Can Glossy, CGI Magazine “People” Compare To Us?

You are something broken that needs to be fixed.

At least, that’s what you’d think if you believed the messages in ads and entertainment without question. Those fantastical images show you a world supposedly far superior to your un-enhanced life, a personal utopia you can attain by credit card.
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And well, look at you. Your wallet is unstylish. Your phone is out of date. Your car doesn’t have heated seats. Your hair is not volumized. Your eyelashes are not lifted and separated. Your britches don’t fit correctly. Your dream girl would reject any man who owned that ugly couch.

Life in a big, glossy ad is life as no one knows it. Kids don’t vomit on your suit in an ad. Hair is always windblown, even indoors. Potato chip bags are never crumpled. Nobody gets eczema. There’s no dog snot on the sleek car’s sparkling windows. The cat’s food is a mound of perfectly-placed kibble, not the weird doughnut of food your cat forms when she refuses to eat the food at the sides. Under-eye circles do the required disappearing act, even if they were earned by studying for the Stats final or staying up with a loved-one who vomited all night.

You know what’s more beautiful than any computer rendering of a human being?

The people in your neighborhood.

That’s right, the everyday, imperfect, flesh-and-blood human beings who shout with you at football games, and wait with you in traffic, and slip twenties to you in church when ends don’t meet, and paint your kids’ faces at the Halloween festival, and have water gun fights with you in the dorm… they are beautiful people.

You can strive and strive to achieve the ideals laid out in magazines, on TV, and throughout the internets, but a new car won’t hold your hand in a dying hour. The perfect lipstick won’t give you a terrific marriage. Your bed won’t be any warmer when you finally have thin thighs.

Things like that are found in true community.

True community is found by turning off the TV, putting down the magazines, letting go of our ideas of perfection, and investing in a brave life among our fellow humans in real time.

If you don’t know what to say to another human, this is a good start:
“I believe in you.”
“Your ideas are good.”
“You are smart.”
“Your work is so important.”
“You matter.”
“I love you.”
“Let me help you with that.”

You can do it. I believe in you.

Teri

Inspired by Sarah Harmeyer and the Neighbors’ Table Project, on Twitter: @NeighborsTable

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When You Love An Introvert (or Extrovert)

An observation, if you will.

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I have watched introverts date and marry extroverts for years.

Interesting how they express their love.

The introvert says, “This person is incredibly precious to me. What we have is ours, and is sacred, so I don’t feel like sharing it with the world.”

The extrovert says, “This person is incredibly precious to me. What we have is so sacred and wonderful that I feel like sharing it with the world!”

Are you in a relationship with an opposite-vert? How do you bridge the gap?

Tweets From The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

I screen-captured several Tweets about tonight’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

I’ll let them speak for themselves. These Tweets came from a mix of men (about a third) and women (about two-thirds).

For the record, I dream of a world where people stop cutting themselves down, and are truthful and kind to themselves instead. Imagine how wonderful that would be.

*Update: thanks to all who are reading Grits and Bottle Rockets because of this article at Beautyredefined.net: http://www.beautyredefined.net/victorias-secret-war-on-women/

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Here’s why I started Don’t Compare Yourself to Celebrities, a Pinterest board dedicated to mythbusting the messages in advertising.

Follow Don’t Compare Yourself to Celebrities on Pinterest.

Rip Off The “Judgment” Duct Tape, Y’all.

Women who have wise things to say should get over the fear of being called “judgmental” or too much. It’s going to happen and it won’t kill you.

I can’t think of any trait in life I want more than wisdom. While on that path, I get to do my research and have an opinion. People-pleasing is the opposite of wisdom, even though we’re told — by all sides — that good girls are politically correct, non-offensive, and well-behaved.

Those are lies.

Wisdom, truth, and integrity are not politically correct, inoffensive, or well-behaved. Read history. Truly wise people rock the boat and change things for the better because of who they are, not whose permission they get when they play nice.

And while I’m on this little rant, I have never once overhead a man saying to another man, “Why do you feel that way? That’s judgmental, bro.”

Question things. Question ideas. Question people. Take things apart, find out how they work, and put them back together. As you make your discoveries, people will call you out as “judgmental” for not accepting the status quo.

“That’s right. Shhhhh. Be a good little girl and only say inoffensive things.”

No.

Say what you need to say and stop apologizing for it.

I’ll see you in the jungle of life, awesome readers.

Indy

I Didn’t Wear Pants While Writing This Post.

