The Freedom to be Beautiful

What kind of beauty are you interested in? Through movies and music videos and other kinds of  marketing for societal and cultural ideas, there’s a superficial, ego-centered view on beauty that involves comparing ourselves to advertised standards. But in that case superficial is really just another term for thin-skinned, so people who subscribe to that belief definitely worry and suffer a lot.

The other kind of beauty involves confidence and soul. It risks vulnerability to share connection. It risks judgment to realize potential. And nothing as wispy as the opinions of others has any hope of stopping it. Beth Ditto is a great example of how the size and scale of modern media is making more room for ideas that aren’t dictated by advertising objectives of the makeup or clothing industries.

You do not need to look like her, or her, or her. You don’t need to look like him or him or even him. That is mimicry. That isn’t even close to being. It’s literally the other side of the coin from being. You either perform being someone or you be yourself, but if you’re using comparison or fear to dictate your choices then you are not as courageous as Beth and you won’t find your own version of her beautiful voice.

The pressures on young men cause them to keep their real attractions secret. In the locker room immature males seeking approval will suggest that anyone who doesn’t like the hottest possible girl has their masculinity in question. This isn’t actually an anti-gay perspective even though they might even use that term. This isn’t being against gays, it’s about being cock of the roost. It’s about wanted to be the most masculine, not fear of being the least feminine. Half the time the guy is touting a girl whose type he’s not even sincerely interested in.

Of course, in the girl’s locker room the girls who do align with an immature boy’s attractions will then try to create even more separation from them and their competition by trying to draw attention to how others don’t align with what is actually a rather bizarre external reference. No healthy person wants the look or body of another person, they want to be themselves.

Young women are particularly bombarded with these ideas via the media and it starts so young it’s difficult for a woman to protect herself when even her own mother is probably also a victim of these false beliefs. We all have to have a real dedication to ourselves and to the individuality of others so that our culture begins to adopt a healthier set of standards that involves people feeling fulfilled instead of feeling coveted.

Make room for yourself. Make room in your opinions of others. Be the change you want to see by stopping your own judgments. Question others judgments. And pay more attention to who is really living big. Because those are the people who can teach you to do it too.

Have a fantastic week everyone. Start it off by giving yourself permission to be you. Accept yourself. That won’t mean everyone responds to you positively, but it will mean they’ll be prompted to deal with you more honestly. And if you get to be you, that’s all you really need.

peace. s

PS You might also want to check out Beth’s song Oo La La, which I also love.

The Friday Dose #122: Shaming Mothers

Winner: 2016’s Friday Dose of the Year

It’s not like women don’t have enough issues to deal with already and now, in a remarkably ironic twist, the biggest media outlet in the world has made it very clear through both words and actions that it feels women should feel good about having thin young bodies but they should feel ashamed and embarrassed about their body as a mother.

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Facebook's rejected postYesterday I wrote a piece about stretch marks and how women shouldn’t feel badly about having them just because some other younger person judged them as unattractive. I explained that the lack of acceptance was a form of innocent ignorance being displayed by otherwise good people who simply don’t yet have the capacity to be able to appreciate those signs of pregnancy as being attractive.

Whenever I get an indication that a blog is particularly meaningful or worthwhile to readers I will spend some money to boost it to ensure people who don’t subscribe to Relax and Succeed can still benefit from the content. When I tried to do that with this post I was quickly told (likely by a “female” robot), that facebook’s position is that “Ads like this are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves.”

We’ve all seen plenty of sexual content on facebook. I have no shortage of photos and videos in my newsfeed that depict scantily clad extremely slim young women doing everything from holidaying on Spring Break to playing beach volleyball at the Olympics. If one of the largest media outlets in the world is saying yes to young and sexy and scantily clad while simultaneously arguing that women should feel bad about themselves for having stretch marks what does that communicate to young women and future mothers?

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Facebook's rejectionThis a clear demonstration of how egotistical and judgmental the world has become. I won’t choose to let many things upset me but, on a day where the biggest thing on the internet was a one hour video of a naked Donald Trump statue, this just flew in the face of the freedoms my own father joined the war effort in WWII to protect. That being the case I appealed facebook’s rejection and then received the response depicted–written by purportedly a woman no less!

