You’re amazing just the way you are… It’s something that we hear all the time from our spouses, our friends and our work colleagues. But it’s hard to take such a comment at face value when, everywhere we look, we’re assailed by impossibly perfect images of airbrushed beauty on everything from billboards to popup ads. And that’s before we get into social media; that lopsidedly stage managed version of real life where everyone we’ve ever known appears so much slimmer, prettier and more successful than they were when last we saw them. In an age where selfie apps can filter out your imperfections in seconds and the people around you know only what you want them to know about you, it can lead ordinary women to feel like a hamster on a wheel, desperately chasing an image of perfection that’s always teasingly out of reach.
It’s this mentality that sees us dive headlong into the arms of the beauty and diet industries as we set ourselves unattainably ambitious New Year’s Resolutions. We inevitably fall short of these, partly because we’re psychologically predisposed not to keep them and partly because we set unrealistic or ill defined goals. We should not strive for perfection. Rather we should invest our time, effort and money in improving ourselves in small but meaningful ways that will enrich our lives and the way we relate to the people we’re closest to… Including ourselves.
We live in very insular times. Look around any bustling high street and you’ll see people with ear buds in their ears and their hands in their pockets. You’ll see kids on dates staring intently into their smartphones. You’ll see legions of people under investing in their relationships with the people around them. Putting time and effort into our relationships with others can not only save a marriage or a household, it can make your work day more pleasant and make contact with friends an enriching experience rather than an obligation.
You needn’t spend a fortune nor work your fingers to the bone. Simply remembering your colleague’s birthdays, taking an upset friend out for lunch or merely making sure that you set some time aside from every day to talk to your boyfriend, husband, girlfriend or wife can make all the difference.
Your health and fitness
You shouldn’t starve your body of calories to chase an unrealistic standard of beauty, but neither should you poison your body at the expense of your health and self image. Not only are low calorie diets proven not to work in the long term, they tend to yield unsustainable results that are rarely worth the stomach churning misery. Don’t spend a fortune on dubious detox teas, juice cleanses and other corporate approved methods of starvation. Instead, load up on the foods that will make you healthier and happier.
When we’re feeling down or filled with self-doubt it’s tempting to reach for the processed fatty, salty and sugary foods within easy reach but these are rarely worth the fleeting feeling of satisfaction at the expense of your health. Processed meats like salami, pepperoni and bacon, for example, are not just ruinous for the waistline they’re also type 1 carcinogens in the same category as cigarettes. On the other hand, a wholefoods plant based diet that eschews meat, and other animal products can contain the nutritious vegetables and fruits that can not only help to manage your weight but boost your mood, increase your energy levels and even help to keep serious diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer at bay.
Likewise, you should engage in regular exercise not just to lose weight to achieve your own idea of perfection but because it will enrich your life by improving your mood, helping to delay the signs of aging (both cosmetic and beneath the surface), and ensuring good overall health and a longer happier life. Even if the thought of attending the gym gives you a mini panic attack, something as simple as working through a few yoga poses in the morning or taking the dog for a brisk walk can all add up to make a big difference in the long term.
It’s one of the sad misunderstandings of our society that we view education only in terms of how it can facilitate or further your career. While there’s no denying that education can provide a gateway to a new job or career in ways that can liberate you from a dead end job you hate, that should not detract from the value of education for your own personal edification. Learning makes us more enlightened and well rounded individuals whether you’re a part time librarian studying an art history course online or a Sheikh graduated from University of Michigan. Education can benefit everybody for a huge variety of reasons. Living in the digital age it’s easier than ever to improve one’s self through learning either through an accredited online course or as an autodidact acting as your own teacher.
For some reason, there exists an unfortunate fallacy that there’s such a thing as a creative “type” of person. The truth is that everyone is creative and if you disagree it’s possible that you just haven’t found the right outlet. Finding a way to express yourself is one of the most exciting and worthwhile attempts at self realization a person can make. And the beauty is that you can find it at any age. Invest one or two evenings a week in attending a dance class, learning an artform or just chronicling your thoughts and reflections in a blog. You’ll find that you’re at your happiest and most fulfilled when chanelling your creative energies.
Improving your self-image needn’t mean investing a fortune in cosmetics and beauty treatments, nor does it mean treating yourself to lavish clothes. Improved self image is beyond the reach of capitalist quick fixes. You can’t buy it in a bottle or dab it onto your cheekbones. It’s something that has to come from within to be effective. A part of it is learning to appreciate the beauty in yourself while learning to forgive yourself for the things that you perceive as imperfections or peeves. Seek the aid of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counselling or even hypnotherapy to address the issue directly rather than resorting to the band aid of beauty products and clothes.