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Well For Culture: A Reflection on Self-Image and Tips for New Year's Resolutions

Well For Culture: A Reflection on Self-Image and Tips for New Year's Resolutions

“Beauty's only skin deep.

Everybody has ugly days.

We're all made of the same stuff underneath.

Acting right is better than looking right.

Realize what makes you special beyond looks.

Evil can look pretty on the outside.” -Shannon Delany

“Your inner-most happening is worth all your love.” –Rainer Maria Rillke

According to statistics from the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year. In 2014, the most common resolution was to lose weight – presumably concerned with aesthetics over health. This is not one bit of a surprise. We are living in a world obsessed with looks.

With that in mind, let’s reflect on a time when things were different.

For thousands of years, humans existed without mirrors, without photographs, without even drawings or portraits. I imagine that mirrors were not introduced to my ancestors in the northern plains and woodlands, for example, until maybe the eighteenth century, and they didn’t become a household item until the modern age. So for the vast majority of human existence, nobody knew exactly how their own face looked.

Think about that for a second. What was it like?

In today’s world of selfies and social media, a mirror-less society is near impossible to imagine.

Without mirrors to dictate the morning, a person would have thought more about how well their body was functioning and how they felt internally than about how they looked. Attention to appearance would inevitably have occupied a very small portion of one’s day. Clothing was far more utilitarian than fashion oriented. Hair styles had more to do with spirituality than with trends. Face paint held symbolism, whereas today, makeup is about enhancing features or hiding perceived flaws.

In order to see themselves, a person would have had to peer into a stagnant source of water on a day with no wind … but even reflections in calm water appear blurry; slightly distorted. And maybe that’s how it should be. Maybe that’s all that matters.

Photo courtesy md mudassir

It is unnatural that we all know exactly what we look like. It is wildly unnatural that we spend so much time worrying about it.

I do not intend to criticize others (or myself) for remaining hyper aware of self-image. As I mentioned before, this is the world we live in an inescapable byproduct of media and technology. There is a very fine line between vanity and insecurity, and we are often quick to judge the latter as the former. It is cruel, in any case, to judge others regarding anything to do with looks. We are all self-conscious.

My purpose in raising this issue is to remind everybody to be gentle on themselves and others.

You might be one of millions who has resolved to get fit in 2015. If so, please keep these suggestions in mind:

1. Do work out and set goals for building strength and agility, but do not set a goal in pounds or body fat percentages. Numbers are largely meaningless, and often cause undue distress. Just try to feel better every day. Remember to relish in those moments of natural highs that you will surely experience post-workout. Take pride in your initiative to lead a healthy lifestyle. Thank yourself for committing to wellness, and recognize that by improving personal wellness, you are strengthening your family and community.

2. Do not compare yourself to others, or even to your past self. Rather than criticizing your body in front of the mirror, take time to appreciate it. Lay down, close your eyes. Wiggle your toes. Shift your neck from side to side. Take a deep breath and pay close attention to each and every piece of your body that is functioning and sustaining your life.

3. If a friend or loved one tells you that you are beautiful, believe them. Let them be your mirror. Take time to tell a loved one or friend that they are beautiful – even if you think they know it. Even if it feels awkward. Most of us are too hard on ourselves, and we have the power to help each other out. Keep in mind that you will feel better about yourself (as is very well deserved!) if you take time out of your day to be kind to somebody else.

4. Commend yourself. You are trying.

I wish everybody well in pursuing new heights in the way of wellness. That your mind is even geared toward self-improvement is something to be proud of. If you find yourself frustrated at any given point, just think for a moment about that mirror-less time. Put yourself in that mindset. How you feel, how you act, and how you treat yourself and others is so much more important than how you look. I hope you feel good.

Chelsey Luger. Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio.

Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Twitter@CPLuger. Ideas for articles? Email her: wellforculture@gmail.com