‘Hidden’ Morals

So here is a challenge; without using the internet remember the moral of Disney’s Aladdin. Not the love story plot but the didactic moral….. I’ll wait.

So I rewatched Aladdin over the weekend and was fairly flawed by the poignancy of the message which, for me at least, had been subsumed in my memory by the plot. The struggle with identity and feelings of self worth is something I have obviously covered on this blog before and so it was astounding that I hadn’t landed on Aladdin as a talking point before.

From very early on we see Aladdin and Jasmine struggle with feeling trapped by societal conceptions of their identity and roles within the world. Both characters feel that their station in life denies them the freedom and opportunities that they crave. Now this is very touching stuff and the plot points about breaking free of societally assigned roles is also very important but the bit that I want to zero in on the the middle and final act tension in Aladdin’s character. The tension created by wishing to be a prince.

Al sees this wish as his only way to catch the eye of Jasmine and win the freedom he craves but very rapidly we see that not only does this metaphorically and literally trap him further it also poisons the very thing he sought. Al becomes unable to be free in himself. Lying about being a prince traps him in a cycle of lies that he cannot see an exit point form. All his friends tell him to come clean but for him the truth is no longer an option.

Once the truth is forced on him, by a very canny princess, Aladdin is shown that those around him will accept him for his internal value and love him all the same. Jasmine doesn’t rebuff him and the Sultan is won over by his courage and kind-heartedness that he changes the law to allow Aladdin to marry Jasmine.

It struck me that the struggle shown in Aladdin is one we all face at various stages in our relationships; particularly at the genesis of new romantic relationships.  It is incredibly tempting to try and be the person your potential partner wants you to be. To make minor editations to your likes, personality and tastes to be more appealing to someone who you want to impress. But here there be dragons dear reader, here there be dragons. As we see in Aladdin, lying begets lying. You will likely never be happy being someone else – just to be ‘loved’.

The person the partner ‘loves’ at that point isn’t you. At best it is the you you wish you could be. That is a fate worse than death – the constant and pervasive insecurity borne of not knowing if the truth were to come out if the person by your side would stay there.  The thing that makes this nightmare truly horrid though is the knowledge that you put yourself in that situation that it was a lack of courage or self belief that has condemned you to fear.

Fortunately the solution is one we have discussed before. Love yourself. Love yourself deeply and fully and know that, like Aladdin, you too are truly, uniquely and immensely worthy of being loved by others. I accept that this isn’t always simple or easy, I too still struggle here. But the best thing you can teach yourself is self love, it is a habit, you can make it easier by doing it more often. Tell yourself every day that if Aladdin is worthy of love so are you.

Obviously this type of thinking applies later in our relationships as well. Whenever we feel compelled to be a bit different, to be more like everyone else. Stay strong stay in love with the real you. The you that only you really know. Nothing and no one is worth compromising that for.

Importantly always remember that those that love us, like Jasmine loved Aladdin, will forgive us for our foolishness and embrace us in our honesty. Take those opportunities to reconcile your exaggerations and half truths, the things you’ve said to please a lover or a friend with the real you and you will be happier and freer for it.

Remember – you are worth loving for the wonderful mess that you are.

 

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Overcoming The Past

So this week I was rather abruptly forced to consider my past in a way that made me incredibly uncomfortable. I have not always been as good a human as I currently am; self improvement is now a big part of my drive every day but there have been periods of my life where stagnation would be the most accurate way to describe my status.

In the course of taking what I thought was a positive adult step – trying to gain more control over my financial and professional life I was told I had an outstanding debt of $3.5K. It was, as you can imagine, rather a rude shock – made all the more embarrassing for being told to me in the first instance in a public arena. Long story cut short here – it was debt incurred by a partner, who I no longer have contact with, on a joint service, I negotiated it down to a more reasonable figure and paid the balance.

The learning point out of all this came for me when I was reflecting on the initial shock and incredulity with which I had viewed the revelation. It had seemed wildly unfair and completely ridiculous that I was being ‘punished’ for trying to take positive steps in my life. Which is rather a  juvenile way of conceiving of things really. The reality that I had to accept was that I had failed to take due care of my household affairs in the past and I was paying the piper in the present.

