PART IV: MAGIC PANTS
Do you ever feel like your life could be better? Do you harbor a tiny bit of discontentment, even in moments when life is really good, because you feel like there's probably something that could make it even better? Have you ever wondered why you always feel like you're chasing your happiness, and it always feels just beyond your reach? Like, every time you think you've reached it, you're only happy for a second, before that discontentment sets in, marring your enjoyment of it? It's no wonder. You've been conditioned to not be happy with yourself, your life, your behavior, by the messages that flood our lives day in and day out.
We are told, every day, that what we have is not enough. Through movies, through television, through billboards and bus stops and magazines at the checkout line, we are bombarded with the message that the life we are living is not the life we should be content with living, that we deserve more, better, happier lives. We are then presented with solutions offered by companies promising to give us these more, better, happier lives - in the form of eye creams, online degrees, shiny new cars, and mail-order meal plans. What’s wrong with all this? The biggest thing: implied in the message of you deserve better is the message, because what you have right now is not good enough. Every time you see a commercial or an ad in a magazine, the underlying message is you are not good enough as you are, so buy this to make yourself better. It’s like a worm in a shiny apple, and it’s a recipe for insecurity that can only be cured with consumerism. You buy and buy, and you never reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, because the recording in your head, the story that you have been telling yourself is, I need this to do better, to live better, to be better and the underlying belief that this story reinforces is I am not good enough as I am.
What breaks my heart about this situation is our own denial of our goodness, our enough-ness, at the hands of people and companies that are just trying to sell toothpaste. They're not trying to cultivate a population of people who hate their teeth. They just want to give you a reason to buy their toothpaste instead of a competitor's, so their third quarter looks good to a bunch of shareholders. And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with self-improvement - with wanting to be smarter, thinner, richer or happier. There is room in all of our lives for more happiness. However, what you must do, if you want to achieve a state of sustainable happiness, is recognize and truly believe that if you are always doing your best, there is no reason to be dissatisfied with yourself. If every time you come to the table, you are doing the best you can, with what you have, with where you are, then give yourself a pat on the back, because that is enough. YOU ARE ENOUGH.
There’s a joke tell myself sometimes, working in retail. Women will come in and try on every running capri in our store, searching in vain for a pair that will make their legs look lean and their butt look smaller. They will ask all the sales girls to review their choices, and check the tags to see what each pair is made from - spandex, lycra, cotton, polyester. This will go on and on, and I inevitably want to say to them, “Look, we don’t sell Magic Pants, okay? We don’t have any pants that are going to magic away a belly that’s grown three children, or give you the butt of a Pilates instructor. We Do Not Sell Magic Pants.” Women come into our store looking for something that will make them love their bodies. If you hate your body, it doesn't matter what pants you're wearing. Pants are not Magic. They will not make you love your body.
If you want to look good in pants, here is the only magic you need: pay yourself a little compliment, recognize that you are doing the best that you can, and give yourself permission to wear something that fits you NOW. THEN, you look in the mirror, and you say, “This is the best my butt is going to look today, and that's okay.” If you're still unhappy, and you really want your butt to look smaller or tighter in a pair of pants, you will just have to eat healthier and get some exercise. There's only so much that a positive affirmation can do.
And, a Sidebar: we also get women looking for Magic Pants that they will “someday” look good in. Don’t, don’t, don’t do this. This is just another way of making it okay to hate your present self, while you wait for some skinnier/prettier/younger self (younger? really? what are they, Time Machine Pants now?) to magically appear in the mirror. Don’t expect a pair of pants to magnetically draw you into a “better you” - instead, be the best you that you can be today, and let that be enough. Tomorrow, be the best you that you can be then. That person might be stronger, or thinner, or fatter, or weaker, but if she is the best you can do in that moment, then be proud of yourself and acknowledge your awesomeness. Trust me when I say that if you are trying to fit into smaller pants, constantly subjecting yourself to trying on too-small pants is much more demoralizing that constantly tightening your belt around your old pants. Be proud of where you've been, and look forward to where you're going. Don't beat yourself up for not being there yet, or not being there sooner. As Bryon Katie says, LOVE WHAT IS. If it's your best, it's enough.
In closing, I would just say that instead of looking for Magic Pants, make an effort to love what you are, where you are. Even if you are on a path to improvement, don’t wait until tomorrow to be proud of yourself, to forgive yourself, to love yourself. When you find yourself saving your compliments for a “future you” that is somehow “better” than who you are now, STOP. Give yourself permission to be content with where you are right now, and forgive yourself if you’re not where you wanted to be yet. Have goals and dreams, of course! Feel free to imagine a future life that is filled with more joy and happiness and contentment, but MAKE A PLAN to achieve those goals and dreams and take steps every day to get there. Always be doing your best, and your best will keep getting better, moving you towards that better you that you want to be. That way, you can't deny your present self the celebration and appreciation it deserves now, for being on the journey. Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to wait until you’re thin or rich or married to be happy; you just have to give yourself permission to be happy with who you are now, with where you are now.