this isn’t the place for an in-depth psychoanalysis class, in terms of how you interact with yourself, these ‘characters’ are most significant.

It’s the classic ‘heart vs. head’ conflict. The, ‘do I go with the feeling or the reasoning?’

Let’s meet them.

the Id: This is the glamorous, Louboutin-bottomed, horned metaphorical devil we just introduced (and in all of its glamour, it may as well have paraded down a matching red carpet.) The Id is the animalistic impulses and urges we hold within us from birth, the unhealthy cravings and the rash responses. The id is completely subconscious.

the Ego: Mr. Ego is much more than a bomb Beyoncé song. The ego deals with reality and the real world. He’s the man in the middle, the mediator, the rational thinker. Also, Mr. Ego can be shaped by the environment. He brings about the actions.

the Superego: Takes a bite of her donut. Floats, I wish I could say quietly, behind your shoulder, her wings flapping noisily. Loves to love and throws snowballs of guilt your way when you let the id winwhen you prioritize self over the greater good.

Now, these descriptions—whether or not you’ve ever come across these three terms before, and whether or not you’re completely aware of how and when exactly they developin terms of pertaining to you in the present and whatever current struggle you face, is less important.

What is of most crucial importance, at least in my eyes, are the very different modes of thinking (modes of being, almost) each proposes, and how they work together. Like howat least according to Freudian principlesboth morality and animalistic urges can exist in the subconscious. Translation: self-preservation is as natural to us as caring for our loved ones. And, despite the id being set from birth, the influence the world can have on our often fragile egos, and how just as powerfully this can influence our actions.

So what is the point of having introduced all of this? What am I saying? What should you take home from this, haul over your shoulder?

That by looking at these three facets of your character, the solutions to problems, complications, are miles closer:

Often the illogical ‘gut’ reaction can be the best idea—it comes from the subconscious and therefore can often be tied to larger and deeper reasoning that you aren’t fully aware of. The ego and its rationalism and reason can also be important when your innate feelings are less positive, when, without reason you find yourself in a dark place. This part of you can and will pay attention to the world around and come to logical conclusions.

So, for everyday usage, I’ve compiled some simple ways to channel each character of the psyche:

Id—listen to your feelings. Your urges, your cravings. If you’re hungry for that ice cream, eat it! Take time to sit alone with eyes shut, and listen to your heart, your body. Instead of what the world needs of you, note your own needs and the steps you can take to attain them.

Superego—this is where sympathy comes from. Our need to nurture others, to provide. When we fail to do so, or let our impulses overcome, the superego throws guilt our way. In dealing with guilt, what I’ve found is that you are not a single action. Where guilt is found, there is regret, usually meaning that you behaved out of character in some way. Simply feeling remorse is taking accountability, and any repercussions that come from your actions are more than enough to deal with. But to best employ this beautiful part of ourselves, check in with your loved ones. Sending a “hey, how are you?” text takes five seconds, and could be the highlight of someone’s day.

Ego—is anything and everything in between. This is heavily impacted by reality, and is a very conscious part of our dispositions. It finds compromise between the id’s urges and the selfless nature of the superego and is heavily influenced by the environment. My tip on how to best channel the ego? Listen to people. Listen to all people, of all political and social opinions. Whether their ideologies seem to be twins or antagonists to your own, it is important for the sake of ourselves, and our humanity, to never allow ourselves to become one-sided, to never allow our actions be completely attributed to the single philosophy you have allowed yourself to listen to your whole life. Dynamic conversation and debates are what bring about change.

I’m writing this on my sixteenth birthday and am not only amazed, but proud, of the change I’ve seen in myself within a year. The calm I’ve achieved within myself, the self-adoration; I may have finally outgrown birthday ‘depression.' And while I don’t think I would ever go as far as to claim these three parts of my mind to be working together, I’m learning they can work constructively.

So maybe after reading all this, your id is still running laps around your head, and that’s completely cool. But maybe, just maybe, the three musketeers have sat down to listen.

By Simi Fagbemi
Visual by author