It was a bitter pill to swallow – and then I remembered Randy Pausch. This was a wall, not put here to stop me improving my life – but rather to force me to prove how badly I wanted if self improvement were easy; everyone would be doing it. So I grit my teeth an confronted the unsettling reality that despite not being directly responsible I had still failed and that I needed to overcome that failure and use it as a lesson. The two questions I asked myself here I learned from Brian Tracy – What did I do well? and What would I change next time?

So what did I do well? – I had been a good partner, helped provide for the household. What am I changing next time? – nothing new just adding fuel to my financial management fire

I think that by combining those two thinkers one reaches the perfect place to overcome past mistakes. The mistake itself can be recontextualized as merely a test of drive – which the current self is always up to the task of undertaking. Following this the ‘hot wash up’ question make sure that we really draw out the critical learning points.

The control we have over our experience of reality is one of the most powerful gifts we are ever given. Allowing external agencies to take that power away from us is all too easy to do and far too great a cost for anything. The trick is that we can take it back any time we want. By choosing to remain in control of the way we perceive and interact with the world we are choosing to be responsible for our emotional well being.

The key thing here really is about context and shifting perspectives. It is very easy to let the world seem far more frightening and imposing than it really is. Particularly when we find ourselves on the back foot in a new situation. However the world isn’t out to get us – it isn’t trying to do us favors either mind you. The world is largely indifferent to any of our struggles of woes and in that indifference we are free to make the best people we can out of ourselves. By allowing ourselves to see the opportunities for change and improvement rather than punishments imposed by an unfeeling world we really can get to a point where there is no wall we cannot scale.

Doctor Doctor Give Me The News 

So I absolutely adore this scene from The Zygon Inversion episode of New Doctor Who. I first saw it the weeknit first aired and I’ve since used it as a teaching tool for my team at work. The concept that those with true power those with true courage , can forgive – can break the chains of hate that bind us to conflict. 

Recently I read Clem Ford’s ‘Fight Like A Girl’. It was challenging but thoroughly worthwhile. I feel that I learned a fair amount of deffenrence to priveledge that I have previously slow to acknowledge. The thing I found consistently challenging throughout was Clem’s use of fairly aggressive language. She addresses her thoughts on why many men find the type of language she uses challenging and how defending politeness is merely a way of protecting the patriarchal system. 

In some ways I do agree with her – politeness and manners are inventions of the patriarchy, specifically the gentile class of the patriarchy. 

But forgiveness is not.

I acknowledge the right of feminists to be very angry at the patriarchy for suppressing them for so very long and in such horrific ways. But I haven’t yet been able to reconcile the votrioloc vocabulary with which some feminists address the world. 

It strikes me as The Doctor puts it as ‘just more cruelty’ now it’s certainly ‘cruelty’ that does make me sit upright and pay attention to what is being said. But I feel for entirely the wrong reasons. I listen because language of ranger and hate displays passion and rage and I do not wish to rub afoul of such violent emotions in anyone, regardless of gender. 

Language is a method of mediation as much as it is a tool of control. I think the way we choose to discuss our differences and our passions displays so much about us and how we want to be perceived.  

This is by no means an attack or cry for vocal feminists to reform their use of language – or a claim that I won’t listen to them if they don’t talk in a language that makes me comfortable. It is merely the suggestion that autocratic control of language is ‘cruelty’. 

It is equally cruel for a feminist to violently seize the language of a discourse and it is for a man to allow it to exist in purely patroarchally endorsed politeness. 

What we need to see in the world – on both sides of the gender divide. Is forgiveness – forgiveness for the sins of priveledge that so many men did nothing to help create or perpetuate and forgiveness of feminists and activits for their just anger at not even having the ability to control the terms by which their rights are discussed. 

This is a charged, primed and deadly issue I know – let’s just all calm down, and call The Doctor.

