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*Warning! Naughty language ahead.
I’d been caring about all the wrong things.
I’d been living in a world of appearances—sucked into the bullshit of a capitalist society, believing that there was always something inherently wrong with me that needed to be fixed.
I got sucked into the glitz and the glam of modern life. I fell prey to the pressures of social media. I got locked into the belief that I needed to look a certain way, have the right shine in my hair, perfectly plucked eyebrows, long lashes, clothes that were in style, maintain a certain weight, but not just the number on a scale—I had to be thin in all the right places and not too big or strong if I wanted to be loved, to belong, to succeed in this life.
And all of this could only be achieved by shopping from the right shops, getting the right makeup, waxes, buying gym memberships to get “in the best shape of my life” and somewhere along the line I’d dropped thousands of dollars on the beauty and wellness industry and I still felt the empty pit of not enoughness.
And then I found myself here. Detached from all the expectations of a Western society that I’d allowed to consume me, and I was still in search of something more.
On my third night in Dublin, where I’d recently moved, I met my Airbnb host who I got to talking with. It turned out he was on his own kind of journey—only, it wasn’t one of self-discovery, it was one of needing to save the world from the impending doom that is climate crisis. He spoke with such a fervour and determination that I felt my skin crawling with the kind of goosebumps you know means there’s no going back from here.
He explained how we are in a state of emergency and we need to do something about it. Not tomorrow, not in a month, not after binge-watching the new season of “Orange is the New Black,” no—right now, right here. I’ve known all of this. I read the news, I’m surrounded by people who care about the environment, but it has also been really easy for me to turn a relatively blind eye.
Moreover, it’s been easier to feel like the other, surface-level issues were more immediately important, at least in my own life.
I do my small bit—I eat (mostly) vegan, I boycott to-go cups, I try to go as plastic-free as I can, I don’t drive, but there is so much more that I could—and should—be doing. The Airbnb host told me that when he opened his eyes up to what was happening, he realized it was impossible for him to look away.
I’d been looking away. I’d been looking away and into all of the wrong places.
I am tired of wasting my time and energy on things that don’t matter, and I am ready to start caring about the things that do. I realized then that capitalism was serving as a distraction, and it was eating away at my self-esteem, stopping me from putting my skills and smarts toward the things that matter.
I realized then: it doesn’t matter how skinny or fit or beautiful you are if the world is going up in flames. It doesn’t matter if you have 50k followers on social media if the ice caps are melting. It doesn’t matter if you have the flattest stomach in the world because soon there will not be a world for us to live in.
I think of Greta Thunberg and how she is journeying across the Atlantic on a zero-carbon yacht for a United Nations summit. I picture her standing at the mast (though, I’m not sure that’s actually how she’ll be journeying), and I see her, proud, self-assured, filled with purpose and duty, and I want to embody all of that in my own way.
And you know what else? Giving a damn about climate change is sexy. Caring about something outside of yourself is attractive. Caring about the planet we live on and caring about how badly we are treating it should be in your Tinder bio. I’d date the heck out of you if I saw that.
I do want to be healthy and feel comfortable in the body I am in, but obsessing about it beyond that is a waste of energy that could be spent on much more important things.
I hope young girls learn this lesson early on so they can begin to put their intelligence to good use instead of spending years trying to achieve a perfection that doesn’t exist, like I did.
I know that body image and self-esteem issues are deeply rooted within us—and I’m not saying that it has totally gone away for me either—but at least now I know where my priorities should stand. When those thoughts come, I am reminded of the bigger picture in all of this. And the less time I spend in my head, looking at a mirror, or at images on social media, the less space I give for those thoughts to grow and manifest.
Join a cause. Join a movement. Do things outside of yourself that allow you to be of service to others and the world. And do things that bring you joy, too. Play a sport. Pick up a musical instrument. Write. Read. Make art.
And remember the beautiful reasons for why this world really does need saving.