I was recently watching “Casablanca” with my mother and at one point, she paused the movie, looked at me all serious and said: “You know, you kind of look like Ingrid Bergman. That is if you make your nose thinner, elevate your cheekbones and get a chin tuck. I know you will do it one day. I actually think you should”. Now, I am used to this kind of discourse, for in my household perfection is not something you just aspire to, perfect is something you ought to be. Lucky for me, I have enough of a back bone to tell my mother, as politely as I can, to mind her own business and continue to engage into her own objectification, but keep me out of it. However, what happens to those young women and men who are not in a position to do that? What happens to those who perceive themselves only through the eyes of the others, or what they think that perception is; and completely forget about introspection? They become victims. They become anorexic, bulimic, depressed, addicted to diet pills, alcoholics, socially alienated, angry, promiscuous, you take your pick. And the funny thing is that the so-called support system, is not all that supportive; for it approaches the process of recovery completely wrong. I can say that from personal experience; and while that gives me a great amount of bias, it also gives me a great amout of insight into how the mind of a damaged person.
I am a former anorexic, a recovering bulimic and there is an entire array of diseases that have been bothering me at a point or another, diseases that I can’t even spell correctly without a dictionary. The big question is, how does a smart person like myself, and I am not being unreasonable when I state that, gets lured in into something that should be perceived as an extreme, intuitively speaking? My take on that is that we are brought up in a society that suffers from cognitive dissonance. We are bombarded by messages that encourge us to be individuals, yet the slightest hint of deviation towards genuine individuality is immediately branded in derogatory terms. This is why young men and women, the latter category especially, are encouraged to look a certain way, to act a certain way all while believeing that their aesthetics and action are a unique set that is no replicated anywhere.
Some say that this is the result of technological development and the accessibility of opportunities, coupled with a complete lack for the need to fight for survival. I say this is the consequence of decaying morals. This obsessions with appearence, be is physical or social, is a symptom of excess and boredom. Empires like Rome, India and the Byzantine have crumbled because of that; choking on food, wine and body fluids. Like all other physical processes, life tends to be cyclical and history seems to be repeating itself. We may have evolved as a society, but individually we are crumbling; and in this respect Gestalt was right, but what a pity that he was! The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, however is the parts are faulty then there is no whole and the entire structure will eventually self-implode. I say that awareness of this state of affairs is the first step toward the cure and hopefully, one day such barbaric notions as plastic surgery, diets and tailoring ideas for the sake of conformity will no longer be part of our vocabulary; and we will be able to create a whole out of all the beautifully unique and individual parts.