We are perfect, just as we are. But that doesn’t sell.

The constant messaging that we need fixing is messed up. It's the marketing message that needs fixing, not us. That doesn't say we can't be better, but it depends on what you're trying to improve.

Photo by Jeffery Erhunse on Unsplash

We are perfect, just as we are. But that doesn’t sell.

If you’re a fan of Rebecca Stevens A., as I am, you might have caught this article of hers just a day ago:

Why I Won’t Read Another Self-Help Article Ever Again
The pandemic has taught me to be grateful for what I have and who I am

From her article:

Like a drip in my arm, they gave me advice on how to be the most productive employee, how to start a side hustle, how to lose weight, how to raise my children, how to be a good wife, how to be self-confident. You name it, I was there, and like a drug addict in need of a constant fix, I gobbled them up. I tried every single piece of advice. It made me feel good that I was trying to self-improve but the reality is that none of the improvements were ever sustainable.

While Rebecca makes the very legitimate point that none of the articles and programs and lotions and potions were designed specifically with the Black woman in mind, although those are out there (and harder to find but they exist), I want to make a much larger point.

First of all, Rebecca was never broken in the first place, so she didn’t need to be fixed.

Let’s go large. You and I were also never broken in the first place, so we don’t need to be “fixed” either.

Jessica Wildfire penned a piece or two about this lately, which goes down much the same lane. The way I read her stuff, she points out that the endless hacks and self-improvements aren’t just exhausting, they’re outright cruel.

I totally, completely agree.

I’m considerably older than both of these women, and I have spent more time in life barking at myself about the factory defects with which I was born.

The first: I’m female. OH, let’s count the ways in which being born with a vagina is a sin. You could start with religion, but let’s don’t. I’m in a good mood.

I have too much energy. Too much ambition. I’m too loud. Too outspoken. TOOTOOTOOTOOTOO. I could spend the rest of my natural life trying to fix everything wrong with me when there isn’t a goddamned thing wrong with me, or Rebecca, or Jessica, or anyone else (okay let’s not get into Trumpists or Marjorie Taylor Greene or Lauren Boebert, that’s just a whole other category of sick but that’s just me).

There are billions upon BILLIONS spent to convince us as women to change, fix, improve, cut off, uplift, insert, inject blah blah blah.

Go fuck yourself.

Having spent untold thousands doing just that, and not gaining one damned bit of love or riches or advantage for any of it, I’m with Rebecca and Jessica.

It’s. All. Bullshit.

Because there is nothing now and never was anything broken or wrong about any of us in the first damned place.

Being slimmer or younger or prettier or unlined, or dressed in a three thousand dollar Chloe blouse, or or or or or or is not going to change my fundamental character. If anything, those improvements will drain my bank account, encourage me to spend even more, convince me that I will never be enough (which is of course the whole point) and invest the rest of my limited treasure on yet more things to fix my “brokenness.”

Men are no less caught up in this. The plethora of men’s grooming products, grossly overpriced if you will, speak to the unspeakable need for the World of Stupid Products to expand to new markets. The intense pressure to look like The Rock means that younger and younger kids are using steroids.

Our vanity will forever be our downfall. If only I were thin. Rich. Young. Blah blah blah. Then I’ll be happy. No you won’t. You’ll be busy searching for the next improvement.

People who are severely broken inside by the system are the ones trying to convince you and me that WE are the ones who are broken. Kindly, folks, go look in the mirror.

If only is a lie, for I’ve lived it. Being thin or pretty or both does little more than garner unwanted attention, and with that a great deal more anxiety about losing that attention, even if the attention is abusive.

Just look at what Hollywood does at the onset of aging.

From Rebecca’s article:

For years, I had been my own worse enemy. Never acknowledging that I was good at what I did. Being married, raising a family, and holding down a full-time job with constant business travel despite all the discrimination and racism I sometimes faced at work. I was strong and resilient with a killer survival instinct, I was enough.

These facts came to me as an epiphany and with that, I unsubscribed from all the self-help newsletters I had voraciously signed up to in yestertime. I got rid of all the books. I was done taking advice from self-help gurus who confectioned it like fast food and delivered it to the masses in a one size fits all wrapper for all to consume regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, gender identity, and what have you. (author bolded)

Beautifully put. Which is why Rebecca has been garnering followers like crazy. She has a way of putting a hard truth into a soft glove and hitting you in the head with it. It doesn’t hurt, but it sure gets your attention.

You and I could get into a very lively conversation about what constitutes “enough” for Black women, for whom getting a Master’s or a PhD seems to be the bare minimum requirement for adequacy on equal footing with White mediocrity. But this isn’t that article.

When you and I buy into the utterly false and manufactured belief of “if only,” when you and I believe that this hack will deliver X, and X will make us rich or popular or perfect, we may get hooked for life. It sure as hell took me a long time to decouple.

At 68, what I care about are my overall health, mental and physical. With fewer years and days ahead of me, it’s my job, just as it is yours, to ensure that said health is as full as possible. That you and I are not being led around by the proverbial nose ring by people with nothing but profit on their minds. I work with what I can control, and I control my choices of where to put my time and attention. When I assume that the basic me is just fine thank you very much, that my so called “factory defects” make me the unique person I am supposed to be, then what improvements I do commit to have far more to do with ensuring my ongoing health and spiritual growth as I age.

None of that states or implies that I can’t do better. Of course I can. However, the forever battle to improve the exterior self, the superficial, has a way of focusing us away from the Deep Work, which is all about facing down the demons in our inner worlds. That is much harder than losing ten pounds or getting Botoxed. If I understand that it’s one of those basement demons that causes me to want to get the Botox in the first place, honey, I am on the way to real freedom.

In all fairness, not all folks in the helping business are bad, and not all messaging is evil. There are plenty of health workers and folks in the deeply spiritual realm, many of whom I have used and continue to use, who are excellent at what they do. But they do NOT bark at you and me about what’s wrong with us. That’s manipulative, and damaging. They are invitations to evolve, not a hair shirt reminding us of our worthlessness.

Rebecca recently wrote about turning fifty, and how it felt to be increasingly invisible as an aging Black woman. She’s not the first, nor the last, for those of us who count our value based on a number or color, or societal valuations will always and forever be at the mercy of those valuations. This more recent statement of hers strikes me as a declaration of independence.

I’m with her. And I am with any and all of us, male or female or otherwise, who choose above all to see our intrinsic worth, our value, as not needing societal validation based on performative standards and external guidelines established by folks with profit on their minds.

You and I can profit just fine in a life filled with laughter, joy, hard work, accomplishments that are meaningful to us and those we love. In many ways life isn’t designed to be easy. However we needn’t make it so much harder by allowing others to convince us of how inadquate and unworthy we are so that they can sell us the Next Quick Fix.

Photo by Ann Danilina on Unsplash