Media Recommendation: Friendly Jordies

So a lighter piece tonight. I want to share with you one of the largest positive influences on the last few years of my thinking.  Friendly Jordies is an Australian satirical political comedian – but he is so so much more than that. Jordan was the guy responsible for restoring the faith and value I have in my right to vote and through putting himself and his philosophy out into the world he has personally helped me develop myself as a human.

It is quite odd to me that someone who I have only met once, and rather passingly at that, should have had such a large influence on my life. Jordan’s attitude towards creating the world you want to live in piece by piece shines through. Not just through his avid commitment to raising awareness of the political situation and ways we can better it here in Australia but also with more thought provoking pieces about how to achieve a greater degree of happiness and success in your own day to day. The wonderful comedy that he characteristically wraps all these messages up in is simply the hook to get you to listen to the truly important things he has to teach you.

Jordies channel is a large part of why this blog exists. It is the courage I have gained through years of watching his content that finally allowed me to share my thoughts with you here and so it seemed appropriate to me to take a small amount of your time to give him the shout out he deserves.  This is a straight up recommendation – If you allow him to this man will completely change your life. I hope that he helps you as much as he has helped me.

 

Pride Comes Before The Fall

Pride really gets wildly mixed representation. It is something that has caused me discomfort, emotionally and intellectually my entire life. We are simultaneously fed lines about ‘taking pride in our work/appearance/possessions’ and scolded for being ‘obsessive, narcissistic or materialistic’ for doing exactly these things. Now the easy wave of the hand answer is that all things in small amounts or in balance. Clearly the times when I have been chided for taking too much pride in something have been moments where I am lapsing into excess. But I call phooey on that. I am no longer comfortable accepting the judgement of others on these matters – so here is my thoughts on the complex nature and relationship of pride.

Two figures within media stand as glowing examples of the redemptive value of pride. Heath Ledger’s Sir William Thatcher and Vegeta, Prince of Saiyans. I certainly feel kinship with these characters and the way they interact with pride.

William gives up his freedom and his life for the sake of his pride. He refuses to bend to system that he knows is unjust and unfounded. He stand strong in the face of adversity and is ultimately rewarded for it. When at his lowest his king comes to him and delivers to him a knighthood almost entirely premised on his pride, his refusal to obey societal norms and social morays. “Your men love you, If I knew nothing else about you that would be enough. But you also tilt when you should withdraw, and that is Knightly too”  it is this that first premised my disagreement with those in my life who would tear down the value of pride. Movies are expensive affairs – and in this day and age made largely by committee. If a subject matter is central to a movie it because studios feel it will resonate with audiences. So when I see such bombastic representations of the value of pride  my chest swells and I feel enlivened and like I can achieve anything I choose to set my mind to. This is the secret value of pride for me it is pride that keeps me strong when I am weak. When I am at my lowest it is my pride that keeps me from the razor or the alcohol. It is the knowledge that deep down the strength is within me and that just because those around me choose to see it as narcissism or some other equally loathsome epithet it does not change the value or the nature of the emotion. Pride determines the people we choose to be – giving up on it because it is unattractive when we are strong means that it cannot be there to support us when we are weak.

The redemptive value of pride is something that I learned from Vegeta. Similarly when Vegeta is at his lowest he allows another being to grant him strength at the cost of his autonomy. When pushed to commit an act he cannot reconcile it is pride that allows Vegeta to take back his sense of self and the ability to be his own man. From here he goes on to sacrifice his life to save all those he loves. Pride being the last bastion of the self is a powerful theme that has always resonated with me. For many years self-effacement and self-hatred were methods of minimising pain. Not taking pride in myself and allowing the world to wash over me allowed me to live without pain – but also without purpose or a sense  of looking after myself. It is only through teaching myself the true value of pride that I found the strength to carry my head high and fight for my ideals. It is pride that allows me to put my thoughts up here in the public space and think that they are worth reading – that they might help others in some way small or large.

Pride is not some demon we must conquer or vice to be denied. Pride is a word, being carried around the world as we speak: associated with movements dedicated to the liberation of outspoken minorities; Black Pride, Gay Pride and Trans Pride. These movements are all sources of strength, resilience and empowerment for their members and those that share their ideals.  Pride is not something we should fear. Pride is an ally when we have no others, pride is the wall that we feel at our backs when the fighting is at it’s thickest.

