Perfect happiness

Does and in what ways appearance and body image – being perfect – is it connected to happiness? A current prevalent assumption is that those who are more perfect will be happier. Many women (and men) judge themselves and others on how much they ‘fit’ the dominant ideal, on how perfect they are, and their sense of self often follows from this. That being perfect connects to being happy is often assumed: ‘if I’m thinner, prettier, sexier s/he’ll love me more’ or ‘if I was ten pounds lighter, I’d be happier with myself and my life would go better’.

The images we are presented with these days from movies, television, magazines and newspapers are real but not real, the people represented in them maybe real but the images are not as have been subject to edits that in some circumstances show someone to be something they are not. Yet even if we know these are not real these are still presented as representations of how a modern woman or man should be. If anyone is not fitting with this view, many often laugh at them in the way some with disabilities were regarded as freaks for a circus in Victorian times, but who are we to act as judge and jury to another we know or don’t for gaining weight but celebrating another losing, when we ourselves are not perfect. This idealisation of being a specific body mass index as in some way it’s a number to show we are within ideals, but it is only a number, like our weight or height, that says nothing about a person’s personality…it really is comparable with shoe size in that respect! By chasing perfection we’re trying to catch a fish with a hole in the net, it is flawed and unrealistic. Looking at a meadow of flowers in spring to the leaves falling from the trees in autumn, all are different shapes and sizes as even within nature nothing is perfect, should that not be telling us something?

We look in a mirror ,sometimes conjuring up images of someone we want to be if only this outer shell was different…if I lost weight, had bigger breasts/muscles, or was a bit taller, I’d be happier…but happier how? Have we actually stopped to think that this shell is just that as it is within that the beauty really is? Some try to say it is “only ugly people say that”, which I think is bollocks, it is only ugly people that say it is about looks only as cannot see beyond the image they see. A person’s beauty shines from within to the outside, but narrow-mindedness and prejudice eats away at this so twists their view of how either gender should look. Happiness is not something we can buy, yet many think by creating a new version of themselves via a surgeon’s knife or buying certain things like “diet” drinks or pills we will be. We’re being brainwashed into believing this image of beauty is the norm and achieving it will bring us happiness, which many wonder why they are failing to find this happiness. Some spend money on “beauty” products but is like adding glitter and stars to a tortoise’s shell, it adds nothing but a bit of colour or a mask to hide the real us from the world.

For the last five years I have been on a journey of not just self-discovery but self love, appreciation, respect and understanding. I thought I truly was ugly compared with my peers and the world around me, being laughed at and mocked. I had thought since I was 18 I was the love child of Frankenstein and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I never resorted to surgery or pills to change it as I could not look in the mirror and I realised I was “stuck” like this for the rest of my life. However, between 2008-2009 I had lost weight to the extent I looked ill, I had people at my work place concerned for my well being, and I knew deep down the key to happiness was not my weight, it certainly had not helped my self confidence in feeling sexier or prettier. With the advent of selfies becoming more and more the norm, I turned the camera on to myself, and asked “is that really what I look like!?” I realise now I am not ugly or unloveable, I am just me, which may not grace the covers of magazines or newspapers, be a famous musician or movie star, but who really wants to be with people constantly judging your every bad hair day and weight gain.

When we make the image of ourselves in our heads it is not what to outside world sees, in fact as I learnt many are just hoping that nobody is laughing at them. Anyone who imposes how another should look be they are magazine or partner deserves a slap on the face, only we truly know what our shells of a body can and cannot do and these are not representations of the people we see about our streets. Furthermore, if someone is slimmer or larger than normal we should not be jealous of the slim one who maybe trying to gain weight just as the larger one maybe trying to lose it. We should not change who we are to fit among the “cool” gang by altering our personality, this also applies to our outer shell. By chasing these ideals we’re trying to throw off our shell like it was a layer of an onion and reveal a new one but humans the layers are inside not outside.. Equally, we’re not robots that are programmed to be one thing, we’re filled with emotions that different things trigger different ones, we’re pieces of art that our behaviour and actions paint the person we are beyond the initial image of our shell. Finally, we are part of the natural world, we are beautiful because of our imperfections not despite them, think of a four leaf clover that is said to be lucky but the majority have only three, its beauty is in its difference and imperfectness.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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21st Century Life – Is modern life rubbish?