Someone in your life expects you to be perfect. (Be honest. A face just popped into your mind.)

I write a lot about unrealistic expectations. Since y’all are here reading it, you’re probably familiar with the faces and words of serial disapproval.

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Everybody can name at least one person (but often, more) who expects them to be perfect, so it’s basic math, folks:  we — the receivers of impossible expectations — are also part of the problem.

Here’s the thing about Perfect: It’s a largely undefined and therefore largely unfair standard to have when dealing with earthlings.

Perfect does not equal Happy.
Perfect does not always equal Beautiful.
A “Perfect” life isn’t the same thing as a great life.

Outstanding, Mind-Blowing, Incredible, Remarkable, Thrilling, and Phenomenal? All attainable. “Perfect” is not.

For instance, I’m sitting in my postage-stamp-sized kitchen in a long tee shirt, no pants, munching on the bacon I just fried, my bacon-scented hair gloriously big and askew, typing this on a MacBook Pro with a cracked screen, and joy is here. It’s not perfect, but I’m having a pretty terrific moment here.

We want people to love and accept us and leave their ideas of “perfect” out of the equation. To accept our award-winning days and forgive the days when we spill a Sonic Route 44 in the car’s floorboards. To accept our smiles and overlook our snot.

The best way to enable that scenario is to pay it forward.

Admit it: you expect someone in your life to be perfect: your mother. Your father. Your husband. Your kids. Your boss. Your coworker. Your employee. Your client. Your waiter. Your pastor.

If you don’t believe me, imagine your closest friends and family. Now look them straight the eye and ask, “Do I expect you to be perfect?” If the idea makes you squirm, your love may have some unrealistic expectations. Those things are poison–and it’s a contagious poison. The good news is that encouragement is just as contagious.

Today, my challenge to you is this:  Find a person — just one —  who makes you squirm at the thought of asking, “Do I expect you to be perfect?”

Tell him or her that they matter. Tell him you believe in him. Tell her she has great ideas. Tell them you think they are headed somewhere that is very good.

Call out the greatness in someone else.

Things like that really do have a way of coming back around.

Indy

The Difference Between Faith and Optimism

There’s a difference between faith and optimism.

Optimism is merely hopeful.

Faith and Optimism

Faith and Optimism

 

Faith is grounded, calm, and solid.

Optimism wistfully says “Maybe.”

Faith says, “Okay, I’ll build an ark.” “Okay, I’ll lead people out of slavery.” “Okay, I won’t bow down to that thing everyone else is worshipping–even though they will kill me for my civil disobedience.” “Okay, but even if I die, I will still serve You.”

Faith survives the lies of frenemies, the teeth of lions, the fury of flames, the edge of the sword, the weaknesses of humanity, the strategies of armies, the downfall of empires, the unmitigated hatred of a mocking mouth, the scourge of beatings, the lows of failure, the highs of success, the flux of schedules, the duress of persecution, and the finality of death.

I have meditated on and weighed these two concepts, and I have read my history books.

This is my verdict:

If it’s something you can peacefully pillow your head on in your dying hour, it’s something I want. That is all.

Indy

Meditation inspired by Hebrews 11 and those who have challenged me in The Start Experiment.

Why No One But God Notices Your Writing (Concerning Self-Promotion)

It’s time we had a heart to heart talk about self-promotion.

Some consider self-promotion shameful and annoying. Others consider it necessary.

I’m in the “Necessary” camp.

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I make a living in a creative field (writer) where self-promotion isn’t an option, it’s just good business strategy.

What does zero self-promotion look like? It looks like hundreds of phone calls from bill collectors and nights of insomnia where I decide between paying rent and eating. It looks like regret and wasted talent.

Many of us — particularly those raised in church —  are taught that we only earn the right to sing the solo or speak to an audience if we do our time in anonymity sweeping the nursery floor. In some faith-based places, the road getting your art into the limelight is to deny you want anyone but God to see it. Walk right up to some pastors or employers and tell them what it is you do well, and it’s “Who do you think you are?”

Huh. The Bible I read describes knowing who you are as a very, very good thing. It compares three men who were given talents to take care of while the boss was away. One made a modest investment and got a modest return for his boss. The other took a huge risk and got a huge return for his boss. The third was afraid of what his boss would think of him, so he buried his talent in the ground to keep it safe and protected from others’ eyes. He got nothing for his boss. Zilch.

If you’ve read the story, things don’t go so well for that guy.

I don’t subscribe to this denying-I-have-talent tripe. It’s over-spiritualized lying. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Humility is not the same thing as having an inferiority complex.

