My daughters and I watched the movie Tootsie the other night, and Jessica Lange – the romantic lead, who I have no doubt was chosen because of how beautiful she is – looked downright matronly compared to today’s standards.
She wasn’t ripped, her arms weren’t sculpted, her ass wasn’t tight and toned. It made me wistful that we don’t still live in that time.
The supermodels of the 80s were a size six. If you picked up a 1985 Cosmopolitan, you’d think, “Damn, those girls were big.” And they also had what we would now call imperfections: freckles, cellulite, and teeth that weren’t bright white.
As strange as all that looks, I can’t imagine what our 80s-era selves would have thought if we could have time-traveled into the future and seen what beauty looks like today. We would have been shocked – horrified is more like it.
The representation of female beauty my daughters are being taught to aspire to – and to feel discouragement about at how much they fall short – is about filters, perfect poses, pouty lips, and plastic surgery. Some of the influencers they follow look like blow-up dolls. They don’t even look human.
But the reason today’s concept of “beautiful” looks so different is because our consumer culture requires it to keep changing. It exists only to the level of discouragement we feel. So every time we get close to the ideal, they change the destination.
Discouragement implies that there’s an end goal. And the farther away we are from it, the more discouraged we feel.
So we strive to get there. We diet, we cut carbs, we fanatically exercise, we weigh ourselves, we starve ourselves, we pluck ourselves, we inject ourselves. And when all of our striving doesn’t get us to the destination, we shame ourselves.
And then we resign ourselves to our fate. We’ll never get there, so our attempts become weak and half-hearted.
This is the worst part about discouragement: it demoralizes you and keeps you from taking decisive action. It’s a feeling that things won’t ever change – so you quit really trying. It’s a feeling of resignation, of powerlessness.
It’s like a persistent low-grade fever: you don’t feel sick enough to like down, recuperate, and recharge. But you don’t feel well enough to do anything productive either. You wander aimlessly through your day, doing the bare minimum but never really accomplishing anything.
But what if the destination we’re all so desperate to get to is just an illusion? What if there is no “there”?
Or what if “there” . . . is here?
You feel discouraged because you think there’s a more perfect version of you out there, and you haven’t reached her yet. But the truth is that there isn’t a more perfect version of you – just a more perfectly evolved version of you. And the most perfectly evolved version of you will always be now, in this very moment.
If that’s true then there’s nothing to strive for – and therefore no reason to feel discouraged. And the more you accept your current state of evolution, the more your evolution will look the way you want it to.
This is why I always say love your life and watch the weight lose itself. It means that once you accept that there is no “there” and that you’re right where you need to be (in other words, you’re already there), the more content you’ll feel, and all the striving and the resistance will evaporate.
Once you feel this peacefulness with yourself, you no longer have a void to fill. You’ll no longer have to binge to feel better, you won’t need to numb the pain – unnecessary pain that you’re creating and inserting like one big hurdle into the natural process of evolution. And once you eliminate it, you can get down to the business of evolving.
Deciding to feel encouraged rather than discouraged helps you not only blast away your frustration at your lack of results, but also the expectation of those results – which are arbitrary and not even determined by you. This frees you to be energized, full of excitement, totally in the moment, and alive – which means you’ll do exactly what you need to do to fuel your body and care for yourself. And then the results you’re so desperate for and feel so far away from will naturally show up.
So stop feeling discouraged and start feeling encouraged. Because you’re right where you need to be. And the sooner you accept that, the faster you’ll get to where you want to go.