Especially this time of year, we are bombarded with weight loss ads on TV. There are ads for anti-aging and tooth-whitening products. We’re constantly told about ways to cover our gray hair, get rid of dark circles, and banish our double-chins.
I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea here. I’m all for self-improvement. After all, I decided to go to college at age 41, so clearly I believe there is value in growing, learning, and improving. I was a big fan of Wayne Dyer and Stephen Covey.In addition, I fully recognize that extra weight can pose health risks, but let’s face it: Other than the occasional claim of boosting one’s energy levels, weight loss products are all about looking better. Then we see gorgeous women in ads for tooth-whitening products tearing up pictures of themselves or refusing to go to the high school reunion because their teeth aren’t quite white enough.
I understand all of this is marketing, and marketing happens to be the profession that I’m in, so I get that these ads are intended to sell products. But these notions that we need to aspire to become some ideal version of ourselves are pervasive throughout our society.
For me, weight is and always has been an issue. I make the occasional effort to lose weight. But the fact is that I’ve been on a diet of one sort or another for the last 40 years and all of that has gotten me to precisely where I am today: overweight.
I’m one of those women who used to hear when I was younger, “You’ve got such a pretty face; if only you would lose some weight.” Which brings me to the topic of this post. What if I could just have a pretty face and that would be enough? What if having a loving heart or a giving spirit or a witty personality was enough? When I was a middle-aged college student, one of my younger classmates (who could have been my child) described me as being “wicked smart.” Why isn’t that enough?
It’s almost as if we have trained ourselves to believe that every good quality is, of necessity, offset by something we need to fix. She’s got a pretty face but needs to lose weight. She has a loving heart but she needs to cover up that gray. She has a giving spirit, but her teeth could be whiter!
Why can’t just being me be enough? How might the world be different if we just accepted people as they are and weren’t always tuned in to how they are different or imperfect or not good enough? It’s almost like a zero-sum game, with every good quality being offset by something that needs fixing.
The pervasiveness of this attitude seems to have gotten considerably worse in recent years and in the current political climate. No matter what his good qualities, a person is suspect because of the color of his skin or the way he dresses or how he worships. We seem to have this overwhelming need to force people into some mold of what we have deemed “normal” — whether it’s wearing a size 6 or having white teeth — or practicing the right religion.This need for everyone to fit into our definition of “normal” is exactly what leads to bullying and hate crimes and stereotyping.
Maybe one of our resolutions for 2017 can be to try to curb this need we have to beat up on ourselves and others for failing to be perfect or even “normal.” Would I like to be a size 6? You betcha. But I’m not. And I probably never will be. So, in the meantime, can’t it just be enough to be me?