Humility is not low self esteem.

Hiding my work, my story — my light in this world — is dishonest, not humble. You must uncork and serve up your work to get it noticed by the audience who needs it, shunned by those who feel they don’t need it, critiqued by those who will help it grow like iron sharpens iron, purchased by possible consumers, and promoted or ignored by major decision-makers. To deny yourself this privilege is to create a breeding ground for jealousy against those who are publicly doing what you wish you could. They’re up there because they are your collaborators, not your superiors. Take your place beside them!

And cowing under in constant deference because you think that’s humility, fellow Christians? That doesn’t win over anyone, because you are not free. To the outside world, it looks like exactly what it is: fear holding you back.

Creative types and entrepreneurs live on commission. I’m an author, editor, screenwriter, and world changer. When I write a blog post or get a cover story or win an award for a screenplay, the world will hear about it. Why? Because the last time you craved a Coke, you didn’t walk to the back of Walmart and get a warm soda out of the stock room. You got the chilled Coke out of the cooler right by the cash register.

Artists, don’t hide your light under a bushel in the name of humility just because it aggravates those who cannot find the “hide post” button.

Create. Fulfill needs with your creations. Tell people about what you created. Sell and give your creation to those who need it. Help other people create. And remember… rent’s due on the 1st.

Indy

Inspired by Matthew 25:14-30 and my fellow world-changers in The Start Experiment.

If Pinterest Existed in Bible Times

A friend just asked me on Facebook: what if Pinterest existed during Jesus’ time? What kinds of boards would we find?

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Here’s my list. What’s yours?

Quotes From My Favorite Scrolls

Passover Menu Ideas

Tent Interiors

Derpy Things That Happened On The Way To The Forum

Favorite Colosseum Shows

Room Ideas for Isaiah and Beulah

Togas and Toga Accessories

Ways to Save Shekels

Remember When? The Egypt Years

Self Improvement Scroll Reading List

Favorite Recipe Scrolls

Wines, Meads, and Other Beverages

Blinged-Out Tambourines

Fangirling On My Favorite Band: Peter and the Fishers of Men

Yummy Rabbi Hot List

Long Hairstyles for My Husband Ezekiel

Beautiful Kilns

Red Tent Politics and Activism

Jerusalem Street Fashion

Gluten Free Unleavened Bread Ideas

Articles about The Lazarus “Conspiracy”

Palestinian Patio Gardens

Ark-Itecture

Room Ideas for Isaiah and Beulah

What’s Really In Your Supermarket Lamb Stew?

Outfits for Temple

Dowry Ideas for My Dream Wedding

Advertising from Gog to Magog

Marriage Bed Designs

My favorites, of course, were written by someone else:
Beards-Manscaping the Landscaping
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What’s on your list?

Indy

Dedicated to Casey Lewis, a social media superstar who came up with this idea, and all of my fellow world-changers in The Start Experiment!

Repin this pin to support a Pin-Con Pinterest Convention

The Beautiful People, Part 2 (The Story Behind Don’t Compare Yourself to Celebrities)

(Previously, on The Beautiful People Part 1)

Kids, to fully understand why I started mythbusting magazine images, you have to go back to December 2007, when I opened my Nikon D40, Elvis, on Christmas Eve.

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^^That’s me with Elvis shortly after we were introduced. (If you didn’t notice the bag of trash hanging from my closet doorknob, your picture analyzing skills have good places to go, my friend.)

Back to Christmas 2007. I spiked a delirious fever two days before Christmas that didn’t go away until two days after.

I don’t remember much, but I do remember opening the Nikon box. I’d wanted a dSLR for ages, because I had taken pictures on my little point-and-shoot for years, but something was just wrong with them.

Owning a kick-butt camera is a good step for a novice shutterbug who wants to photograph friends and family, and I figured it would cure my mediocre-photo problem. However, much like a kick-butt guitar won’t automatically play a killer rendition of Stairway to Heaven, a kick-butt camera won’t automatically take flattering, beautiful photos. I had the dream camera in my hand when I realized something crucial: y’all,  it is hard to take even “presentable” pictures of anyone, pretty or not. (Case in point, blurry selfie up there.)

Photos by Mom, Dad, and dSLR and iPhone-bearing amateurs don’t look like magazines, catalogs, and internet fashion spread images because advertising boards deliberately plan it that way. Advertising creates this fantasy Life Beyond You, the delicious, fake dangling carrot that motivates you to frown at your current situation in disgust, and begin wanting, wishing, and most importantly, reaching for your wallet.

