Thursday, May 17, 2012

buying self-esteem.

The Magic Position has been very text-heavy for the last while. I apologise to those of you who enjoy pretty colours and pictures – I do too. I’ve been feeling very philosophical of late and that’s the source of all the paragraphs and ideas and thinking that just goes around in circles. But I think it’s important to be self-aware. Post-modernism and all that. Sometimes I think that I should blog a certain way in order to be successful – you know, promoting products, featuring pictures of nice clothes and nice foods, being concise, having a point … But then I think that the reason my blog is popular and enjoys the views it does is because I’m honest. There’s no promotion (except when it brings in the moolah and who can blame me in these trying times?), there’s very few posts of me showing off all the things I’ve bought, because, number one, that kind of thing doesn’t appeal to me, and number two, I so rarely buy things that aren’t food and alcohol.

The idea of a “Here’s What I Bought with all My Money” post just seems like showing off. It seems like people are hiding behind material objects and I find that sad and lonely and uninspiring. Don’t get me wrong, when I was fifteen and my family were a little bit better off financially, I used to splurge. I’m embarrassed about it now but I used to only drink bottled water and only shop in River Island. I had all these things and I wasn’t particularly happy. Now, with less money in my bank account, I borrow books from the library and I wear clothes that I’ve owned for about three years (if, please God, they still fit), and I look for bargains everywhere. I don’t mean to sound Holier Than Thou but I’m beginning to realise that most people in the world and most things in the world are just trying to sell you something. It’s so easy to get caught up in that culture of owning as much as possible but it so rarely, if ever, makes people happy.

Fashion magazines, for example: I love fashion magazines for the colours and the style and the beauty tips but I bet you know from experience that most of what makes up a standard issue of Vogue is advertisements. You realise that fashion magazines are really just vehicles for selling products. I only buy fashion magazines these days when I want to look at pretty pictures and even then, I’m sceptical: fashion magazines are also trying to sell you a prescribed idea of beauty. I don’t look like the girls in magazines so does that mean I’m not beautiful?

My soon-to-be-psychologist friend, Niall, explained to me about the Ideal Self, the Ought Self, and the Actual Self. Your Ideal Self is the person you want to be, what you want to look like, what you wish your personality was like, that kind of thing. Your Ought Self is what society wants you be – or maybe, what you perceive society wants you to be – what you ought to be. Your Actual Self, then, is the real you. No pretending, no nothing. Self-esteem arises from the gap between your Ideal Self and your Actual Self: the bigger the gap, the lower your self-esteem. For some reason, that explanation has made things appear more practical to me.

I will never look like the girls in the fashion magazines. At least, not without the help of a dedicated plastic surgeon, and that’s not the route I want to take. More than I want to look “perfect,” I want to comfortable with my own body. So I’ve decided that I’m going to consciously re-define my Ideal Self, in terms of what I already am and what I can actually achieve. Why can’t I decide that the way I am now is the Ideal Self? Then my Ideal Self and my Actual Self are exactly the same and my self-esteem sky rockets. It sounds wonderful. It sounds possible.

I don’t want to be the type of person who buys into what the media tells me is beautiful. It’s so arbitrary and so detrimental to the self-esteem of every woman on the planet. My Ideal Self is comfortable with her concept of beautiful, is a healthy weight, curvy, plain without make-up, dry-skin and all.  And that’s me. Perhaps minus the healthy bit – but I’ll work on that. Not for the sake of “beauty,” but for the sake of health. (Also, I’m considering growing my underarm hair, for experiment’s sake. Challenging gender roles and all that.)

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