So this is my challenge to you. The next time someone who wants to make you feel smaller than you are to tear away a small piece of you by calling you vain, narcissistic or proud – wear that title like the badge of honour it is. You are proud, you are strong – you have the courage and conviction to believe in the most fundamentally important of  all things -yourself.

What Time Is It?

ADVENTURE TIME!!!!!!!

I consider myself to be at least a reasonably outgoing fellow these days. I enjoy spending time doing stuff I’ve never done before and really getting in and experiencing everything life has to offer.  This is somewhat hampered by the fact that I am abjectly terrible at starting my own adventures. When left to my own devices I basically revert to my most introverted state and curl up and watch Netflix or similar. As soon as someone suggests a thing – I am at it like a bull at a gate. This phenomenon can cause those in my life no small amount of cognitive or emotional dissonance as the change can be quite jarring.

It took me sometime to realise I had this limitation. Prior to really understanding it I actually conceived myself to be far more of a shut in that I actually am. This lead me to shying away from some of the more adventurous or dynamic people in my life, because I thought i would ‘bring them down’ or some other self-deprecating stand in. I considered myself to be ‘just a nerd’.

The moment I started to realise I was ‘secretly’ quite in love with adventures came when a girlfriend of mine invited me geocaching. Now at the time I was working my way to 100% completion on, the then brand new, Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor so I had a viable alternative but I jumped at the opportunity to get out in the fresh air with good company.   Whilst we were traipsing all about the hills enjoying ourselves and getting properly sunburned and dehydrated  I began to ponder the importance of the moment I found myself in. I, a self confessed nerd boy, was actively engaging in adventurous outdoor activity and really loving it. I cast my mind back over my life and began to wonder if this woman was changing me….GASP!

When I really stopped to consider it it became rather obvious that she wasn’t – both of the significant partners I had been previously involved with had been outgoing and vivacious human-women-folk but somehow I had either forgotten, repressed or otherwise my absolute enjoyment of active and adventurous conduct. It boggled me then, as it does now from time to time, how poor I could/can be at self inspection and understanding. How inaccurate and negative my self talk can be when I let it run thoroughly unchallenged or unexamined.

This chain of inquiry also begot another – I began to consider this complimentary experience in terms of the time honored mantra : “Opposites Attract”. Now this seemed perfectly reasonable as an explanation on the day. But some years have passed since that moment and this and my feelings have become somewhat more nuanced. I have come to believe that giving oneself entirely over to the idea that opposites attract can lead you down very dangerous and ill suited pairings – I had a few. Thinking I was seeking adventure I began several involvements with humans that were clearly incredibly poorly suited partners. Similarly when reacting poorly to some of the more outlandish pairings I have attempted I have run into the arms or partners who, through their absolute similarity to me amplified all my worst qualities and became unchallenging or boring. I think perhaps a far healthier and more helpful way to seek out potential romantic partners is to remember”We are attracted to complimentary personalities”.

What I mean to say is – I am not a fantastic self-starter for adventures but one of the things I look for in a prospective partner is being good at just that. Not because it is the opposite of myself but rather because it a strength that compliments and ‘makes up for’ my weakness. Rather than fairly reductively searching for people that just don’t ‘look’ like ourselves I think it is far more helpful, and far emotionally healthier, to look for those individuals whose happiness is derived from similar pursuits but that go about it in different way and have slightly different strengths. To find someone who can teach us more about ourselves merely by experiencing their life as they otherwise would.

I think that if we adopt this slightly more nuanced outlook of complimentary pairing rather than similarity or opposite pairing we run far fewer risks of boredom, flatness or lack of compatibility and begin to enter a world where even if things don’t work out long term we can honestly say that we learned new things about ourselves by experiencing our weakness through the strengths of those that love us.

