Because I am not traveling right now and have some free time on my hands, I have been able to reflect more on what I am doing with my life (IMAGINE THAT!). I don’t only mean in a lofty why am I here way, but mostly, I mean evaluating the things that I do in daily life, and whether they are actually bringing me the fulfillment that I need. Here’s the simple answer: No, the things that I’m doing are not fulfilling me. And here’s a preface to the long-winded answer: Have you ever thought that Modern Day Slavery is very much alive and consuming our contemporary culture, and most importantly, our everyday lives?
Now, I know that it is provocative (and some may say far-fetched) to say that any of us living in the free land of America, or any democratic country (so we would hope), would be experiencing slavery. But, aside from the human trafficking that does happen on American soil, the slavery that I am talking about is psychological. Let me elaborate.
Someone, at some point, in recent history discovered that they could sell a product by making people think that they need it. How do you make people think that they need something? By pointing out the parts of them that are currently lacking without that product. Let me make this idea more concrete. Say someone decided that s/he wanted to sell milk as a body moisturizer, so s/he went out and started telling people that their skin looked dry (aka lacking, less than perfect). Hence begins the branding of inadequacies, upon which sellers have been capitalizing for decades on the livelihoods of unsuspecting consumers everywhere.
This is nothing new. But here is what this branding is doing to us: we go through daily life measuring ourselves against arbitrary ideals (we know that they are arbitrary because they are not the same in every culture, so they are not part of human nature!). Think about the parts of you that you are self-conscious about, and tell me why, and from where you got the idea that there was something wrong with them.
I must admit, I am also a victim of this culture. I spend a significant amount of time wondering if I am enough. But the real question is, what is enough? Better yet, who gets to decide what enough is? To return to what I was saying in the intro, this constant self-assessment and self-rejection is why I don’t feel fulfilled – because I have been convinced that I am not enough and that different parts of me need fixing.
I hereby propose a solution. Let’s stop the cycle. Next time a commercial on TV makes you feel like you’re not tall enough, hairy enough, hairless enough, skinny enough, or a conversation with someone makes you feel that you are not smart enough, wealthy enough, etc, Stop that thinking right there. Look in the mirror and have an honest conversation with yourself, where you assess your body and your personality not against some idealized construct that has no real meaning, but by the functionality that these parts of you serve. Start small, from your toes to the hair on your head. All of it is probably functioning and serving the purposes for which your body is intended – to take you from place to place, to safeguard your essence inside, etc. Furthermore, your personality, your essence is FINE THE WAY IT IS. If your friends disagree, you probably should think about getting some new friends…
Next, we will need a new definition of beauty. For some time now, I have personally been finding “perfect beauty” REALLY BORING. You know what’s really beautiful? Quirks. Passions that only you have. The kindness with which you approach strangers. Your ability to forgive. Now, that’s beautiful.
One time, I was listening to that Lil’ Wayne song “How to Love,” and was struck in the end when he says, “I just want you to know, You’re far from the usual.” It sounds so nice to be that special, yet none of us want to be that different from the norm, do we? It’s the ultimate paradox of our generation. So here’s to our commitment to breaking free from modern-day slavery, to being far from the usual, and yet feeling like there is no other way for us to be.