So many people struggle with accepting themselves for who they are. It’s a real challenge for them to credit as valuable their personality, goals, preferences, etc. These struggles show up all the time, and I see clients of ours caught between a rock and a hard place, between living what they want and trying to measure up to expectations from the people who influence them.
I have to empathize. In actuality, I think that this is a challenge for everyone, to a greater or lesser degree. We all fail to measure up to someone, but for most of us, it’s rather easy to avoid associating with someone that won’t just take us for who we are. When those people are family (or associated with family), co-workers, or part of a social network that we can’t just leave, it’s more problematic.
I read a commentary that cited the media culture as a deterrent to comfort with oneself. This writer argued that the lifestyles and privileges of others are much more in our face than they once were before television and things like reality shows. We are so much more aware of the opulence with which other people live, for example, and thus more likely to measure ourselves against that.
His comments related to the relative wealth of the people on such television productions, but it’s true in other ways also. For instance, in the last few years, more is appearing in the press about eating disorders and body acceptance issues with men that expect they should measure up to the six-pack abs and pronounced muscularity of male models. And then there was one article in which a model was truthful about how much time he has to devote to maintain that body. It really is a full-time job. Yes, women have been exposed to these standards for longer, and it is no less unfair to them. But, as society becomes more comfortable with the open display of nearly naked men, more men can’t stand to look at who they naturally are.
I’ve found that the messages in media presentations can seep into your brain in ways that you don’t expect. For instance, there was a TV show that interested me a few years ago, so I started to watch it on my streaming network. It was well made, well acted, and fairly compelling, but in time, I noticed that I became more cynical and negative after watching the show. It was because it was all about dominance, with all the characters trying to gain power over others, whether with physical violence, dishonesty, backstabbing, or by twisting the law. It’s grimness and cynicism made me feel skeptical and suspicious more than I was after I stopped watching. I stopped accessing some websites that I had gone to because they also had a similar effect.
There is no way the media culture is going away soon, and as for me, I won’t waste time waiting for it to change. Someone told me about a game they were encouraged to play with the media that has helped me. It’s call “Spot the Lie” and it applies to almost all media (although I find it most useful with commercials). It’s pretty simple. When you watch TV or a movie or view something online, make a conscious effort to spot the message they are trying to push and the tools they use for doing it. Although you probably know they do this, I think you’ll be even more aware of how the media encourages (I use that word deliberately) you to feel unattractive, unacceptable, or unfulfilled. Just this act itself makes the propaganda less potent.
So, for instance, when the beach babe or the hunk in a speedo comes on, you can ask yourself how long you’d have to work out to get that body, and how much time and other things you’d have to give up to exercise. Or try to imagine either of them clicking to you, just because you use a new toothpaste or shampoo. The more you do it, the better you will get at “decoding” the messages out there, which means you will be less likely to buy into their lies.
Knowledge is power.