Victims of Fashion

Not so long ago at all, a bride in Northern Europe would have been chosen because she had a strong upper body for churning butter. Today women are far compelled to feel equally concerned with their bodies but they also must add what they dress them in. There are few things that torture a teenage girl more than her wardrobe or lack thereof.

In trying to understand the illusion we all live under it is helpful to look at the idea of fashion itself. What is it to be fashionable? In the photo above a model shows work designed by students at Central Saint Martins Art and Design College, which is connected to the University of the Arts in London. These are some of the top design students anywhere.

These students are learning to be at the forefront of fashion. People would pay a lot to see these pieces shown. And yet most of the people reading this will look at the photo and deem tucking one’s suit coat into one’s athletic shorts is simply silly. It feels like that thing we all do when we’re young artists and we try to make ourselves distinct by trying to out-weird our classmates. And we’re right about that. But we’re also wrong.

The point is, fashion is just what’s in a magazine right now. I’ll change with the certainty that capitalism gives it. They can’t sell you a new shirt if you’re still satisfied with your old one. And so when we’re young and peacocking, the fashion seems worth it. Later when we’re juggling kids it falls to the wayside as other priorities dominate.

Some people stay in fashion and that’s wonderful. It’s an artful expression and like any field, only the very best and most dedicated and those most willing to make other life sacrifices make it to the top. But most people simply stop thinking , believing or caring that it’s more important than your happiness. Because there are a lot of people unhappy over their clothing and that just shows how paper thin our understanding of true happiness is. A wrinkled blouse can destroy it.

The fact is, every person you walk by will think different things about your hair, your face, your body, your clothes and any other identifying mark on you. No two people will react identically. We’re all snowflakes looking at snowflakes. It’s only words and language that forces us to group people together. If we looked more closely, we’d split most of those people apart for being so different. It all depends on what level you focus at.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good. It’s not unnatural. Even old-world people like the Wodaabe tribe have standards for beauty, although in their case they apply more to the men than women. They also don’t enact their most fashionable selves all the time and leave it instead for special occasions. The rest of the time you’re allowed to be human.

While enjoying fashion is fine, we also must remember that a six year old would be willing to give a speech with a giant soup stain on their shirt and there would be zero self-consciousness about it because they’d be focused on the microphone and their amplified voice and the podium and everyone watching them. They wouldn’t even consider the shirt. It wouldn’t enter their consciousness.

We should all try to be healthy like that. We should all hear any clothing judgments as being from one snowflake to another. It’s like one grain of wheat telling another grain of wheat how a grain of wheat should look. It’s silly we ever fall for it but that is a part of discovering ourselves. We start life trying to be like everyone else, and with any luck and some awareness, we leave it only wanting to be ourselves.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #97

855 FD Relax and Succeed - What do stranger think of you
Video Below

As I’ve said before, people have a view of themselves made of of their thinking. They think people look at them and see their thoughts, but other people don’t see you either. They too will make various judgments which act as a thought-lens and focuses our attention on this or that. The result is that we see a completely different person than you do.

So what do people see when they look at you? In my experience it’s something a lot nicer than most people would ever guess. Here’s what some people saw:

Be kind to yourself. Not because it’s easy–because it works. Treat yourself well this weekend. Continue to be kind to yourself throughout the month and year and you will see results–the very best kind of results. Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

The Friday Dose #31

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Enjoy.

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461 Relax and Succeed - Believe in yourself

Let’s start off with the hilarious story of a language school blogger who wasn’t clowning around when he wrote an article for immigrants on homophones. Of course homophones are one of the most challenging things about learning the English language. When people are listening to us talk, they hear the word see/sea/C they aren’t sure if you mean the ocean or a vision of something, or a letter in the English language. Native English speakers don’t notice it, but we create our sentences from many more confusing choices than most languages do. Not only can we use quick, speedy, rapid or fast for pretty much the same thing, but we also have sales and sails, son and sun, and the dreaded there, their and they’re. So homophones are important, but it turns out the top guy at this language school doesn’t know what a homophone is and so he fired the blogger for using the blog to promote a gay agenda. Yeah. The head of a language school made that mistake. But this blogger used to be a clown for 25 years. He’s a happy, well-adjusted guy. So his reaction to being fired is just so incredibly gracious. I hope someone who knows how to spell gives Tim Torkildson a job:

Writer for Hire

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I’m a big fan of This American Life. I’m always impressed at how deep and profound they are able to make even the most casual-sounding subjects. This one is funny and fascinating and it speaks very strongly to the concepts of ego, identity and appearance. You can download it as a podcast or listen to it right on line. You’re very likely to enjoy it.

