The other day I cracked my phone screen. I was doing a simple, everyday task. I wasn’t playing frisbee or baseball with it. Nonetheless, there’s a big chip out of the top of the screen.

My initial reaction to the screen breaking was despair and frustration. “How could I be so careless! Replacing a screen costs upwards of $100! Argh!”

These were the kinds of thoughts rushing through my head in the moments after the break.

Damaged phone screens are a pretty common occurrence nowadays. In fact, there’s a multi-million dollar industry just in screen repairs alone. “They don’t make ’em like they used to,” my grandad would say.

My screen is still working, which is great because it means the break is only a cosmetic flaw. The phone still functions as normal, allowing me to write articles on the train (like now), send messages to friends, listen to podcasts and read baseball articles. All is well.

From some quick research I did, these kinds of breaks (the cosmetic kind) are the most common. Considering my phone still functions as normal, why did I have a flash of disappointment and irritation when it occurred?

I have some suspicions, and they all have to do with my self-perception.

On some level, I think I view myself as a very organised, clean and orderly person. These are all labels I apply to myself. Sure, I apply the labels based on my past behaviour (e.g. I keep my desk clean, I make my bed most days, I clean up the kitchen when I’m done), but it’s still an evaluation of the past – not an indicator of the present or future.

Breaking a phone screen in such a mundane and unintentional way is not something that a person with those labels would do. In short, breaking the screen challenged my self-perception and created some conflict.

Further, there was concern over future implications. My phone might still function as normal, but now, someone might see me on the train with a cracked screen and think “Ah, that person is a bit of a clutz.” To which, my ego might respond: “No! Please don’t take this minor example as my true nature! I’m really a clean and organised ego, I really am!”

Again, the ego comes to the forefront, so concerned with labels and categories.

None of these labels and categories means too much to me. I don’t think I’ll be able to eliminate my unconscious self-perception models (nor would I want to), but I can become more aware when they’re coming into effect.

Nowadays, when I notice these perceptions, they evoke laughter. I laugh for the fickle nature of these emotions and thoughts I have. What a wonderful world we live in!

Later in the day, as I finished writing this, I spilt tea on my lap. A rather fitting conclusion.


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