But it's going to be harder to do than slapping on a miracle cream, because we're flawed individuals and we're bombarded with messages that keep telling us there is something wrong with us.
The other day I heard an ad for a treatment to make your skin look youthful. The side effects, however, were terrible.
It got me asking myself two questions:
Why is younger better?
What is wrong with wrinkles?
If we were trees, we would not have to listen to these ads about getting rid of our wrinkles (Do trees have ears?).
In fact, if we were trees, there would be people advocating for us as we got older. Save the trees! Don't cut down those 100-year-old oaks!
The message that young skin is better is not only heard through the airwaves. My husband and I were at a home show (home show not a cosmetic convention). This woman approached me selling lotions and creams. She said she could help me get rid of the wrinkles around my eyes.
"I like my wrinkles," I said. "Besides, if I was an oak tree, I would be prized for my knobby, wrinkly bark."
"You're not a tree," she said.
I'm not opposed to cosmetics and lotions. I use them. I even (gasp) color my hair. I'm not opposed to plastic surgery either, especially since it was plastic surgery that repaired my cleft palate.
What I'm opposed to is the message that says we have to look a certain way to be attractive or to fit in with society - in this case being youthful.
It's a money thing, I guess. The radio advertisement was selling something - youthful skin. Another question arose. What are the advertisers really selling?
Happiness. At least that's what came up on my Google search.
Happiness is a billion or maybe trillion dollar business.
Which got me asking more questions (hey, I used to be a journalist).
Will removing my wrinkles to have youthful skin make me happy?
Will living in a large, perfectly decorated home make me happy?
Will driving a luxury vehicle make me happy (If it runs...)
YES. For about five minutes.
To find happiness that is going to last your lifetime, however, you have to appreciate your intrinsic value, not the value of something outside of you.
But it's going to be harder to do than slapping on a miracle cream, because we're flawed individuals and we're bombarded with messages that keep telling us there is something wrong with us. The truth is, we're imperfect but we're beautiful and we're priceless.
How do we swim against the tide of negativity outside of us and inside? These are things I do which help me when I'm feeling lousy about myself.
Help others (Sometimes in secret)*
Volunteer. Donate money or items. Open doors for people behind you. Smile (really, that is more helpful than frowning). Compliment someone. Do something nice for someone living in your house - like doing the dishes, picking up your dirty towels, or making supper. Pray for others.
Seems sort of simple, but sometimes we're so caught up in our own misery that we forget others struggle too. No one gets out of this life without problems.
Obsess less about yourself (this might require therapy).
It's hard not to think about our pains and problems because they're stuck to us. When you have a sore knee, it's not like you can chop it off. True, we can take pain relievers, and that's good, as long as they're not addictive. What helps me the most, however, is when I'm doing other things, like writing, cooking, gardening, volunteering, reading. Thinking about the concerns of others is another way to get myself off myself and onto what really matters.
It doesn't mean we focus on the problems of others through gossip. Did you see the way Carol did her hair? What's up with that?
Therapy might be helpful if you find you're unable to stop obsessive negative thoughts about yourself. This type of thinking might be something inside your brain, and therapy will help you control it.
Practice generosity without expectations
Let someone take the closer parking spot. Bring snacks into work. Listen to your children or spouse. Play a game with your loved ones. Take a meal (or a plant, card, book) over to a neighbor. Offer to drive someone to their doctor's or hair appointment. If you have the financial resources, donate money or items to a favorite charity.
Do this all without any expectations because you might be disappointed at the lack of gratitude. You'll end up back where you started, or worse.
I worked my butt off making Spinach Lasagna for my co-workers, but no one ate it. Must be because I'm a terrible cook. Oh, why can't I get anything right?
You did get something right - you took time to make the Spinach Lasagna. Your actions were good. This is not to say you can't make an objective evaluation of what you made or how you presented it. Maybe setting the lasagna in the woman's bathroom was a yucky idea. Perhaps the odor of the rotten spinach you used emanated from the oozing cheese. Thus, we can always look for ways to improve, but don't others' responses or lack of be the benchmark of your own goodness.
This is a phrase that has become a bit cliché, because it's true. When you're thinking negative thoughts about yourself, turn them into statements of gratitude.
I can't run like I used to. I have legs that work.
My teeth are crooked. I have teeth to chew my food.
I have acne and wrinkles. I have skin!
Gratitude is an attitude that often hides deep inside me. I tend to see the negative ALL THE TIME. To counter this, I pray a thanksgiving prayer. It's a constant reminder of all the good I have.
Spend Time with Family and Friends
Since Covid I think we've become isolationists. We have our phones, grocery delivery and home fitness centers. What more do we need?
Other flawed people like ourselves.
And when we want to complain about their shortcomings, help them, be less obsessive about their vices, practice gratitude and try to have fun.
These little steps will be difficult to try and maintain. They will, however, provide huge paybacks in self-esteem so you can feel good about yourself so you can be a force of good for the world around you.
As I'm writing this, our kitchen ceiling is leaking. It's disturbing but I still have my office, bedroom, bathroom, living and dining rooms, porch, and most importantly - my family! Yes, the kitchen needs help, but I'm not going to swill (I love that word) in negativity. It'll get fixed eventually. In the meantime, I'm busy writing and living my life. I think I'll go have a cup of no-sugar added hot cocoa.
Thank you for reading. God bless you.
Talking to Myself - writing
My podcast is up and running. This year the theme will be writing and this month I tackle the subject of genre and why it's important.
*Why do we have to help some people in secret? Because some people don't want help or are critical of our help or generosity. They don't need to know what we're up to - like Secret Santa, Secret Flower Delivery or whatever you can come up with!