From the videos of current popstars and actors to the celebrities who’s ‘fame’ is from who they are in relationship with to being on a talent show are shown in the media as rich, attractive, false, shallow, and sexual. Where are the healthy role models, those who express, love, understanding, compassion, charity, health, spirituality and more of what has real value in life? The people I grew up to admire were those that had achieved something in life from Emmeline Pankhurst leading women to fight for the right to vote to Anita Roddick highlighting animal testing in the cosmetic industry and Jane Goodall for her work with chimps. Equally as a music nut, I did not fancy the musicians I listened to, despite being bullied for not knowing which of Take That I fancied. For it was their talent that I admired from John Bonham on drums, Gary Moore on guitar, John Deacon on bass, and Freddie Mercury for his vocal showmanship. This still stands today.

If we ‘hate’ something, it is said the best way to deal with it is to ignore it as nobody forces us with an imaginary gun or got us trapped in a cage torturing us to look or watch. When the real reality of escaping from the modern world’s media is far harder as social media has meant we can see the impact upon our “friends” and their opinions like never before. For me the media has become like an imaginary prison, which we cannot see the bars of our cell. In particular music, movies and TV program us to accept certain ideologies as normal as we see and hear them all the time. I look to my grandparents’ generation, for example when they married it was for love and companionship, working out their problems, now we are amazed if a couple manage to stay together while their children complete secondary education. Have relationships like everything else become so disposable with a use by date now?

Sexuality has increased in my lifetime in the media. I remember “Girls on film” by Duran Duran caused such a stir in the 1980s and now we have people blaming Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga for the downfall of morality! All three’s record labels and management have used the adage “sex sells”. What may have passed for an X rated soft porn film thirty years ago is now to be found almost acceptable in mainstream popular music video or movie at the cinema. Music videos like Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s “Telephone” or Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” are designed to get people watching them in their millions and discussing them not just in the street but on social media too. Makes me wonder where will the makers or puppeteer go next with their “visual art” and what are hidden in messages within them as per Katy Perry’s latest.

Finally, we have become dependent on technology from our portable phones to our computers, it seems impossible for some to leave their phone alone for as little as ten minutes. UNICEF is currently trying to encourage people to do just that. Considering I can leave mine in a different part of the house from where I am working or in my bag when outwith, I find it amazing that one friend said she only lasted five minutes without touching her phone. I was once told that technologically we did not progress from the end of the Roman Empire to the start of the Industrial Revolution, which in itself I feel belittles the achievements of people we will never hear about both before and during this time period. Equally, technology I was told as a child was 40-50 years ahead of what is made public, which I can certainly believe is true if not even greater.

So are we now living in a wondrous age as have access to all this technology? For me, no, I much prefer a good chat with someone – in person or on the telephone, or even a good old letter rather than email. Call me old fashioned but I much prefer the feel of a book over a Kindle, the tactileness to the information inside I feel I understand better as focus more than on a computer or tablet screen. We have access to almost any information we could ever dream of, as well as some made up nonsense and disinformation for good measure. Yet many take what they read on certain sites as proven fact, when many things are theories or as good as Chinese whispers. Is life in the 21st century rubbish, I would say more depressing than rubbish, as we have almost stopped achieving and creating new things that matter to humanity? I look at beautiful art and architecture from hundreds to thousands of years old wondering to myself could this or that be made today, often saying ‘no’ as we have become focused on other things, which do not matter like TV soap operas to how overpaid football players are,. Perhaps if we switched off the TV and computer, left our mobile phones at home, and let’s spend time with those we care about and/or creating from just our imagination, rather than focus on the doom and gloom that is encroaching ever closer, before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown