The Carrot of Perfection
There is a growing epidemic among people of our generation. A disease that is spreading more quickly than germs on the London underground and, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the chances are, you’ve probably got it.
It goes by the name of Discontentment.
You can feel it, can’t you? Being nourished by your imperfections, feeding on your insecurities, bouncing off the life you’re not living and shining off the well-toned backside that you don’t have. I was chatting with some friends recently about writing this article and generally being dissatisfied with life and one of them said to me:
“Do you know what, I love my body but it’s not good enough. I know all the theory, I know it backwards, yet I live my life differently to my belief system.”
Funny, isn’t it? Why on earth do we do it? If not about this particular issue; we do it about others. For example, the failure to avoid shopping at unethical stores – even though we know that a mere ‘commitment to improving working conditions’ doesn’t quite sit right. Or eating white bread when we know it makes us uncomfortable and windy. We all have our thing.
Call me strange, but I’ve always prided myself on being a fairly ‘body-confident’ woman. Bloated or not, I’ve always diligently worked with what I’ve been given, making sure that my identity is not (entirely) in the way I look. So for years I could never wholeheartedly enter into ‘the diet conversation’ with my friends without actually wanting to watch paint dry… until now.
Recently I have felt my attitude shifting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not bothered about the details of the 5:2 diet. But I am fussed about whether I’m slim enough, significant enough and whether at almost 29, my unmarried boobs are still as pert as they were in my early twenties. I hate myself for it. Who or what is responsible for this discontentment?
Let’s face it, we’re intelligent women. We’re body-image literate. We know that true beauty shines from within and that our bodies are beautiful (thanks, Dove) in whatever shape or size they come. While that’s all well and good, consumerism tells us that we’re wrong. The woeful story of Western civilisation: there is always more.
[column-break]Not only that, we now have to contend with the seemingly perfect lives of our peers on social networks: the well-angled profile picture of your ‘friend’ that sends you spiralling manically towards gym membership. How can we be genuinely pleased for anyone anymore when all we can see is what we don’t have?
I’m not sure about you but I’m exhausted. Like the lyrics of that song by well-known artist Anastasia (cough) go, ‘I’m sick and tired of always being sick and tired.’ Discontentment has got me bad. Someone please call 911 (Wyclef-style) for I cannot compete with these paragons of femininity*.
*added for dramatic effect.
So what is the solution? Where do we go from here? Are we doomed?
I say, ‘NO!’ It’s time to fight back. It’s time to get immunised.
I’ve come to the realisation that there are many ways to fight dissatisfaction: some people practice mindfulness, some pray, while others shut themselves off from the world and decide to live a simple life. If you’re a fellow sufferer, my suggestion is that you try a few different things until one of them breaks through. But one thing you can do right now is start practicing an attitude of gratitude. Force yourself to step outside of yourself for one minute and see what happens.
If everything is telling us that we don’t have enough, or we’re not beautiful enough or thin enough, then we need to change the track in our hearts and minds. This means celebrating with friends in their triumphs, practising selflessness at every opportunity and acknowledging the little things that make being alive a great thing. Someone once said to me, ‘Andrea, I hate to tell you this, but it’s not all about you.’ The most straightforward and obvious thing – but how profound! It’s not all about you. Fellow sisters, discontentment is not terminal, but it will rob us of life if we let it. Enough! Let’s try practising gratitude and together we can stamp it out… for a little while at least.
Words by Andrea Boden
Photography by Lois Vega