5.45am, it was jump day. What was once a distant pipe dream, a deep rooted ambition I’d held in my heart for quite some time was about to be completely reconstructed into a striking reality. I was elated with avidity, vivacious with the skepticism of what and how the day would uncoil before my eyes.
It was a strong ambition of mine (and definitely one I intend to continue pursuing despite having accomplished the paramount adventure) to work alongside a charity close to my heart, helping to break down the stigma attached to Eating Disorders. There are so many fraudulent misconceptions of these mental illnesses amalgamated with societal expectations and permeated by social media which are inevitably ostracising people’s self worth. Living in accordance to an aesthetic construct of ‘beauty’ fabricated and fuelled by stereotypical images and paradigmatic distortions. This idea of ‘perfection’, it’s ever changing. You see, there is no universal definition of ‘perfection’ which exists at any one time, in any one place. It is merely a social construction, a rather fickle idea at that, dictated to us by the media as a fragment of ‘beauty’. But this just leads us down another barricaded avenue, a boulevard with nowhere to turn. Commute back in time to the 1920s for example, the era when being flat chested caried the label of ‘beauty’, yet scour the realms of societies classifications of ‘beauty’ to a time even further back in history to the 15th century when the ancient Maasai tribes of Kenya and the Huaorani tribes of the Amazon granted beauty to stretched ear lobes and an inaugmented epidermis. This desultory concept has inevitably invented a society which constantly strives for more. The notion of living in the present is slowly but surely being swallowed up by an evolutionary transition into a 2D world. False information protruding from behind mechanical screens, mystifying reality and revealing only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ coverage of the extraordinary concept of human existence. A concept worthy of much greater credit and joyous emotion, heartfelt compassion and magnificent prosperity than people now consider themselves worthy of. In a society rapidly expanding with technological advances, people’s ability to acknowledge their self worth has been thrown into turmoil. With the constant pressure to conform to the expectations upheld by society, the constant need to seek acceptance and validity from the screens clasped so tightly between their phalanges, comes the urge to ‘look’ a certain way. An ingrained societal picture has been imbedded into the minds of many, scarring their precious individuality and eccentricity. Since when was there a ‘right’ way to look? A’right’ way to Exist? When did appearance and physical beauty take the stance of mattering most? Perfection is unattainable and striving for something which doesn’t exist will inevitably lead to disappointment and feelings of inadequacy. We are lost in a whirlwind where societal dreams beckon us to buy more things and change our appearance to fill a rising emptiness inside
ourselves and compensate for everything society expects us to be which we are not, we are glancing down a kaleidoscope hoisted to our eyes, giving a transfixed stare of symmetrical reflections and marvelled patterns all of which become fragmented to form a rainbow assemblage perceived as ‘beauty’. Perfection becomes our jail, we become trapped in the viscous cycle of trying to change who we are, and all for what? To please others rather than ourselves, to create a life based on what others think we are supposed to do rather than listening to our own hearts desire. This is wrong on so many levels. For ‘beauty‘ is not chiseled abs, long thin legs, wide hips nor a petite narrow frame and living is definitely not spending hours calculating the nutritional value of everything that passes your lips, feeling immense guilt for eating a few hundred extra calories, sacrificing going out with your friends for the fear of that little extra oil on your veggies or that delicious slice of cheesecake with strawberry ice cream and chocolate sprinkles. Living is not wasting valuable time figuring out how you can burn off the food you ate, the remorse of skipping a days workout because you feel tired. Living is not waking up each day hating your body and avoiding certain foods for the fear they will make you ‘fat‘. All because FAT is not beautiful to society, because FAT defeats the object of ‘perfection’. This is NOT healthy, this is not ‘beauty‘ or ‘perfection‘ and is a very dangerous mindset to be in. What needs to be realised is that you are more than just a body, more than just a face and more than just a frame. It is your unique differences which make you special. You are a precious individual worth so much more than societies definition of ‘beauty’. Self rejection is not a way to reward yourself for the irreplaceable beauty your soul withholds and arises from failing to measure up to the dehumanising ideal of ‘perfection’. Our image of perfection is the reason why we struggle to show ourselves selflove, since we constantly