 

Chel And Owning Your Sexuality

So I am currently wokring my way through Clem Ford’s ‘Fight Like A Girl’. I am not finished yet, but I am sure to make a post on it when I do….. Anyway there is a section about a quarter of the way in where Clem discusses the effect that Disney had on her self-image as a child, with particular discussion around the implications for young girls. Being that I have previously talked about how I love Disney but think it does terrible things to our heads, I couldn’t resist making comment on Clem’s thoughts. 

So Clem describes Disney as having had an overall negative effect on her perception and intereactions with other women. She talks about how the majority of the women portrayed are either ‘Princess-Prizes’ or evil hags. She mentions the modern successes of both Frozen and Inside Out. Now whilst I agree that both of these titles are worthy of respect and praise for the positive steps they take towards gender equality and nuanced protayals of identity. It frustrates me somewhat that Clem skipped over a fairly significant chunk of animated movie progress in the gender sphere. I’m not talking about Mulan…. I’m talking about a non-Disney film contemporary to Mulan though. 

‘The Road To Eldorado’ – I adore this film. TRTE features one of my top picks for early 2000’s female characters, Chel. Chel is a wonderfully realised and complex character. Now some discussion may need to be had about reinforcing stereotypes of beauty, but I feel that that discussion is parralel to this one – and certainly some points are scored for the inclusion of a native female as love interest rather than a white character. So the reason I am so enamoured with Chel as a character is despite ending up romantically entangled ith one of the male leads. She chooses to be here, far more actively than most disney princesses. Initially the male characters express their attraction to Chel, but noting their circumstances suggest and romantic involvement with her would be inadvisable. Some time into the proceedings however Chel intentionaly isolates one of the men, whom she fancies, and seduces him. She does not passively consent or allow the man to fall for her; but actually thoroguhly seduces him – despite his initial rebuffment of her advance. This is a wonderful and powerful statemnt of positive endorsement for female sexuality in a  medium that is regularly accused of repressing or punishing such things.

Added to this is her clear drive – we see snippets of her bargaining fo her share of the loot and she is baraganing for more than an even split. Chel is treated by the male cast as an equal and is thanked for her help when she resolves critical plot issues. The male characters are portrayed as somewhat bumbling whilst Chel is shown to be rather quick and sharp. The male characters are seen to fight becuase of her, not explicitly over her affections but rather the regular occurance of a new rlationship redefining existing ones. This is once again proof of the maturity with which Chel’s involvemnt and sexuality are handled. 

Given that this film debuted some 13 years before Frozen it still boggles me how little attention this wonderfully realised character recieves. One theory I have relates to the fact that the film was not a commercial ‘success’ – but perhaps that is not a nuanced enough evalutation.

Certainly If she reads this I hope Clem goes back and revisits this bit of cinema. I think that Chel is a female character that many young women should take into account when formulating their identities from cinema influences and that she does not recieve nearly enough praise as a forefunner of the animated movie industries painstakingly slow shift towards more empowered female characters.    

Krom And The Church Of Iron

So I have mentioned from time to time that I really find value and enjoyment in daily trips to the gym. I enjoy the self-aware ‘bro-science’ humour trends that have emerged. I love the idea that the modern trend towards fitness and wellness culture are already being viewed with ‘ironic’ skepticism. Rather jarringly though I also adore the feelings of mastery, control and achievement that this practice has brought into my life.

To me the gym is a source of contentment and inspiration for me. The ancient Greeks proposed that A healthy mind could only inhabit a healthy body and certainly I function best after a good workout each morning. But more than that the daily pilgrimage to the holy house of Krom focuses me, centers me in a way that nothing else really does. The only other time in my life I experience the zen state induced in me by a good set of curls is whilst deeply engrossed in a video game – and not just any video game only highly competitive raiding in WoW has ever elicited such a deep state of focus from me.   It strikes me as the perfect continuation of the aforementioned ‘ironic’ humour that two so diametrically opposed disciplines should have such similar effects on my mental state.  Something so ‘Nerdy’ as WoW and so ‘Masculine’ as lifting finding a soft spot within my psyche.

