Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Be You

Last week I listened to the new Lady Gaga song, Born This Way. I mean really listened, to the lyrics and the message. I was so moved by her words about being yourself no matter what. She says early in the song that her mother told her "There's nothing wrong with loving who you are, she said, 'Cause He made you perfect, babe." Oh, if every child in every home heard those words! Lady Gaga refers to a person's skin color and race as well as sexual orientation in her powerful song, telling us all that beliefs about our differences have no foundation. So many of us grow up hating some aspect of ourselves, spending countless years wishing we were different somehow: thinner, blonder, whiter, straighter, it's different for everyone. Does anyone really believe they are perfect the way they are? We are bombarded by messages implying we need to be better somehow, more like the people in the movies or magazines. Articles tell us how we can achieve a better body, ads proclaim we can have whiter teeth and perfect hair, there are even therapists who claim they can change a person's sexual orientation. If all this were true, wouldn't we all be happy? And wouldn't we all look and act exactly the same? Diversity is a word that is used commonly these days. It's interesting because companies want to promote a diverse work force, yet certain groups are routinely discriminated against. Women still earn less than men, people of color are less likely to be top executives and gays aren't allowed to provide benefits for their partners. If we all looked and acted alike, would we all be equal? And would we all be happy, instead of choosing some aspect of ourselves to hate? I don't think there are answers to these questions, but in an age when depression, eating disorders, bullying and suicide are commonplace, I can't help but ponder them. I read a wonderful book recently called "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth. The book is all about feeling emotions and living in the present instead of trying to change or numb ourselves with food. She makes a case over and over for acceptance of what is, be it the body, the situation, or the pain, and that will set us free. Towards the end of the book, she sums things up in a particularly profound way. "When a diabetic tells me that she can't eat what she wants because what she wants will kill her (and therefore she feels deprived), my response is that what will kill her is wanting another life than the one she had, another condition than the one that is hers." Ok, I'm going to leap here and say that Lady Gaga and author Geneen Roth are saying the same thing in very different ways. Be who you are, don't try to change it. Don't hate it or pick at it or obsess because something about you is different from your ideal. In fact, don't believe there is an ideal because people are born with differences that make us unique and special. The differences should be celebrated, not marginalized or used to create a culture of hatred and fear. So, as I've heard Lady Gaga say: Let your freak flag fly. Rejoice in every aspect of your beauty, because we're all perfect.

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