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Extreme makeovers are all the rage these days, with botox injection parties, and reality
shows. Plastic surgery is on the rise. Many people are trying to match the extraordinary
measures actors and actresses go through to look perfect on the screen. These are
shortcuts taken to try to create happiness with a scalpel, a diet, or an implant, and they
don’t fulfill their promise. Beautiful people are not automatically happy people.
Diva-dom, god-ness, is just a way of expressing the goal of the human quest—to attain the
highest expression of the beautiful being you are is not about sex, or perfection, and you
can’t get there via technology. It’s a growth process, a transformation of self through
awareness and learning. It’s about meaning, and being real. It’s an emotional and spiritual
walk, and it requires faith fueled with liberal doses of loving kindness.
Every day, I have the delight and privilege of loving Richard, my husband, a real, human,
fallible man. We’re about the same age, he’s losing hair, I’ve gained weight. But, after
almost 20 years, we have fused our hearts and souls, if not our personalities. He clearly
loves me, though I often frustrate him, and I am grateful for his presence in my life on a
daily basis. Our sex life is lovely, thank you, even if it doesn’t match movie fantasies. We
laugh together, we share the struggles of daily life together, and the thought that he might
die before I do fills me with dread. All the buffed up male models in the world couldn’t
replace my very own, live and kicking, formerly red-haired leprechaun. It took me 37 years
to find him, and I’m not about to replace him with so-called “perfection”.
My friends and I are no more perfect. We can be cranky, we occasionally carelessly hurt
each others’ feelings, they don’t always say the right thing. But, we are here for each other
when we’re really needed, we do our best to be caring and kind, and we forgive each others’
Perfection, particularly media perfection, is highly overrated. Clients come to my
psychotherapy office every day in considerable emotional pain because their lives aren’t
“perfect” enough. They feel inadequate, dissatisfied, hopeless and frustrated because they
can’t attain life as they see it on the big screen. I have to break the news that those people
up there have problems in their real lives, too, and refocus my clients on accomplishing
normal things that work for them..
All the face creams, cardio workouts, healthy diets, Prozac and meditation tapes in the
world aren’t going to make their lives, their bodies, or their mental state much better. Life is
not about remaining young and photogenic. It’s about growing your soul.
The only way I know to develop my soul is through feelings. Awe at natural phenomena (the
star-lit heavens, a centuries-old redwood, the gorgeous flowers of the Mandevilla vine at my
gate) stretches it, making me yearn and aspire. Human relationships bruise, batter and
comfort it, teaching me resilience and humility. Love urges my soul to blossom and glow,
compassion causes it to blur at the edges, and so I learn to accept others as they are.
The humans in my life are not the narcissistic, self-absorbed “beautiful people” of the
screen. We’re ordinary, real, imperfect people, like you—the ones who really keep this
country and the world going. Together, we work hard at life, trying to be our best selves,
taking care of our families and each other, and striving to bring our personal ethics and
aspirations alive in the world. We come from numerous backgrounds and religions, we don’t
always approve of each other’s decisions, but we care for each other the best we can. We
struggle to be less self-indulgent, more compassionate and understanding. We try to resist
the fads, the manipulations of advertising, the con artists who prey on our weaknesses. We
survive through government administrations we don’t agree with, through natural and
unnatural disasters that take our loved ones and possessions, through fads and fancies that
are often unhealthy. From each event, we learn, we stretch, we recover, we process the
emotional aftermath, and we move on. These life events are the soul’s workout, and though
we may groan and complain, we can feel the growth eventually.
Today, an elder of my church, a man in his late 70s, pretty physically battered and a bit
stooped over, proved to be one of the most forward-thinking of the whole congregation. Life
has beaten him up a bit, but it has not passed him by. His spirit glows radiantly. Have you
ever seen an elderly person like that? One whose wisdom shows in his or her eyes, and
whose love is not flamboyant, just there in a gentle query about your health, or a brief
touch that calms and reassures. The spirit that shines from within them is true beauty, and
it can’t be bought in a jar.
The miracle is, that each of us has the total capacity to achieve this perspective, this fullest
embodiment of the highest expression of soul, even as our bodies wear out and crumble.
Here’s a visualization to help you access the god or goddess within, your inner wise person:
Picture a person of seventy or more—just the kind of elder you admire, the one you would
like to become. Financially secure, in good health, surrounded by people who care, good
friends and family... active with lots of interests... Introduce yourself to this elder, and
notice your names are the same.... this is you, later in life... Make an agreement with this
ideal older self that you will get advice about what decisions you need to make as life goes
on, to live to a healthy and happy state of being . Continue your conversation as long as
you wish, and ask what your elder’s secret is for living to such a lovely old age.
Once this contact is established, you can check out your decisions regularly by using this
wise mentor within. For example, how does this inner counselor react to your life choices?
At that advanced age, will you look back on what you’ve done and think it was worth it?
Does your wise self approve? Does he or she think your choice will last? What is the
difference between what’s important to you, and what this inner counselor regards as
All the experiences of your life, especially the difficult ones, have taught you valuable
skills—using what you’ve learned in life to help yourself and others can create meaning out
of pain. Buddhist teachers note that poisonous plants and venoms become healing
medicines with careful processing. Every trial that you face has something to teach you and
can become a source of wisdom—this inner counselor will help you access what you know.
It is a very effective tool to help you look at your own life and your decisions from a
different and valuable perspective. The decisions you make today affect the rest of your life,
and you are ultimately the only person to whom you are accountable and for whom you are
responsible. Every new decision is truly a new life’s resolution.
© 2004 Tina B. Tessina, from The 10 Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make Before 40.
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in
counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up
and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the
Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to
Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email
Dr. Tessina, is CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for LoveForever.com, a website designed to strengthen relationships
and guide couples through the various stages of their relationship with personalized tips, courses, and online
couples counseling. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, and such TV
shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC News.