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Friday, October 1, 2010

How Much Do You Care ... What Others Think?


That's a loaded question because most of us don't care to admit that our actions and beliefs and thought patterns are frequently swayed by what others think. Fashion is a great example. Many of my friends (and myself included too at times ... don't conclude that I think that I'm so perfect!) who of course - like myself - are no longer in the spring chicken stage of their lives, will make remarks about elements of current fashion on young girls. I would never have worn something like that, they will say. In my time we were more decent. I look them sternly in the eye and go: so did you change from pointed high heels to round-toed chunky heeled shoes in the early 70's? Or did you go from the knee-high dresses to minis to midis all through the 70's and 80's? What about shoulder pads? They glare at me and tell me that that was very different. After all, they say, I didn't bare my mid-riff, or show off the top of my "behind" in my jeans. And I continue in my lecture mode: what about those strappy FM stiletto heels that came back in the late 70's? Did you ever buy any of those???

The point here is not the morality or esthetics of the article of clothing, as much as the fact that we almost all go along with fashion trends. How many women were there - when I was a kid - who were grandmothers and who did not have white or grey hair? Very few, unless they were genetically lucky. Practically none of them dyed their hair, or if they did, and this was more common in the US than here in Europe, you had "blue-silvery" hair. Now, very few whose hair has gone grey or white at the roots will allow those roots to be seen. Why? Because of what others will think, or because of how we will be perceived by others, which amounts to the same thing.

When three-button jackets for men came out, when ties become more narrow, or wider again, when shirt collars change, what percentage of males does not go along with the trend? When overcoats travel above the knee, or when designers decide to make them sink below it again, how many resist the pull of what is being worn out there by most?

Botox, plastic surgery, hair styles, car models, type and color scheme of furnishings in a home, for crying out loud! And I haven't even started on politically correct opinions or ways of voicing things.

Again, my point is that we are so swayed by our environment, whether it's the very close one, such as family and friends, slightly more distanced one, such as work colleagues and neighbours, or simply mass media and above all, mass advertising. Why are there so many individuals - including more and more males - with eating disorders, or at least with poor body image and subsequent psychological stress due to finding their bodies "wrong" in some way, because of an impossible ideal shown to us day after day out there on TV and in movies and magazines? It's very clear ... we are swayed and we need to become more conscious of it.

Look at how easily we are convinced to eat or drink (or decades ago - to smoke) this or that, just because we are swayed by the advertising. How many times have we now heard how much was already known back then - about smoking, for example - with regards to how noxious it is for our health, and since then, we've heard similar horror stories about additives in food, sweeteners, MSG, corn starch, etc. And yet we continue to be swayed.

In my early 30's I very deliberately stopped buying fashion magazines because I saw the effect they had on me. I won't watch commercials if I happen to be on a television station that still is allowed to have them in the middle of a presentation. No matter how much I like a product, if I remember to read the ingredients on it, and if they are not healthy, or if there are several of them that make no sense or are only numbers or chemical words, I won't buy the product. And so on. But this has to be a conscious choice.

And only you can make it...


Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Gabriella ... this is so true. I care way too much about what others think. I have always envied my father who has never given a damn about other people's opinions. It's a great gift to have this confidence, and the world would be a better place if more of us had it. I think it's a matter of education. My grandfather taught his children to think for themselves. When one of the children would come home asking whether they could do this or that, he would ask "Why?" If the answer was "Because everybody does" (at school, for example), he would say "No", no matter whether what they asked for was good or bad. It was an excellent principle. You had to have a good reason to do something, and the mere fact that others did it wasn't good enough. There is nothing as contemptible and dangerous as the herd instinct that makes people follow ridiculous fashions, or buy stocks and property in a mad frenzy ... or scream "Sieg Heil" in their millions.

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