Take a moment and tally the emotional influences of your day. Make note of the innate complaints we exchange with one another as part of our greetings. “Oh, I can’t stand _______.” “It’s been a rough day, can you believe _________?” “Have you heard about ___________?” I am guilty of that incessant cultural habit where we share the bad because it’s a juicier piece of gossip and ignore the good.
Now, take a moment to analyze what you read. Are you drawn to stories that elaborate on the misfortune of others? What about social media? Do you stop the endless sliding from post to post only to look at the happy stories or the ones that spread discontent? Do you see a trend of hostility, skepticism and distrust? Take a minute to notice it.
Go to your favorite news page. On this day, eight of eight total breaking news stories reference an atrocity that has happened around the world. This is not atypical. However, you may have felt the small shift in our culture of emotion at the onset of the Olympics. Some positivity began to sprinkle over the “usual”. I don’t know about you, but I felt the change. It changed me. And there’s a fairly large part of me that doesn’t want it to end. Ok…I’m done complaining about it. Now, what do we do? Let’s become masters of our own commentary. Looking to the dogs and cats might just be the help we need to shape this change. Two books really exemplify a lesson from which we all can gain. Eric Litwin’s Pete the Cat series and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein hold the secrets to becoming masters of our own commentary.
As a woman, mother and teacher, I’d like to stop the commentary of body shaming that is pervasive throughout all forms of media. She’s too skinny, he’s too fat, don’t they workout? When will it stop? How can we teach our children to be healthy and love their bodies. Let’s stop being the stereotypes ourselves. I can sit at a table with intelligent, well-established women and still hear a competition between who will be full the fastest. Varying research shows that up to 91% of all women are unhappy with their bodies in some way. And the female gender isn’t the only culprit. Men worry about being too thin and not fitting some impossible mold of masculinity. Or we chastise them publicly for not maintaining some fit persona.
It simply has to end.
There are lists upon lists of books that create positive self-images for both boys and girls. So, why are we not reading them? And if we are, why would we still spend our time tearing down others for their physical personas? In an article found on SIRC.org (Social Issues Research Center), it is noted that “Standards of beauty have in fact become harder and harder to attain, particularly for women. The current media ideal of thinness for women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population.”
Men, on the other hand, often obsess over image ideals that they can’t control, like height.
So much of our perception of one another comes from the unspoken gestures that children see daily. It is our reaction to people on television—a face made; a disgusted sound. It is that meme passed around Instagram that makes a joke out of someone else’s image.
In The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein makes the point that “So much language is unspoken. So much of language is comprised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication.” I think we can all take note of that. Maybe it is as simple as Stein’s comment that “We, too, must shatter the mirrors. We must look into ourselves and root out the distortions until that thing which we know in our hearts is perfect and true, stands before us.” Or simply listen to Pete the Cat when he says, “Being different is very cool.” And “Keep it simple, chill out.”
Once we look within ourselves, we must also acknowledge from where we are adopting our commentary. Do you honestly believe after watching the news that no good happens in the world? It is hard not to. But, if you look hard enough…it’s there. But, just as sex sells, so apparently does our need to crucify those around us. Maybe it is a need to tear others down in order to lift ourselves up. Bottom line, that should be unacceptable for all of us.
Instead of complaining more about it, become the change that you are seeking. Change the commentary. Look for the positive and spread it. Think about that next post on social media. Is it there to spread help or hurt? You make that decision.
If you look hard enough, many news organizations have a “good news” section promoting the stories that make our hearts sing. That is medicine of which we all need more. Especially our children. The Today Show, CNN, and Huffington Post are all organizations that include these sections online. Take time in your day to read those, while discovering news. Try sharing those stories instead of one more political rant. As Stein teaches us through his novel, “To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life…To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to.” And Pete would add, “It’s all good.”
Over the years, our culture has shifted into that where funny must be mean. Instead, let’s inspire with our words and be impactful through honor. “There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”
Let the dogs teach us through Stein’s writing “That which we manifest is before us; we are creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.” Choose to read and share thoughts that are are positive and intentional. We can control our own commentary. It can and will start with us. With a little help from our pet friends. Because as Pete said, “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song because it’s all good.”