The triggering incident
I forgot to pack my Kindle when I travelled for work this week. So I had to make a plan for reading material on the flight. Having read the inflight magazine on an earlier flight, yesterday afternoon I bought our local “woman&home” magazine to read on the flight home.
Good quality magazines are pricy.
Magazines are treats.
I buy one occasionally.
On the flight, I read the cover story about the actress Amy Adams, then turned to the Life Tools section. The page opposite the article caught my eye.
A perfume advert
Bold red as the dominant colour
It was designed to catch my attention
I glared at the ad. Particularly at the model. At length.
I have no doubt that in real life, she is a beautiful woman. I don’t mean any disrespect for what I am about to say.
She did not look real as she stared out at me from the page.
The smoothest skin, not a wrinkle in sight.
A flawless mouth accentuated in perfectly applied red lipstick.
Symmetrically balanced eyebrows, no dark circles under her eyes.
Chiseled cheek bones and dark smoldering eyes.
Airbrushing at its very best.
My gut wrenched.
I was unsettled. Unnerved.
I was fixated.
Why this reaction to this photograph? It was out of character.
Caught up in the business of getting off the plane and driving the 2 hours back home with colleagues, the incident was wiped from my mind.
Or so I thought.
Faster forward to earlier this morning. I sat down with the magazine to make some notes from the articles.
I came back to the advert.
I seized my pen.
Forcefully scribbled “not real” across her forehead.
A touch of anger.
An unexpected response.
My feelings from yesterday re-surfacing.
Intense and insistent.
After a few chores, I caught up with daily essays from “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I’d missed 3 of them with being away from home this week.
Flipped the page to the 3rd October essay entitled “Little Miss Perfect”. Most of the essay was about our quest for perfectionism. A sub message, however, was how magazines, movies and social media reinforce our belief that perfection in how we look is possible.
There on the pages staring at me as if I’d written it myself:
“the next time you see a gorgeous woman on the cover of a magazine… begin to chant ‘you’re not real, you’re not real…’”
I’ve just done that!
“You’re not real”
Not chanting, but in writing…
Our media feeds our addiction of low self-worth and of not being enough. Maybe that’s one reason I don’t buy these types of magazines – I’m irritated by the constant yearning to look perfect and to acquire all the things to help you look perfect: handbags, shoes, accessories. A perfect life. Which in fact is simply a life of yearning for a perfection that never comes.
What’s going on here?
On reflection, I realised that I needed to be conscious of what was going on here.
I could not ignore these messages.
The magazine image had called to me on a deep enough level to engage my emotions.
Writing “not real” was the physical manifestation of my emotional reaction.
The validating message in the “Little Miss Perfect” essay.
They needed my conscious attention.
Because I’m being brave. Being brave enough to stop feeding this addiction in my own life.
To stop getting sucked in.
I don’t have to do that anymore!
This series of events, small as they are, proves that to me.
I could not have made them up in a better way.
My year of mindfulness is paying dividends.
I would not have had this insight before.