Retailers can’t sell much to satisfied people who feel no need for “improvements.” They make billions annually by convincing consumers — most of whom these advertising teams have never personally seen — that something about them isn’t good enough. I’ll repeat that another way: The beauty ads tell you to improve your look, but the people who designed the ads have never seen you.

Here are a few things models and actors often go through prior to a shoot:
Facials and use of expensive, cutting edge skincare
Dieting with personal chefs and custom-tailored exercise sessions with personal trainers
The services of nannies, housekeepers, and personal assistants
Laser skin resurfacing
Spray tan
Cellulite treatments
Hair extensions
Cosmetic surgery
Waxing
Hair extensions and eyelash extensions
Spanx and shapewear
Professional makeup applications using professional products, with touch-ups every few minutes between shots
Professional hair styling using professional products, with touch-ups every few minutes between shots
Professional wardrobe styling with new, tailored pieces directly from top designers — the model or actor is stitched or pinned directly into the clothing, which is why it fits so well.
Professionally staged lighting

(Photographers and editors, if I missed anything, feel free to add to the list.)

A shoot rarely consists of a model, a photographer, and a camera taking 20 shots. No way. When someone is photographed for publication, an entire team of professionals spends hours working on their appearance, then taking hundreds of photos from only flattering angles (the cheek with the pimple doesn’t face the camera) on a set designed for the optimum look. There are many, many retakes, but only 1-5 of look good enough to an editor’s Macbook Pro to be retouched and finalized for the ad or fashion spread.

And the models? They’re always fresh spring chickens. When they start to “expire” in their mid to late 20s, they are replaced with newer, younger, thinner models.

Some of Don’t Compare Yourself’s followers still speculate whether an image from a lingerie catalog or magazine has been edited, so let’s settle this here and now. Photo editing is industry standard. It is the required norm with virtually all publications. Not using it can be fire-able offense.

Let me illustrate the pervasiveness of image editing:
Imagine the beauty industry as a typical American restaurant. The ad images are food. Photoshop is salt. Unless otherwise explicitly stated on the menu, no matter what you order, you may accurately assume it’s been salted–often heavily–before it arrives at your table.

I’ve worked with private newsletters, social media sites, teen and music magazines, university alumni magazines, and publishers for many years. None of those publications ever released a single unedited photo after the year 2000. Not one.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Celebrities points out more obvious photo editing, but in many images, digital manipulation is dang near impossible to see. Image after image, we are backed into a brutal corner of expectations. The only way out is to open your wallet:
We must never age.
We must never be too thin.
We must never be too fat.
We must never be too white.
We must never be too black.
We must never let our natural curl show, but have long, heat-generated “beachy” waves.
We must never let the natural oils on our head show, and we should refer to them as “grease.”
We must not have dark armpits.
We must not be too tall or too short.
We must not try to stop the aging process, because plastic surgery looks bad.
We must not go to the beach without passing an unwritten, visual “test” that qualifies us to have fun in the water.
We must have long nail beds.
We must have a bubble butt.
We must be tall in pictures, but short when standing next to a man.
We must have no pores.
We must have no frizz.
We must have long, thick, black eyelashes.
We must not have circles under our eyes.
We must not have gray hair.
We must have eyebrows groomed to a very specific shape.
We must have a lot of hair in certain places, and zero hair in other places.
We must keep the whites of our eyes very white.
We must have straight, white teeth.
We must put our feet together and gauge our self-worth on whether or not our thighs touch. Mercy.

“Too this” and “too that” are these indefinable, ever-changing fantasy standards meant to exclude everyone, and make everyone pony up the money for a fix. Make no mistake: the beauty industry isn’t about making people feel pretty, it’s about shame and neediness. An advertiser’s job is go get you to look in the mirror, or in the garage, or into the closet or refrigerator and say, “Not good enough.” If you simply refuse to believe everything advertising claims is wrong with you, you will have more money, more peace, and more confidence in every single area of life, all of which will makes you a sexy beast of very attractive proportions. (Not that you owe beauty to anyone.)

Remember: love, sex, and attraction predated modern shampoos, cosmetics, and weight loss products, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. If you judge yourself and your life by entertainment’s computer-generated version of awesome, you will never stop feeling insecure… and that’s by design.

It’s a tag line. Don’t put it in your heart.

