God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference ~ Serenity Prayer
Inspired by a news story on the premium on physical beauty in Seoul
Today’s news story on a pretty 26 year old South Korean girl points to the mindset behind an anxious society. She looks like a teenager. But she says she looks haggard and wants fat injected into her face so she won’t look so old and worn. The doctor accommodates her in what is a fairly benign surgery for her carefully saved $1800.00. The result is the plump ageless face of a newborn. She is happy. The doctor reports that in an over saturated, competitive work force, good looks are a necessity to ensure employment.
Americans are anxious as well. When it comes to a competition of beauty, income disparity creates an uneven playing field in this country. On one end are folks who don’t know how to care for themselves and at the other end are folks who can’t afford the cosmetic enhancement they desire. In between is the discontented general public that can’t beat its habit of wrong eating or lack of exercise.
Dressing for success is simplicity compared to the choices we have now. As modern science develops we are given choices to change our appearance beyond straightening teeth with braces and taking bumps from noses or removing moles. Those choices are adding to the complicated issue of self esteem and worth in the market place. There is an escalating pressure of vanity as we are offered a soaring amount of services. Looks reflect status. We represent a picture. A picture is open to judgment.
I was raised by folks who insisted there was no excuse for being less than your best though I did my best to disregard that. I hated the idea of struggle as far back as memory serves. I wanted to be acceptable without challenge. I suspect I really didn’t want to try much at anything. If they had let me slide and told me I was fine the way I was I might still be lying on the bed of my childhood home reading novels. Tough love kicked my ass in infuriating ways but I owe my inability to be comfortable with less than my best to the parents, mentors and teachers who didn’t accept anything from me as good enough. That was a show of confidence even though I just wanted to be left alone. It saved me. It also left me anxious.
I was raised by a mother who was raised by a father who did not believe in ugliness. I couldn’t tell you why except he was impatient with the concept of some things being beyond one’s control. I think he just hated quitters. Therefore his wife and three daughters did all that modern science could offer to never grow old or live with a feature they could not stand.
Long after my grandfather died a too early death, ignoring his own heart attack to finish operating on a patient, my grandmother, not to be leveled by pancreatic cancer had her hair coiffed, made herself up, donned a lovely bed coat, propped herself up on a freshly made bed in her striking red and purple bedroom and died sitting up. My family suspected she had made a call to her cousin the pharmacist for assistance to leave the planet on her own terms.
Now in their 80s my mother and her sisters like their parents are still unyielding beautiful skillful people who run their lives with precision. They keep their hands in their grown children’s lives as well. All of the offspring are highly accomplished financially successful professionals except for me. I was stubborn. While my multi-talented middle brother was shoved towards perfectionism and my little brother was sent to board at the Hyde School which aimed to make champions of reluctant students, I chose to be a loser in an attempt at a hassle free life.
Perhaps it’s no wonder that I eventually ended up in a job where the wardrobe was T-shirts and pajama bottoms and the beauty regimen was cleanliness. (Before the yoga standard had become one with mainstream). Yoga shaped my life as the practice of responsibility seasoned with compassion that’s come with some forty years enfolded in yoga and a yoga adjacent life. The key word is practice. I fail myself with regularity. I am irresponsible toward my future. I lack compassion for my failings. I unfailingly demand more of myself without proper regard to the balance of energy taken to energy replenished. I watch all the stories of daily life that I can fit in a day and don’t know who I am in it or what to believe.
So I understand the desire to throw money at an issue that stands in the way of judgment and just let it be done. I don’t stand in judgment of the people who do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves. It seems rather straightforward. But even if money grew on trees it would not be that trouble-free for some of us to keep pace with the life we were born to.