One of the main reasons women write to me is because of body image issues. Just the day before there was a comment on the Relax and Succeed facebook page that noted, “Needed this here in the fun and sun, where shorts, tanks, bikinis and long legged younger women surround me, LOL. Where a reminder is needed that stretch marks, cellulite, and grey hair and wrinkles are beautiful as well.” Indeed.

Everyone who liked or loved the post was female, but facebook doesn’t think anyone should see it because it’s “…extremely undesirable.” Facebook suggested I find a product to advertise instead but since I don’t sell products that would be impossible. I’m a writer who doesn’t even have any ads running on my page and if I ever did I would do all I could to ensure that they didn’t ever make anyone feel ashamed of themselves and the way nature made them.

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Response to FacebookThis is of course precisely what feminists are fighting against and now we know clearly in writing how facebook feels on a policy basis. Facebook has an idea of what you’re supposed to look like and anything outside of their definition is unattractive and therefore should not be seen. They’ll take money for an ad for unhealthy food but they won’t permit people to pay to promote a non-commercial post featuring a genuine women’s issue. This is remarkable considering Mark Zuckerberg has a daughter and his wife is obviously a mother.

I tried to use the word “media” to trigger the algorithm to go get me a real person but, having likely failed in that, all I did was get pretty angry at a robot, which is silly. She definitely won’t have an issue with stretch marks. But this is where the energy behind outrage can be helpful if it’s focused in a healthy way.

I do feel strongly that if we want a more just society that permits everyone to feel good about themselves then we must each take definitive action to change the sexualized judgments that advertising has historically used to guilt women into buying beauty products. If I was on facebook advertising a cream to hide stretch marks I would have no problem, but if I want to promote women feeling good about their natural bodies that is not allowed.

Facebook will obviously try to hide it from you but if at all possible I would obviously like to see this blog post shared more than any other I have ever written. If you’re mature enough to feel like I do–that mother’s have every reason to feel proud of their post-pregnancy bodies– then please help spread this message on all forms of social media so that appropriate social pressure can be placed on facebook to revisit their sexist standards.

This is clearly not in the interests of women or men and I would appreciate anything you could do to help ensure that women are also exposed to positive natural body images and words. To all you mother’s with stretch marks–I know you are beautiful and I want you to be confident in that too. On behalf of a male-dominated world I apologise on its behalf for having ever made you feel badly about maturing into the most important job on Earth: motherhood.

 

Respectfully, 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.

Stretching Our Spirit

Relax and Succeed - Nature is busy creating absolutely unique individualsThere are a lot of ways to be beautiful. Like many things in life though it can take time to come to appreciate certain kinds of beauty. Much like young people start off entirely selfish and grow towards ever-increasing empathy (if they’re healthy), when we’re young we also start of with relatively shallow ideas about beauty and (if we’re healthy), we expand those ideas to include more and more things and therefore people.

It’s natural for a child, tween, teen and young adult to recognise physical health as is manifested by our genes and our habits. If someone 10,000 years ago was too lazy to hunt that would be reflected by being underweight, whereas being able to eat a lot would be a sign of success in a  pre-money pre-symbolism world. And if you’re raising kids, obtaining food is the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid. You do that before anything so it makes biological sense that we would want to be with someone who can look after themselves

To actually have a child a woman would be in competition for a mate with other women and therefore the qualities that denote physical success would be more attractive to the men who also want to see their lineage move forward in that wonderful way nature has.

977 Relax and Succeed - You are beautifulAs we actually attempt relationships we find out they’re about more than just the sexual attraction and the food. That can get a person pregnant but if sharing the food only lasts a short time then the children are in jeopardy, so having a male who feels dedicated enough to stay long enough to protect those offspring also makes sense. So then commitment to the relationship becomes important.

Again we grow and we realise that commitment only comes from certain temperaments reliably, so now we’re looking for the right personality. How nurturing is someone? How courageous? How enjoyable?

Eventually the child-rearing years are over and now the commitment does not have the bind of the children which is why a lot of divorces happen within a few years after the kids are independent. But if things prior to that have been so enjoyable and secure it can be in both parties interests to stay linked. This is based on appreciation.