The Church Of Iron is also the one place on earth that really feels like it deserves the title of being holy to me. The gym is a place removed from the rest of the world, dedicated to the betterment of man. Yes I admit this is a wholly sohpisitic reading of it , but to me after years of experiencing the true dedication of not only myself but my gym ‘family’ it really strikes me as true. So much of our modern culture is about segregating us – about encouraging us to ourselves as wholly separate and divisible entities in order to play on our fears and make us more malleable to neoliberal influence. The gym, when looked upon charitably, is a building where all men and women are made equal before the force of Krom. No one is ‘king’ of the gym, everyone no matter their strength is humbled by the endeavor for gains or tone or fitness.  When in the presence of the divine iron we are all made one, made to pray in the same way to receive that which we crave.

The gym is a place where one can commune not only with the divine but also with the self. It is a place that we can work together in to achieve the impossible. It is truly one of the most gratifying experiences to help someone with a lift they’ve never made before – a new height of their personal story. The time we get to spend in reflection as we focus and push past our boundaries has the ability to make better people of us in small daily and incremental ways.

The summation of this is rather a simple thought – Despite being a nerd, despite being primarily a skinny white guy I adore the gym. I adore the dedication and passion i get to display and see mirrored in those around me . I adore the pursuit of self betterment, I adore the generosity and humanity displayed by those who share that journey. For every arrogant or obnoxious gym rat you meet know that there is a monastic follower of the god of gains. Every time someone tell you that gym rats are just meat heads please recall the lady reading her med text book on the treadmill. For every person decrying the gym know there is someone for whom it is a daily grace.

 

Truth And Unconditional Love

So parents, with few exceptions, love us unconditionally. This is likely the single most valuable resource a person is ever given, the unconditional love of another human being. Yet for so many people it is a squandered opportunity. Pride, fear and pain cause us to make poor choices in our relationships with our parents that prevent us from fully realising the benefit of this unique relationship.

It is strange for most of the people I interact with romantically to see me talk very frankly with my mother about my sexual experiences. However some time ago I realised that the one person in my life who was safest to talk to about my experiences and problems in my relationships was my mother and thus no subject matter is ‘off limits’. Her only agenda is to see me fulfilled and happy. Now admittedly she may have some notions about what preconditions my happiness and fulfillment need – but fortunately for me I have cultivated a respect in the relationship with my mother such that If I tell her I am happy in a pursuit she believes me earnestly.

This is an unmatched level of love in my entire life to date. No one else makes as excellent an emotional an intellectual sounding board as my mum. But in order to really, truly be able to utilise my relationship with my mother I have to tell her the truth. The whole, ugly and uncomfortable truth.

An author’s note here: I understand that for some people this role is not filled by a parent or at all. For me this role is filled in an unusual way and I am using Mother as a stand in term. I sincerely hope that everyone reading this has experienced the type of unconditional love that I am describing in this piece. If not I am tremendously sorry for how potentially challenging you might find this – feel free to skip the rest. 

We all have things we have done, sides of ourselves that we regret or find challenging but these facets and actions require no less inspection for the reactions they inspire in us, quite the opposite. These are the things that need the closest of inspections because they are the things we would seek to hide from everyone, including ourselves. These are the topics that a relationship predicated on unconditional love is best placed to help us work through an understand.

The best way to achieve this result is establish a truthful baseline. Take the bitter pill, bite the bullet, rip the band-aid off and just tell the whole truth bring all those ugly truths to light. For me this is was one of the hardest things I have done as an adult and so I understand that it might be initially repulsive as a suggestion – but I swear it pays dividends far beyond the emotional capitol invested.

Once you have achieved this it is far easier to maintain than it was to establish, even if only by pure virtue of volume, you can only really do one reprehensible thing at a time – and so will rarely if ever be called upon to reveal more than one new ‘failing’ at a time. Everyone is human and sometimes we might still through fear or pride conceal a new batch of facts because or one reason or another. I promise each time you reveal more of yourself to someone who loves you unconditionally you are welcomed back with love and forgiveness.

