“The Perfected Self”

My attention was caught by two pieces in the media this week that, upon reflection, I find to be related.  First, The Atlantic has published a story called “The Perfected Self” about how to lose weight.  (It’s terrible.  I don’t endorse it.  But that’s a different topic.)  Second, the BBC this morning reported that British MPs are recommending children have mandatory body-image and self esteem classes because “girls as young as five now worry about how they look.”

Ugh.  Where to begin?

Here is a list of things:

  1. Comfortable airline seats
  2. An indestructible toy for my dog Zelda
  3. Your perfect self

Here is what these things all have in common:

None of these things exist.

Why Oak Trees Have Great Self Esteem

Yep, I don’t even know who you are but I know you aren’t perfect.  Why?  Cuz that just doesn’t even make any sense.  Can an oak tree be perfect?  Is there a particular way that all of it’s thousands of leaves can be arranged to finally reach perfection?  “Just move that one branch up a little to the left and….  Yes, perfect.”  No.  Ridiculous.  Doesn’t even make sense.  The same goes for you.

What on earth does being perfect even mean?  What if you spoke ten languages and were a master sushi chef?  You still could speak eleven languages and how do you do with soufflés?  And let’s be real.  When in the media we see the word “perfect” (or it’s favorite partner in crime, “better”) it almost always is talking about how you look.  Why is that?  It’s NOT because we owe it to our neighbors to make sure we always have ripped abs and perfect hair while we pick up our mail.  It’s NOT because Cosmopolitan wants to make sure you find happiness with yourself.  It IS because so long as we believe that we SHOULD be “perfect” or “better” by modifying our bodies then we are the “perfect” target audience for advertisers.

You are being lied to.  You are being manipulated so someone can make money off of you by ensuring you feel insecure about your self worth.  The truth is that you are enough right now.  Probably there are parts of you that you like and parts of you that you don’t like.  That’s what it is to be human.  This oak tree in my back yard lost a limb, but it’s still growing strong.  You too can continue to grow and thrive despite whatever your history or list of strengths and weaknesses.

You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know

Truth.  There isn’t a call to have schools teach children how to make their beds because children learn that at home (well, that’s what my friend’s told me).  Body image classes are being recommended because children are not learning how to love their bodies at home.  The reason is because so many moms and dads struggle with their own body images.  We can’t teach what we don’t know.

We owe it to ourselves and our friends, neighbors, and most importantly the children in our lives to start critically understanding that it is dangerous to believe in the “perfect” self.  Such a mindset makes us look at ourselves AND others and search for flaws.  Ridiculous.  You were not put on this great earth to wander around noticing when someone in your life gets a new zit.  You were put on this great earth to do great (and no so great) things.  No go.  Do something.  Go do something for no reason other than because you want to do it.  Even though you still haven’t mastered your soufflé.  Even though you don’t like your upper arms.

The kids in your life will thank you, both for being a role model and from preventing them from having to learn about body image from their middle school health teacher (OMG – I can’t even image having sat through a class on body image taught by my middle school health teach who, looking back, I think was hung over about 50% of the time?  No thank you!).