What is it inside of us that causes us to compare ourselves to everyone else? What part of the brain controls this bizarre impulse to look at others, judge them, and almost in the same instant, judge ourselves in comparison? Could this be some primitive instinct from the days when natural selection played a far greater role than it does today? Thousands of years ago, certain traits were deemed desirable because they showed fitness for an environment and reproduction. This is a nice theory, but I believe it's much more than that. Today we place so much importance on physical appearance; however the standards and ideals of beauty today are different than those fifty years ago. If this compelling force to criticize and compare was primitive, the standards of beauty shouldn't deviate so greatly through different time periods. Clearly, we place impossible standards of beauty upon ourselves. But why?
As someone who has struggled with eating disorders, and has been overly critical of them-self for as long as I can remember, I've always wondered why I do this to myself. Why do I stand in front of the mirror, pinch the skin on my hips, scrutinize every dimple and blemish on my skin, pick, prod, poke, scratch and scrape at the pores on my face. Why do people tell me I'm pretty, and I shrug off the compliment and point out a flaw? Why can I not look at myself, and be proud of my appearance? I try to eat healthy and work out regularly, then when I slip up and indulge on something less than ideal, or skip a few workouts, I instantly belittle myself, feel guilty, feel like I instantly weigh 300 pounds, and think I'm the most disgusting creature on this earth. That is not normal. I know it's not, and yet, I continue to do it. There is a vicious cycle of self-hate going on and I can't seem to pinpoint the beginning or find sight of the end.
Advertisers, modeling agencies, television shows and movies all place a twisted idea of what is beautiful and worthy of admiration in our minds from an early age. Thin, blonde, perfectly white and straight teeth, expensive clothes, and promiscuity seem to be the traits of the 'heroines' portrayed in the media. Men have unfair standards too. They must be buff, with a chiseled jaw line, perfectly coiffed hair, perfect smiles and a 'come fuck me' stare if they want to reach leading man status. Unless of course they're funny, then they can look ugly, but they always end up with the cookie cutter, gorgeous leading lady. However, if a female character is funny, she is cast as the pudgy, ugly, bumbling, or sarcastic side-kick. Why must women be beautiful, but they're not allowed to be funny or smart as well in Hollywood? Who creates these stereotypes and why in the hell are we all sitting back, and not doing anything to change these ridiculous standards?
How can we all sit back, let these images permeate into our psyches, corrupt our opinions of our self worth, and raise generation after generation of people who hate themselves and don't feel beautiful or worthy? It's sick, and I'm personally sick of it. I am tired of starving myself, depriving myself of things I like, looking into every reflective surface I come in contact with so I don't look 'ugly'. It's pointless. I can't be the only person who is sick of this, though. If we want society to change, we have to first make changes within ourselves. That being said, my new goal is to value myself. Every pound, every blemish, every dimple, every crooked tooth. I don't want someone else to tell me what is beautiful or worthy of admiration. I decide what is beautiful from this moment forward. Beauty is not found on the outside, it comes from within. I am a smart girl, who has been doing stupid things to her body for years. I want to be healthy physically and mentally.
If someone doesn't find me beautiful, oh well! That's on them. The only person I need to please is myself. The only person YOU need to please is yourself. No two people see things in exactly the same way, so why should we try to conform to a corrupt standard of a skewed mind? If you love and respect yourself, you're set. Once you do, I'm certain you'll find plenty of people who also love and admire you, for you. When we chose to walk with our heads held high, proud of our imperfections, and standing in glorious opposition to society's standard of what is beautiful, we not only inspire ourselves, we inspire others. Perhaps once more and more people become inspired in this way, there won't be a standard of beauty anymore. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Embrace your beauty's size, and stop worrying about your pant size.
Religion is something that can both bring people together and put a great divide between them. It is something I have never put much thought or value in. I've always straddled the fence between believing in a higher power and straight up atheism. For me, it's hard to believe that the universe formed by chance, just as it difficult for me to believe that God, or this great cosmic deity, created everything. Neither makes sense and both rely on faith of some sort. Faith in the power of the universe to create something out of nothing, or faith in a God or gods. After much debate within myself, and a conflict of the head and heart, I feel like I've drawn a somewhat logical conclusion.
As humans, I think we all want to leave a legacy, and feel like our time on this earth isn't all that we're given. We like to value ourselves so much that we end up needing an afterlife, because we're just so wonderful we can't simply die and be done with things. Most all religions speak of an afterlife of some sort, where our souls go after we die. If you live a moral life based on the practices of your faith, you will be rewarded with many virginal wives, or a mansion and streets of gold. If you live an immoral life, or do not subscribe to a faith, you will end up being punished in Hell or something of the like. Why do humans feel so entitled? Just because you live a moral life, you think you deserve riches and glory after you die?
Personally, I believe that's just selfish. I think the reward of living a moral life comes in the form of knowing you've helped someone who could not help them-self. I agree, life is too short. Instead of putting all your stock in an afterlife, why can't we focus more on enjoying the time we are allotted and live a life of love. Love for our families, love for our friends, love for our fellow man, and love for ourselves. Many religions teach that love for oneself is simply selfish and that we should ultimately only love God. But that seems hypocritical. If there is a God, and God created you, wouldn't it be wrong to not respect and love this vessel provided to you?
Much as George Washington warned against political parties in the early formation of the United States, I believe if there is a God, God is universal. God has no gender, no beginning, no end. God is in every man, woman, plant, animal, cloud, atom, molecule. If this is the case, I feel as though God would not want the people It created to be divided among different denominations and religions. If a closer look is given to some of the main prophets of the world, ultimately their message was the same. Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad all spoke of loving those around you, being kind and generous, not being judgmental, respecting ourselves and others, and about being grateful for the lives that we are given. Whether or not you believe all of the prophets, one or none of them, they all had a similar and wise message.
God does not want human beings to focus on separating themselves from others, I believe God would want people to come together. Stop drawing lines in the sand between your faith and the faith of the person next to you. If we were created in the image of God, are we not all divine, regardless of what faith we subscribe to?
With that being said, here's what I believe: There is a God. This God is not a Christian God, Muslim God, African Goddess, Norse God, etc. This God is a universal God. It is in everything, and is the beginning and end of all things. When we die, we wont go to a specific level of Heaven or Hell; when we die we will return to the Earth and be recycled into the universe. I believe everything in this universe is cyclical. The circle appears in many forms and has many connotations. To me, that is significant. I don't need a mansion when I die or streets paved with gold. I believe there is beauty in becoming one with the Earth, being recycled into a plant, being food for insects and animals so that life may continue once my time has expired. It is the circle of life. Instead of worrying about what others believe in, who they pray to, how many wives they have, their sexuality, their race, or their political affiliations, I am going to chose to love everyone around me. I will strive to live a life free of judgement and hypocrisy. I believe that in living a life of love, giving to those in need, helping those who need a second set of hands, and respecting myself, I will please God. I will be closer to what God intended when mankind was created.
God doesn't have to be a wizened old man, with a white beard, sitting atop a throne surrounded by angelic beings, in a constant battle with evil forces. For me, God can be the universe. God can be nature. God can be me. We are all connected, whether through the sharing of atoms or connections between souls. I think we should stop trying to separate ourselves from others who are not like us, and come together. When we create a unified, loving, and respectful unit of one, we are the closest we will ever come to knowing God.
Lindsey. Twenty-Five. Currently pursuing a degree in Professional Writing & Film Studies.