It’s time to reconsider who you are and what you have to offer the world. And this time, please leave the mirror out of your mission statement. (to be continued)

Indy

Repin this pin to support a Pin-Con Pinterest Convention

Dedicated to everyone in my vulnerable, daring, and fearless tribe, The Start Experiment.

Pin-Con: an Open Letter to the Brilliant Masterminds Behind Pinterest

Dear Pinterest team:

This bright little idea has burned in my mind for a while now, and it wants to go public.

You see, I wrote many things on this blog about reconciliation before Pinterest blew into my life like the warm breeze off Pensacola Bay.

I wrote to convince people we have more in common than the media would have us believe. I wrote that as humans, we have worth, no matter what the television or magazines say. I wrote that common grounds are equally as powerful as diverse backgrounds, and ultimately, we are better together than apart. I wrote about a day when people would return to each other instead of believing all of the divisive messages propagated by conflict-saturated entertainment.

I struggled to illustrate these concepts until the day I joined Pinterest. The premise of Pinterest is simple. It takes us back to the sandboxes of our childhoods: Here are things I like. You’re interested in them, too? Let’s be friends!

Two years ago I started an offshoot of the work in this blog by curating a board called Don’t Compare Yourself to Celebrities. The board challenged consumers to question how messages in advertising affect their sense of self worth.

I’m 774 pins into the board, with 5,500+ followers. I never anticipated that pinning commentary about a model’s neck lines to a Pinterest board would actually help people or change things, but as it turns out, it has. In fact, Pinterest has changed everything.

Pinterest is about ideas. Don’t Compare Yourself says “You don’t measure up to the crazy standards set by media and advertising? Here are several thousand people who felt that way too and decided to do something about it.” Some have told me the board helps them find freedom from those messages–freedom to look in the mirror without shame. That is a powerful thing to hear.

Pinterest… which has more female users than males… is heavy on problem-solving, an action our culture is reluctant to associate with the female mind. The virtual bulletin boards — or pinboards — are a means of collective reasoning and a powerful point of contact for people who want to exchange helpful information that improves their worlds.

I’ve learned many of the followers’ names, listened to their stories, and done hours of research gathering content for my pins. The pinners following my boards? Every kind of people. A few might agree with my beliefs on things like religion and politics, but many walk in circles far, far removed from my own, and I’m deeply touched and honored–I say this with tears–that the blank space of a virtual bulletin board allowed us to smile across the sandbox and let our stories collide. (I’m not the only one who uses Pinterest as a vehicle for self-help and social change, either.)

Because of Pinterest, I overhauled my resume, finally learned to take care of my natural curls, built a rain barrel to conserve water, went surfing, investigated Monsanto, and planted an organic garden in my back lawn. Imperfect little Pinterest is one of the most educational platforms I’ve seen in social networking. Peruse the boards and you will see the earth’s biggest whiteboard, full of everything from photography tips to STEM learning to adbusting to astronomy to geology to food activism to habits of favorite CEOs to funny posts from one charity that humanely monitors cancer in dogs for info that helps human cancer patients. (Apparently it’s a thing. “Comparative Oncology.”)

Some of the info isn’t accurate, but it still sends you into Research and Investigate Mode–the inverse opposite of stagnancy.

When I wake up, I think about the people for whom I’m creating content on the boards. They have lives beyond Pinterest, and I find myself sending out hope and prayers that they find the strength to believe in themselves until we all meet again.

And here’s the reason behind this post: I’m dying… just dying… to collaborate with them in person. I hope you’re listening, Pinterest, because I’m proposing something big.

Pin Con.

Let’s have a Pinterest Convention (think TEDTalks or SXSW) where pinners have a space to speak, host panels, and exchange life hacks for social change. For education. For design inspiration. For landing and creating better jobs. For improving photography and cinematography. For questioning the messages in advertising, like the followers of my board.

I’m not the world’s greatest public speaker, but thanks to Pinterest, I have a story to tell a roomful of people one day. Will One Day will happen in 2014?

Here’s a side benefit: There are very few big-ticket female motivational speakers. Pin-Con would encourage up-and-coming, influential women to take their place behind the world’s podiums via a self-made (Pinterest-made) speaking platform. That alone is worth a try.

Let’s see how the idea spreads organically. If you’re a pinner who wants Pin-Con, please repin.

If you’re really into this, write Pin-Con on poster board or paper, take a picture, and pin it along with the reason you think Pinterest should host a convention.

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What do you say, Pinterest?

See you on the boards–and in the convention hall. 🙂

Indy

P.S. Comment below with your ideas for the first Pin-Con!