What is the ideal life? Watch any commercial and you will find actors pretending to live it. The message is always the same. Buy product X and you will have everything you ever wanted. Behind those smiling, gorgeous faces are people just like us who go home and face the bitter trials of reality. But for two minutes, they are paid to live out our dreams. Television is training us to want to be like actors.
The perfect man is the spitting image of power. He carries gadgets galore, from the new iPad to the latest iPod. His living room sports a 70” flat screen and 7.1 surround sound. He can bench-press 250 pounds with ease and runs the triathlon twice a year. On the weekends, he plays electric guitar for an up and coming rock band. Tons of gorgeous women follow behind him, adoring groupies at his disposal. In college, he was the star running back. He fixes cars with a snap. He works in the US Air Force as an F-22 fighter pilot with more hours logged in the air than on the ground. Oh, and in his spare time, he’s a volunteer fireman that has saved countless children from burning buildings. He comes across to everyone he meets as that all around nice guy. Men want to be him and beat him up at the same time.
From gadgets, women, and working out to work itself—football players, fighter pilots, mechanics, firemen, rock stars, most eligible bachelor; all these are associated with manliness. At the heart of this powerful man is the question, “am I strong?” answered firmly in the positive.
The perfect woman is strikingly gorgeous. She’s sweet and innocent to everyone she meets. She has a loving rich husband with nice abs. Her kids are well-mannered and mind what she tells them. She is always wearing the latest fashions and trends. She works out at the gym three times a week. She’s the premier ballet dancer at her local theater. Men are sure to take a second or third look when she passes by. Her address book is full of girlfriends at her beck and call. Her alluring presence demands attention. Out of her mouth flows the perfect word for any given situation. Women love to hate her and hate to love her.
From beauty to relationships, a woman with complete control over her life, these are immediately associated with the ideal. In the midst of this woman in control is the question, “am I beautiful?” answered with yes.
The rest of us can only dream of achieving half of what those commercials promise us. So we go out and consume all the stuff we can to help us get there. Not really all that bad a thing. The economy lives and dies on our consumption after all. But most of the ads that encourage us to go out and shop, have nothing to do with strength and beauty, yet they are geared to make you think buying their product will help you answer it.
“Am I strong?” Ponders the boy. “Am I beautiful?” Wonders the girl. Commercials answer it all with a lie. The Beatles were wrong it seems, all you need is money. Buy product X and you will attain all that you want.
As great as it would be to answer the question truthfully, even half way, the facts of life state that it’s a very big universe out there. Not everyone can be the center of attention.
Thankfully, such questions are never absolute.
The definition of beauty changes around the globe. The social definition of strength is as fickle as the times. In the early 1900s it was considered manly to play a flute. Now the instrument is viewed as something only girl’s play. During the Renaissance very well-to-do manly men dressed something like this.
Society has limited itself time and time again by playing judge and jury to our hearts. Act this way, dress in these clothes, be this, be that—then, and only then, will you achieve the answer.
But the question of beauty or strength can’t truly be answered until a third is asked.
“Who are you?”
I myself am an artist—writing, drawing, composing, and singing my way through life. Art is very beautiful to behold. Some would call it a weakness for a man to love art. Not so in the age of the Renaissance but I digress.
The songs I write can sound beautiful, yet they reveal the strength of my talents. This is what makes me strong and manly. When a song I’ve been writing works out just right, there’s nothing like it. I’ve hit that golden sound and feel as macho as a quarter back running through the pocket to make a touchdown.
Art in our society has this stigma of unmanliness attached to it, yet I feel more like a man doing this then I would playing in a football game. This is because football isn’t who I am.
What about women? Truth is, some women are professional weights lifters. They train hard to compete against other’s strength. This makes them feel beautiful. And who should say otherwise?
The media has told us for too long what the perfect man and woman are. We need to bring this all into perspective. We need to find the answers ourselves.
Ad campaigns manipulate the question by asking the boy, “Are you strong enough?” and the girl, “are you beautiful enough?” One little word can lead to a devastating conclusion. After looking at those perfect bodies, the answer is always no. By the times we finish watching the ad, a solution is presented to correct our problem. Product X = problem solved.
The worldly wisdom of fashion and workout magazines point this out with gusto and offer advice to correct your failings: “100 tips that will help you get his attention” or “99 ways to chisel those abs.” Do all of them. After a very exhausting month, the next magazine will tell you to do more.
These magazines have always been in the business of keeping you wanting more, so that you will buy more. There is no satisfaction found living this way. Such advice will not help you attain any meaningful goals.
This brings us back to commercials and reaching too high for that fairytale life. You can’t find contentment this way. In the various worlds of fashion, Hollywood, television, and pop music there are only a select few who make it to the top. If you happen to be one of them, there are always people waiting in the shadows to take your place.
Happiness is found in being content with you, not in meeting difficult goals in life. Even if you do reach that high mark, you will still have to learn to slow down and enjoy it.
There are two roads to beauty and strength: one is the questions with enough at the end, the other is a simple fact:
“I am beautiful in who I am.”
“I am strong in who I am.”
One leads to constant change, another to constant satisfaction. One says, “Compare yourself to others.” The other says, “Compare yourself to you.”
A woman can have a very beautiful mind. A man can have very strong emotions about something. The truth is, not every girl fits the Barbie doll look. Not every man can bench press 250 pounds. The answer is simple, know thyself. On this foundation, you can build up what you are strong or beautiful in.
Give it a try… I dare you.