This truth baseline allows those who love us unconditionally to know us. The whole of us and thus when you go to them they know where you are at and can be empathetic and loving of the whole of you, not just the parts of you you choose to share. The ability to drop one’s facade and know that there will be no surprises, no shock, no horror is cathartic beyond measure. It also has the added benefit of allowing those who love us to have the longest possible time understanding us before being called upon to provide sage advice or act as a sounding board.

Referencing an earlier piece the late great Dr Randy Pausch advocated that a method to achieving success was to; ‘establish a good feedback loop an listen to it’.  I need to stress that the establishment of such an honest, caring and beautiful feedback loop is all in service of seeking true self betterment. My mother is the person who can help me confront truths that I am not yet willing to face on my own. With full knowledge of my most painful truths my mother can be counted on to know the demons that plague me as I describe new and challenging scenarios. With this feedback loop I can always safely count on at least one other human to be able to empathise with any new and seemingly insurmountable challenge I face no matter how dark or terrible it might be and for that I will always love my mother.

#Fit

So I take horrible photos, I always have and I always will. It is a law as old as the universe as far as I am concerned. I just cannot seem to look good on demand, some might venture at all but they’re jerks, and largely I’ve accepted that. The rise of the smartphone and modern photoculture thus has been rather a challenging experience me. At the tender age of 23 my reluctance to be photographed or engage in the old Snapchat made me feel rather prehistoric.

Then someone came into my life who would sow the seeds of change for me on this topic. A girlfriend who tried daily to convince me that I needed to love myself more. I thought this was stupid at the time. I thought that my method of ignoring a problem and brutalistically forcing myself to ‘be stronger than my fears’ was enough to be a healthy member of society. But this modern trend showed me a small slice of how and why I was wrong.

This girl wasn’t a show off nor was she so much a digital native as to be inseparable from social media or her electronic devices. She was just more comfortable in her herself than I was. She still felt self-conscious about her body but she didn’t let that hold her back or create negative self conceptions.

One night, we were out at a law mixing ball with a group of friends. We had both gotten ‘dolled up’ for the event and looked far ‘nicer’ than normal. I had begrudgingly consented to be photographed at the small gathering for pre-drinks before hitting the ball. When we arrived my girlfriend want over to the table and picked up the place card and motioned for me to lean in for a selfie. It was at that point that I delivered the second most scathing rant of our relationship. I told her that it was entirely inappropriate to take such a photo and staunchly refused to be a part of it.

I was had let my fear and self-hatred hurt someone special.

I said sorry several times over the following months but never really relented in my opinion of photo culture. Some time later i started my adventure as an amateur bodybuilder. I knew friends who posted a daily selfie to Instagram as a way of ensuring they were accountable for their gym attendance. With serious reservations I began posting to Instagram daily. Selfies once every 3 days and always with sardonic jokes about the self indulgence of it all.

Over time however I began to confront my fears of the selfie and of seeing myself in photographs. As I ran out of clever ways to hide my fear behind humor I was forced to examine myself in a way I had been invited to by my ,now ex, girlfriend. I found that when all had been said and done she had been right.

I had hated selfies and photos because I had held onto so much self loathing. The process of normalizing the photos of making myself accountable through them had forced me to see that it wasn’t the medium that wass the problem it was what it was reflecting back at me. the image not of a body that I was not happy with but a self that I couldn’t stand to be.

It was then that my daily post balance started to shift more towards images of me.

It was that day that I made a commitment to not only take daily steps towards making my body better but to making myself better and taking the time to acknowledge that whilst I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet, that I was working on it. That acknowledgment freed me in a way that I had never been before. I no longer needed to be bigger than my fears, or stronger or more brutal. I could surrender to my own imperfection and still be OK, still be loved because in some small corner of my heart – I had begun to love myself.

Understanding that we are each flawed, imperfect and fundamentally broken humans is the start to realizing that everyone has worth. Everyone is worthy of love. Another thing my ex used to say to me was that I couldn’t possibly love another until I learned to love myself. Similarly I thought she was full of it at the time – but each and every day now I feel my capacity for love growing. I feel myself accepting more and more of the beauty in the imperfections of those around me and I hope in some small way that these words can help you in the way they have helped me. I hope that we might be able to spread just a little more love inwards, and outwards.