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Beauty – and Then What?

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Welcome to 2007 – the time when more people than ever, with absolutely no medical conditions or sicknesses, are taking themselves off to the operating theatres of the world and paying rich surgeons a fortune to be sliced, diced, nipped, tucked, sucked, stretched, and implanted. To be made beautiful, hot, or more attractive at the very least. To be made new and improved, popular, noticed – a surgical path to happiness.

Perhaps we should forget the wrinkles around our eyes and get the doctor to take a look at our brain while we’re on the table.

Somehow, on some level, some people (okay, many) have bought into the disturbing belief that if they have fewer wrinkles, less sag, more perk, less fat and skin, and perhaps a different nose they will be happier and more fulfilled; their life will be better.

They must have bought into it, otherwise, why would they risk their life (all surgery is a calculated risk) and pay a fortune to do it? People who are already in debt are so desperate to be enhanced they are taking out more loans to undergo cosmetic surgery. Somewhere along the line they (we) have been programmed to believe that a Certain Physical Appearance = Attractiveness = Desirability = Happiness.

We bought into the lie. How do we un-learn this crap when we live in a society that constantly screams at us how beauty equals success? See any movie, watch any TV show, read any magazine; it’s all about being gorgeous – at all costs. Even the TV show Ugly Betty is all about the unlikely situation of a less-than-glamorous girl with eyebrows like a Muppet trying to survive in the beautiful, bitchy, glam world of the fashion magazine. While many viewers identify with the character and feel for her (perhaps because they see some of themselves in Betty) and want to give her a big old hug, I haven’t spoken to anyone who actually wants to look like her.

While on one level the show is seemingly all about seeing the underdog overcome adversity in a pretentious world, on another level it teaches us that the ugly girl will struggle, will get the dorky ugly boyfriend, and will have to work harder than the pretty girls to achieve the same outcome. She will be ridiculed and disadvantaged because she’s not pretty enough. If it were true that beauty equaled success, then surely all models and Hollywood Hotties would be universally fulfilled, balanced, and emotionally healthy little campers. Clearly this is not the situation. In fact, they would be the happiest because they are the most beautiful, apparently.

One of the challenges of my job (my company facilitates over 1,500 Personal Training sessions every week) is to help people (who are going through physical changes) keep perspective. That is, not throwing all of their eggs in their physical basket while simultaneously neglecting their psychological, emotional, and spiritual selves. Some people are surprised that an exercise scientist (a bloke who owns a couple of gyms) would spend more time working with a person’s head and heart stuff than he would the physical.

I do this because I know (long-term) satisfaction, happiness, fulfillment, and joy never comes from the physical (it can be part of, but never the total solution). I understand that appearance (beauty) has very little to do with long-term success. I don’t care too much about my clients’ appearance, but I do care about how they feel and function and their overall health. While I do care about their cholesterol, blood sugar, body-fat levels, posture, diet, and their cardiovascular health (the physical stuff), I care more that they understand that while it’s great to be in shape and look good, our bodies aren’t who we are – just where we live.

Most of us agree we are complex, multi-dimensional, psychological, emotional, and spiritual beings who roam this big blue ball for eighty years or so in this physical body, and then once we die we… okay, that’s another article!

So when our body becomes our identity (and it does for many people), we’re in trouble. When our confidence, self-esteem, and emotional state (and happiness) are dependent on our weight, our wrinkle factor or some other physical variable, then we’re on a path to misery, frustration, and desperation. I have seen many (attractive) people become more and more preoccupied with and miserable about their appearance over time than you could imagine.

If I had ten bucks for every time someone told me, “If only I could lose x kilos (pounds) I’d be happy” or “If only I could lose just five more, then I’d be okay,” I’d be loaded! The problem is that they lose the weight, get the nose job, and get the fat sucked, and they’re really happy – for five minutes. They wake up one day (not long after) and realise all of those issues are still there. All of a sudden they understand the futility of trying to address internal issues with an external solution.

I spent years as a young bodybuilder trying to achieve physical perfection (or as best I could with my genetics) because I had some stupid belief (on some level) that if only I looked like some kinda cartoon character — got my arms and back big enough, my waist small enough, my shoulders wide enough, and my body-fat low enough — life would be great, girls would dig me, blokes would respect me, and I would be happy.

I did (get the body) and I wasn’t (happy).

A big wake-up call was had by the bloke with the veins and biceps, and a life-long exploration into real success and real beauty began.

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About Craig Harper

  • I am so tired of looking at face-lifted faces I wanna bang my head against a wall. Great piece! I plan to (continue to) age in whatever way I do, and whoever doesn’t like it can KMA! 🙂