feel the need to be accepted and loved by others, yet we cannot accept and love ourselves. We are barricaded into the descending spirals of self-abuse in the hope that when we attain what it takes to possess ‘beauty’ then we will finally be accepted by society. ‘Beauty’ needs to be redefined. ‘Beauty‘ is memories, experiences, wisdom and endeavours. Nature, seascapes, culture and enlightenment. Beauty is not defined by the number on the scales, the size of your thighs or the length of your torso. Beauty is not found on the front cover of a magazine, but unearthed from within. Beauty is empathy. Working hard towards fulfilling your dreams. The sparkle in your eyes and the ache in your checks when you genuinely smile. Believing in yourself and not shying away from your future for the fear that you are/will not be enough. Life is not about seeking perfection but chasing intention. The intention of growing, learning and thriving. Taking care of your body, appreciating yourself and accepting yourself for who you are. For every second you spend criticising yourself and doubting your self worth is a second of your life wasted, a second that you will not get back. There is nothing loving about not taking care of yourself, it is not selfless or enlightening to punish your body for not equating to the description of ‘perfection’. However, doing what you love, what makes your soul feel ALIVE, be it yoga, meditation, drinking lemon water, exploring the ocean, writing a novel, embracing all parts of yourself – THAT is love. Learning to accept and love yourself for all that you are, because you are your OWN definition of beauty. You are resilient; stronger than anyone or anything that makes you seem weak; including your own mind. You are enough. You are light. You are an exquisite master piece in itself. The atoms of your body are traceable to the stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across the galaxy. You are the conscious universe in action, shout it from the rooftops at the top of your lungs, let the world know you are now ready to accept yourself, be feral and break free from the constraints of societies expectations, embark on your own quest of discovering the inner beauty that is waiting for you deep within your soul.
Consider a tree for a moment. As beautiful as trees are to look at, we don’t see what goes on underground – as they grow roots. Trees must develop deep roots in order to grow strong and produce their beauty. But we don’t see the roots. We just see and enjoy the beauty. In much the same way, what goes on inside of us is like the roots of a tree.
Feel your body leap at every opportunity to create your own perception of beauty, acknowledge the magnificence of the present moment; the NOW. Feel the vibrations of your consciousness as they swirl throughout your captivating mind teleporting you to a land of infinite timelessness. Be open to growth and explore the depths of your creativity. Pursue its meanders, roam its coasts and gallivant it’s rising tides. Understand that everything you need is already inside you. The whole world is within you; surging your veins and piercing your pores. You are on the inconceivable journey of life, you have your own world which nobody knows about. Find what it is you are so desperately longing for, understand that to find peace you must first create peace within yourself, and to truly enjoy life you must first enjoy yourself. Once you master this arduous voyage you will then be protected from everything that makes you feel like you cannot go on. With this precious gift of recognising yourself, even when you are alone, you will never be lonely.
A lesson which has been reinforced to me time and time again, is that ‘health’ is not just about what foods you consume or how often you exercise, it is also about what you are thinking and saying, and, whilst your body thrives off nourishing, wholesome foods it is perfectly ok to eat unhealthily some of the time. It is ok not to follow trends, it’s ok to feel lost and confused, but it’s not ok to punish yourself for everything that you are. We are in a constant process of growing and changing and not just physically; Your brain, thoughts and cognitions are just as vital to your health as a regulated body temperature and the production of white blood cells. It is your major organ depicting your every move; it is worthy of positive thoughts and kindness. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship you will ever endure. It sets the standard for your future bonds with others and is reflected in how you treat yourself. We talk to ourselves more than anyone else, most of our thoughts don’t leave the premises of our mouths. If you were to ask yourself “when was the last time you got to know yourself?” How would you respond? How much do you truly value all that you are? How often do you wake each morning and think what a precious privilege it is that you are alive, that you have lungs allowing you to breathe, legs allowing you to climb mountains and heart that beats for you, protects you and fights for you? How often do you recognise these possibilities as ‘beauty’?
