Not ‘what do you want to be?’ but ‘what do you want to do?’

I know that the recommendation to visualize a better you is a commonplace of self-improvement advice. It works well when tempered with self-knowledge and realism, but how common is this? I’m wondering, is this imaginary you really helping? Or is it making you hate yourself just a little?

Many of us have the sense that we could love ourselves a little better, be a little better, if we just … Lost weight? Got fitter? We imagine this other us, sailing effortlessly past on our jogging route, or (insert your imaginary visualisation of awesomeness).

But what do we actually want to do? We might want to look like a movie-star, but do we want Gwyneth Paltrow’s diet and exercise regime? Every day? (One writer who tried: “I put the ingredients in the blender and blend them together. It tastes much like regular kale juice except has large pieces of kale still in it. This is breakfast. After breakfast I decided to do the first DVD of the Tracy Anderson method. It’s difficult, actually. Essentially you hold tiny weights in your hand and then flap your arms wildly like a person in a Victorian insane asylum having an epileptic fit. You do this for an hour. At the end, I was so tired I lay on the floor.”) How much weight training did Hugh Jackman do for Wolverine? I’m going to guess rather a lot, no matter what he might self-effacingly say.

I respect that Gwyneth’s (Angelina’s, Brad’s) chosen field of work requires huge commitment to the maintenance of a certain physical appearance. I admire Gwyneth’s startling svelteness. But do I want it? No. Because I don’t want to do it. Not one little bit. I like to do exercise, set goals, and eat healthy food, but I have a limit to how much effort I’m prepared to make to look good.

If you don’t want to do it either, you might consider not wanting to be it. Easier said than done, I know, but the alternative may be to be permanently disappointed in yourself and that shouldn’t be an option.

R. Harrington tries to be Gwyneth: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/05/i-tried-gwyneths-diet-and-got-a-rash-on-my-face.html

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