I find as I get older that I am becoming exceedingly impatient with what I perceive to be the cult of “obsessive self betterment”. I often surf the channels on my TV in order to get a pulse on what’s happening, but more importantly it often gives me material for my books and columns. Last week I happened upon a popular talk show where one of the guests was airing her dirty linens, as per usual. The rhetoric was familiar. Not enough love and acknowledgement had been given to her, leading her to marry and divorce several bad boys and give birth to enough children to fill a day care center. She was also overweight, was a heavy smoker and was addicted to shopping. The “expert’ concluded that once she was able to love herself unconditionally she would make better choices and therefore be able to sustain loving relationships. Now, I do agree with this to a certain degree, but let’s face it, how many of us are completely and totally enamored of ourselves? If I wait till I’m totally in love with myself before I can relate to others, I’ll be either exhausted, dead or living in a monastery. Self esteem, self-confidence, self-expression, has become the mantra of the twenty-first century. Much of it has little or no fun attached to it. It seems in order to evolve you need a hair shirt mentality.
Is it possible for us all to get rid of our dysfunctional behaviors? And if we do what will happen to Jerry Springer? Becoming a mature adult whose goals are to be more humane towards oneself and others is an admirable goal, but my grandmother had those concepts covered and she never read a self-help book. I also think she was too busy. When you’re making your own spaghetti, walking to stores, and don’t have a TV or a lot of magazines to tell you your chin hairs, floppy upper arms, and toxic parents are the cause of your misery, you essentially have no choice. Is that good? Who knows. That generation, often called the greatest generation, has researchers on longevity declaring them as being the most resilient. Many of us now live with the illusion that once we can overcome all our limitations, the sky’s the limit and we’ll be eternally happy. This mentality is sure to produce more dysfunction. Somewhere in the middle lies a wholesome reality. It’s called “moderation”.