It wasn’t until I was teetering on the edge of that aircraft, 14,000ft above the earth that these important affirmations demanded my immediate attention. How, somehow, although I’m not truly sure how, or even when for that matter, I lost myself amid the pressure to be someone else. To be accepted by university, the exigency to acquire good grades and adversity to exceed not just societies expectations and standards of perfection, but also my own. Everything that everyone has been telling me for the past several months; parents, friends, therapists, doctors and teachers, suddenly became clear. Soaring high above the clouds, the wind tempestuously closing in around my cheeks irritating each strand of hair fallen loose at the side of my face. That moment when I knew my life was in the hands of my instructor clipped to my back by four clamped buckles when my control was snatched away from me the second he tightened the clasps; we were flying out of this plane whether I liked it or not. As soon as I extended my legs outside the aircraft door they were taken by the wind and hurled to the left. For a second I thought the wind was going to pull us out of the plane regardless of whether my instructor was ready. In a way this made it all the more exciting, as I became absorbed by the thrill and sudden rush of adrenaline cursing through my blood. I could quite literally feel my heart pounding forcefully against my sternum, the sensations were insane. I found it hard to come to terms with what I was about to do, but more than anything else I was excited to fly – no strings attached, literally. Before I knew it I was hurdled out of the door and was set to roam the atmosphere, our speed picked up immensely and within 10 seconds of free falling we had reached terminal velocity, and that’s when I realised. We were falling. The ground was rushing towards us at 120mph, the earth was a microscopic bauble painted with fields of emerald crops interweaved and laced with finespun highways. It was like looking at a giant mortal; the roads it’s arteries connecting it’s vital organs and institutional systems, it’s buildings and industries a source of protection and its people themselves, the heart; the most treasurable organ. The insane plunging sensation rooted in the pit of my stomach, struggling to breathe with the thrill of having just dived head first towards the ground, but subsiding these sensations I was struck with the unbounded consciousness of being FREE. Every single worry, doubt, constraint and apprehension which had been occupying the territory of my mind was set free. It was liberating. Seeing the world so small, completely alone (albeit the instructor) whilst soaring like a bird in the vast empyrean, no forces holding me back, it reiterated the importance of truly finding happiness, not just tangibly but within yourself. The necessities we perceive to be as essentials, and hurdles we deem as impossible are all belittled once you are confronted with the infinite, timelessness of the beautiful universe. Some would fear they were falling to their death; “oh but what if the parachute doesn’t deploy?”, but these cognitions bypassed my brain like nothing else. I could not stop smiling from the second I was perching on the ledge of the plane, I was in awe at the notion that I was not in fact ‘falling to my death’, but ‘falling to my happiness’. I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people. I thought ‘this is what it is to be happy’. Once more the power of your mind and importance of your mental health was propelled into retrospect. What you give power to, has power over you, and as Dalai Lama quite rightly expresses, “There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple, the philosophy is kindness.” Turn away from society and look within yourself for your own version of perfection. You precious individual with a lifetime of potential. Live freely, recognise your own self worth, and there will come a time when the chemicals that rush through your veins will send expressions to your brain which will work so hard to sift through all the millions of words, attempting to find at least one, maybe even a phrase, to send to your neutrons to then translate that feeling to a word to express the passion, gratitude and love that you feel so strongly.
For the first time in ever so long I felt free, I felt alive, I felt full, I felt weightless, I felt at peace, and the only words I managed to fathom into a whisper was “Thankyou Universe.”
You are capable of achieving anything you put your mind to, find your own happiness and create your own life based on intrinsic contentment.
Dream big and live freely, Grace x