977 Relax and Succeed - The more we can appreciateIt is possible to move quickly through this evolution if we can come to grasp these individual ideas as a larger concept: we get that people stay because we treat them well and we treat them well because we appreciate what they bring into our lives. That’s why when we’re young we can wonder how a woman can be attractive with stretch marks and yet when we’re older we see those as signs of life’s greatest achievement.

The problem comes in when we compare because everyone is viewing things from a different perspective. Like the old Indian stories about the four blind men studying an elephant, one can think its tail is like a rope, another can find the legs like a tree, another finds the tusk like a spear and the last finds the trunk like a snake. A younger person does not yet have the capacity to appreciate the larger meaning of a stretch mark and so they can see it as a scar rather than a symbol. So the problem isn’t the stretch mark on the older woman, it’s an illusion created by the younger person’s limited ability to appreciate due to having less experience in life.

It’s much the same with anything. Men can historically look at moneymaking  (aka food-gathering) as the main skill, but as we come home from some hunts wounded we come to realise that care and support after the hunt can be what enables us to hunt better tomorrow. In this way people grow toward each other in mutual interdependence, which is a form of appreciation–the highest form of awareness. Meanwhile in a thought-based comparative world where two people are less skilled at appreciation they will end up co-dependent, thereby making the relationship unhealthy for both the parents and any children.

977 Relax and Succeed - You will b e too much for some peopleDo not apply the perspectives of others to views of yourself. You have no idea by looking at someone where they are on that shallowness-appreciation spectrum. You were on it too so don’t lament that someone else is, but don’t apply it to yourself any more than you should use your thoughts to compare yourself today to your younger self from an earlier time. The comparison itself is what generates the pain. It is the result of a thought-calculation. There is no comparing in appreciation. There is no room in our consciousness for anyone or anything other than what we’re appreciating.

Love yourself wherever you are on this spectrum. There is no need to hurry or to cling to any point. We each move at our own pace which is fine, because if we don’t use our thoughts to generate the judgments and comparisons then we’re not anywhere on any spectrum–we simply are. And that is the very best place to be.

Go be. Go be whoever you are now. Trust me. That person is beautiful and perfect.

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.

The Friday Dose #96

851 Relax and Succeed - High School Compliments
Video below.

How are your morning gratitude sessions going? Even if you’ve missed some, you can still use the first part of the year to build momentum. But you need to start noticing the relationship between you feeling grateful and you starting your day off that way. Same with judgment. If you stop doing it life instantly feels better. Just pay attention to that relationship and you’ll easily be motivated to continue.

Today we’re going to demonstrate how crazy something like judgment can get. Not only will you judge others unfairly and not only will you replay other people’s judgments of you, but even if you do get a positive judgment–you’ll be so beaten down by your own narratives that you won’t even feel comfortable accepting it. You know you do that. You reject compliments. You should really ask yourself why.

Fill your mind with compliments instead of judgments and you will save your own life. Have a great 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 Subtlety of Racism

A while back I was contacted by a very conscious individual. She was a blog reader of mine and she had managed to make many changes in her life that were very beneficial. One of the things she had gotten quite good at was feeling her day. Every student has their own way inside what I’m teaching them and that was hers. She was good at ignoring her word-based illusory thoughts in favour of focusing on her feelings.

788 Relax and Succeed - Love and compassion are necessitiesThat ability to sense herself and her emotional reaction to her day lead her to an awareness. What initiated her call was that she was developing a consistently negative reaction to any Muslim woman wearing a niqab (the face and head scarf), or for that matter even a hijab (the head and neck scarf).

She knew the feelings were coming from her thoughts but she felt so strongly about the subject that she was unable to alter the course of her anger. It’s no secret to anyone that world tensions are a bit high and that in the most general terms Islam is seen as some sort of general threat. This plays out in big and obvious ways as in the case of governments or even armies. In smaller ways it plays out in everyday life, as with this woman.

I started off by noting the very un-racist-like reaction she had to her concern that she might be racist. She’s a very conscious mother and she didn’t want to teach her children to judge others based on appearances and she knew they learn from your actions not your words. Wise mom.

788 Relax and Succeed - Darkness cannot drive out darknessI simply explained that she had a firm narrative about the scarves and that we needed to replace it with a natural, real empathetic connection. The woman was clearly a feminist and so I offered examples of two feminists I know who have chosen to cover their faces with a niqab.