Is That What I Look Like?

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And this, very simply, is a guy giving his monkey a bath. And this monkey has such a cute expression he’s an easy source of happiness.

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Raise your awareness. Actively scan the world for the moment to moment experiences that will make your life rewarding.

peace. s

Your Secret Communication

Winner: 2013’s Blog of the Year #8

When I’m watching auditions and screen tests for a project I’m casting I’ll always watch the actor when their role isn’t talking because that’s when you can see if they’re truly in character. A bad actor will tend to either just play the emotions, or they’ll create a collection of affectations that they imagine is interesting and in alignment with the character. The really good actors don’t have a line between the character and themselves. They are Being the other person by thinking their thoughts. But how do I know which is which?

44 Relax and Succeed - If you have good thoughts they will shineWhat you perceive as “your body” is actually a cooperation of individual cells working together to make you operational. Your brain does the processing, but your whole body is smart. And your body talks via chemistry. So when you think a frightened thought, your hypothalamus will stop pumping out the chemical for your previous experience, and it will shift to pumping out the chemicals for fear—chemicals like adrenaline.

Your body will react instantly to this chemical signal. Each cell has essentially been given its orders relative to the group. Muscles in the legs will tense in preparation to fight or run, your heart rate will increase to oxygenate those muscles, and… the muscles in the face will adjust by opening your eyes wider to allow your dilated pupils to see everything going on. The chemicals will flare your nostrils to allow more air to get into your lungs so your heart can get it to those muscles. And the result of all of that is what we call “a frightened look.”

So back to the actors; when the bad actor isn’t talking, he looks like he’s waiting to say his next line because that’s what his thoughts are doing. The good actor looks like he’s listening to the other actor as though he’s never heard the words before.

All of this means that when you believe you’re hiding how you feel, that’s because when you talk to someone you say to yourself, “yes, just smile and nod. That’s right, let this bitch think you really care one second about what she’s saying,” and you can almost genuinely smile. But when the person leaves, you’ll feel safe and you’ll go back to your internal narrative. And you’ve forgotten people can still see your face. And because you’re inside those thoughts at that time—you are being them, rather than observing them—you don’t notice that you’re communicating a lot to the people around you. It’s why deaf people generally spot liars much faster and more easily than people who can hear.

I used to walk my little Bichon Frise down Whyte Avenue and in the winter he would look particularly cute in the little boots that protect his feet from freezing. I would see punks or skinheads or hipsters, and when they first saw Mo their face would expose a dog-lover. They would explode into a smile—but then they would catch themselves. This is a street to be cool on. And I would watch them remember that, and that thought would shift their expression to 05 11 Mo dressed 2careless indifference. (I suspect it’s models and mannequins that suggest to young people that pouty dissatisfaction is equivalent to being sophisticated and discerning.) So on the street with the dog, that kid will have forgone his own natural interests in favour of looking cool to others. It’s like we’re all peacock’s and advertising has taught everyone that mating season is 24/7 for 365 days a year.

Your face is a real-time biography. Everyone knows much more about you than you realize because your face can’t keep the secrets if your brain thinks the thoughts. You can’t have one thought and another expression. That’s what an expression is; it’s the result of the chemistry from your thinking.

So if you really want to look beautiful, forget buying better foundation or eye-liner—try actually noticing what’s nice about the universe around you. Because that thought will immediately beam out of your face, and it’s the only look that everyone agrees is beautiful.

Now go be yourself. Go be beautiful.

Much love, s

Who Can See Your Beauty?

