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We live in a “quick-fix” culture that tells us we aren’t enough and I’m sick of it!
We’ve heard and read it all by now.
Try the new South Beach diet for three weeks and lose 30 pounds—you’ll look irresistible in these sexy new shorts from Gucci this summer.
Drink this protein shake (filled with excess sugar, coloring agents, and a series of other unhealthy additives, no less), and you’ll never lack muscle tone or stamina again.
And countless other false guarantees under a variety of contexts.
I don’t have to tell you how soul-deadening, tiring, and downright demoralizing it feels to live in a world that values advertising over truth, appearance over health and authenticity, and, essentially, profit over people. We’re all sick of it (of course, that includes me)!
From the time we’re old enough to count, we’re like trained seals. We’re programmed into a society that continuously gaslights us at nearly every turn, at virtually any and every waking hour during the day, into believing that who we are isn’t acceptable. (Unless we succeed by some normative standard definition.)
What we have is never enough.
But, wait a moment, there is a fix for all of that too, isn’t there?
It, quite truthfully, is an attack on our mental, spiritual, and physical health—our critical-thinking skills, our better consciousness—as well as on our willingness and capacity to live our lives the way we would like or were otherwise meant to live. Enough said.
Last August, I took a day trip to a town close to the one I currently live in. During that afternoon, I walked into a bath and body shop, hoping to buy a new charcoal soap when, on the flick of a dime, I was approached by a representative.
“Excuse me, miss, what kind of facial products do you use?”
I was caught slightly off-guard. I was minding my own business, and the question was thrown at me pointedly and seemingly out of nowhere. It demanded of me an immediate answer.
“Um, I use an organic Vitamin C facial cleanser morning and night as well as an all-natural rosehip cream,” I responded sheepishly, half-anticipating a blunt and rapidly delivered criticism to follow.
“Have you ever tried this product right here?”
She practically shook the bottle in front of my nose.
“You leave a quarter-sized amount on your skin for about two minutes, rub it in gently in a circular motion and peel away all of those dead layers so that your other products can work more effectively.”
She continued, her words quick and destructive, like wildfire.
“I can see you have dead skin. How old are you? You may also benefit from our unique and special brand of collagen cream. I can see tiny lines just beginning to form around your temples. Oh, but you have really good skin, otherwise! It would be such a shame not to feed it the best products on the market!”
I felt hurt and flabbergasted. Stunned. Never in my life had any salesperson cut me down with such flippancy and in what felt like such a minuscule amount of time.
It felt too much for me to process, like an elf taking a giant leap from the lowest step and landing their foot on the ground from thin air.
“Well, I do like the products I already use,” I said. On the inside, I could feel myself shrink as the words flew straight from my mouth. She didn’t stop there. Instead, she challenged me.
“Let me demonstrate to you how dead skin interferes with your ability to adequately absorb your other products…hold out your forearm.”
I did. I watched as the formula dried on my skin for two minutes and exfoliated as I rubbed it in a circular motion, as instructed, peeling away at those pesky dead layers. She then rubbed collagen lotion into me.
While all of this was happening, a whirlwind of thoughts rattled me from the foundation of my former confidence:
>> What if I need this?
>> What if I truly am beginning to form fine lines?
>> Maybe my products will work better if I use this! After all, look at how well the cream is absorbing into my skin now versus before I used it!
>> Furthermore, what, exactly, is the point in buying as many skincare products as I do if they don’t even absorb properly? It’s like throwing money away!
So, $150 later, I walked out of the store with a credit card bill bigger than my self-esteem. I started to feel that familiar foe, self-consciousness, creep up on me again. We became reacquainted. I wondered to myself: am I aging prematurely? Am I really as pretty as I feel I am, or am I simply delusional?
I started to feel like the adolescent girl in middle school—small and lacking. I hadn’t felt that way in several years, but right then and there, in that precise moment, I was reminded of how it felt to be 12-year-old Sarah in seventh grade, getting picked on by the “mean girls,” who painted their faces to cover the plastic behind all of those extra layers of foundation.
Suddenly, I could no longer suppress it. Finally, I was forced to feel my core wounds as they emerged and resurfaced from the roots planted carefully beneath my conscious mind after a dark and prolonged winter.
Advertising, as we all know, can be especially destructive to women. Companies and salespeople know all the pick-up lines to use. They know our weaknesses and how to best exploit them. None of us are entirely immune to them, nor to the toxic seduction of the ruthless nature of the ads themselves.
It is only one manifestation of this “quick-fix” cultural mentality, which once again so cleverly and insidiously gaslights us into believing that we are somehow lacking or not good enough, at our core. However, advertising certainly isn’t everything.
Tired? Here are five cups of coffee and a Red Bull.
Acid Reflux? Here, try some Gaviscon! (But keep eating hamburgers with french fries and Heinz ketchup at McDonald’s.)
Depressed? Ah, just snap out of it, will you?
Anxious? Whoa, bro, just calm down and take a chill pill!
Can’t sleep? Here, go get hooked on some Nembutal!
Disappointed? Had a lousy day? Well, you know what they say, “When life throws you lemons, drink some (hard) lemonade!”
The list goes on and on and on and on…
We kneel at the altar of convenience, delusional and haphazard in the assumption that nothing worth having should ever take time. After all, we smugly reason, we work hard enough as it is; life should never involve an extended struggle.
In our arrogance, we defy nature. We shun the earth and turn a blind eye to the natural laws of the universe.
How much more misled could we possibly become?
In modern-day North America especially, we have an almost obsessive compulsion to chase happiness at any and all costs.
People who are authentic and speak out about their challenges are seen as “Debbie downers” who simply need to “cheer up”—usually for the sake of our own comfort level.
We can’t grieve too long, or we’re labelled as having a bad case of “complicated grief.” (Well, guess what? Grief is, by its very nature, extremely complicated in and of itself, so the joke is on you.)
In our effort to race toward a “solution”—or two, or three, or four—we forfeit our learning process and, by default, our spiritual evolution.
Overall, our capacity and willingness to simply sit and be present with ourselves is, at best, thought of as unnecessary and, at worst, shrugged off in an air of careless disdain.
We have conveniently forgotten that all good things worth fighting for take time to practice and build and that we are not setting healthy or realistic expectations for ourselves (or others, for that matter) when we dishonor life’s twists, turns, and diversions.
Everything in life has the potential to teach us important lessons, including things we would otherwise deem “painful,” “ugly,” “unwanted,” or “inconvenient.” If only we remain open and willing to take the time to process, reflect, and ultimately learn from them.