The first is a very classically beautiful, slim, high-cheekboned elegant woman who was raised by very spiritual parents. Back at home her parents would have been considered hippies. And her husband will laugh if you suggest he has any sort of control over his wife. He’s not that keen on her wearing a niqab himself but he respects his wife and he knows she takes her spirituality very seriously–and one aspect of it is humility. Inner beauty is what is valued and the ego is to be suppressed. On top of that, as a beautiful woman she wants to be sure she is succeeding by her abilities and not her appearance. That all sounds pretty healthy, doesn’t it?

Like the liberated woman sitting in front of me, the friend who wears the niqab does not believe that a woman should be judged based on her appearance and yet study after study proves that from dating to job prospects, that still happens. She also wants to respect herself as a creation of God. If you’ve read my previous post Loving Balpreet you’ll know that this is similar to the Sikh practice of allowing the body to exist as a creation of God’s, without any intervention–including haircutting or shaving. It’s a sign of respect for inner beauty and natural holiness.

I also added that my friend never needs to purchase or apply makeup when she goes out. That raised some eyebrows in envy.

788 Relax and Succeed - The cultural icebergThen I also told her about another friend who left Canada to move to the arabian peninsula. I told my student about how I asked that friend why she chose to wear her niqab. She very confidently noted that as a 240lb woman in Canada she found men never paid any attention to her, but where she lived she was often asked on dates and treated very respectfully. She felt she was being valued for her personality and not her appearance.

In both cases the women subscribed to the idea of the niqab as an expression of their values, not of oppression. It wasn’t that their husband wanted them covered, it was that they valued human spirit and expression more than appearances–these are the exact same values my student extolled to her children and the same ones most of us say are noble.

In the end the niqab is much thinner than a winter scarf. It’s certainly not a barrier to these women being able to see each other for what many of them really are: true feminists. Once my student could see that connection between her and these seemingly different women, her veil of thought made no more sense and she dropped it in favour of her new awareness.

788 Relax and Succeed - Before you assumeIt’s important to note–had we not intervened in that thinking when we did she could easily have expanded the narrative of her incorrect assumption into a full blown story that would result in bigotry and hatred. And she would then have taught that to her kids. It’s that easy. We all need to be vigilant.

We all love everyone. If you think you can’t love and respect someone and you really want to grow spiritually then I would suggest you look more closely at their life. Because if you do so honestly and openly you are certain to find someone just like you. Someone who’s had to overcome great hardship and who has felt great love. Our differences exist only in our thoughts.

The woman left feeling comfortable that she would no longer create the negative reaction that had been attached to her thoughts. With better understanding came empathy and from that came connection and a lack of desire to judge. It’s really that easy. You’ll see that if you try it. 😉

peace. s

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

Scott’s Favourite Friday Dose of 2014 #1

There have been amazing advancements in fields where experts on the beauty industry are merging with experts in the brain chemistry area and some of the experiments results will shock you. If this video doesn’t blow you away you don’t get it. You’re thinking about it too superficially, because these women changed their entire lives in an incredibly short period of time.

CLICK BELOW TO READ:

Winner: Scott’s Favourite Friday Dose of 2014 #1

peace. s

The Friday Dose #63

660 FD Relax and Succeed - You are beautiful

Let’s start with a young woman who starts to question the concept of beauty she has been sold after she starts asking individual men what they think is beautiful. She’s surprised by the responses:

100 Men’s View of Physical Beauty

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Next we’ll tackle the question, is ADHD a disease or is it merely the unintended consequence of modern habits?

ADHD and the relentless internet—is there a connection?

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Which door would you walk through? This was a brilliant idea for an experiment:

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And finally, do you have a Fear of Missing Out? Then you won’t want to miss this:

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I trust you found something useful, expansive or enjoyable in this “collection of stuff that Scott found interesting.” Have yourself a spectacular weekend!

peace. s

The Friday Dose is a fascinating, informative, funny collection of mind-changing links, pictures, videos or audio clips. If you are currently mentally or emotionally suffering then use these to distract yourself from the painful courses of thought that are generating that suffering. Or, you could just enjoy being fascinated. 🙂