28 Relax and Succeed - The eyes are uselessDo you think you see with your eyes? Then how can one person love a painting and another person hate it? Or more importantly, why can someone look so gorgeous when you start dating them and so ugly when they fall out of favour? Did they actually grow uglier? Or do you only see what you look for? If your thoughts about someone are uglier will your vision be that way too? And if we can make the world uglier with our thoughts can we also make it more beautiful?

In the docu-drama What The Bleep Do We Know?! many people assume the film is being figurative when it states that early Native Shaman had to teach tribesmen to be able to see Christopher Columbus’s ships. People assume if they can see something then everyone must be able to. After all it’s not small—it’s a ship. And while I would agree that most people have the potential to see it, you still can’t see anything that your brain can’t file. Your brain needs a holding place for the concepts of things. That’s what things are.

A good example of this is me and my bird-watching biologist neighbour. “Hey, there’s a yellow-breasted warbler,” he’ll say as we walk through the ravine near our homes. I look and look but I can’t see it.

“It’s right there,” he’ll say, pointing at a very specific nearby tree. “See where the main trunk V’s? And just above that is a little knot in the wood?”
The knot shaped like a figure eight?”
Exactly. See the two horizontal branches right above that?”
The two almost exactly parallel to each other?”
That’s the ones. He’s on the lower one, just to the left of the knot in the wood.”

28 Relax and Succeed - Beauty doesn't last foreverNow this is a very easy place to identify on the tree. And I was looking at the right spot. But even though the light is entering my eye just like it is with my neighbour’s, my brain had no idea what a yellow-breasted warbler looked like so I couldn’t pull his colours and shape from the background. Until he moved. Trees don’t suddenly dart around, so as soon as the bird did that my brain was able to brilliantly subtract everything that didn’t move, and voila I was left with a yellow-breasted warbler!

The problem is, now that I have the name of it I’ll likely never see it again. Because that’s how we look at the world—blindly. It’s why the world is so fascinating to little kids. Because they don’t have many words to divide the world up with, they can actually see things. It’s exactly why they can find the arrow in the FedEx logo and adults usually can’t (unless they’ve seen the test before). Because adults know the alphabet, they get blinded by that knowledge and they only look for what they they’re supposed to see. Kids are less judgmental so they can find the arrow almost immediately.

fedex-logo-470What you see through your thinking is much more than just bird-watching. It’s how your relationships work too. Because I have the life experience necessary to know that some people make it easy to think nice thoughts about them, I am now far less interested in the physical beauty of a woman and far more interested in her internal beauty. I absolutely must take responsibility for my own thinking, and yet the wisdom of patience knows that people will encourage or discourage nice thoughts about themselves.

If I’m with a younger buddy and we see two women and he finds one physically attractive, he stops right there. He doesn’t even know who she is. But she is instantly “attractive” simply because she matches things he got excited about while he happened to be going through puberty. I’m affected by that too. But experience has taught me to also look at how she is in the world.

Did she hold a door open for that lady with the crutches? Did she offer to carry a friend’s drink into the movie because the friend’s hands were full? Was she polite to the server? Is she quick to smile? etc. etc. etc. I do this because I know that this beautiful girl will quickly be exposed as an ugly woman if her thinking is ugly too.

So while my friend ignores the plump woman because other people don’t put photos of her in magazines, I notice what the magazine would never have looked for—that she’s trying to help a crying little boy find his Mom. And there’s only certain people who will stop their own personal thinking and instead think of doing something like that. And that kind of person is really beautiful.

You don’t live with skin and bone structure. And even if you did those things will certainly change. You live with people’s attitudes. So to have a happy life it is important to appreciate that people aren’t made beautiful because advertising executives anointed their type as attractive.

They aren’t attractive because they look like a famous singer or actor. And they aren’t attractive because of how much money they make or what kind of car they drive. They are attractive because they conduct themselves in this world with compassion, generosity, patience and love. If you keep your eye out for those things you’ll find yourself on the smoothest path through life there is.

Here’s to a day of awakening. Enjoy it thoroughly.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.