So much talk about “inspiration” these days. SO MUCH.
I guess it makes sense. What with blogs, Pinterest, and just internet in general shoving all of these beautiful things in our faces constantly. All at once. Beautiful things bombarding us.
I’ve been thinking about it all a lot lately. About the pressure to live a “beautiful life,” about how curation has seemingly replaced creation, and about finding identity in the things you collect, (all ideas I hope to write about soon), but I’ve really been thinking about “inspiration.” About how that term has been twisted a bit lately. About how weird it is that we collect these images of things that are meant to inspire us, but that instead, leave us feeling depressed.
Seeing beautiful, wonderful things can motivate us to create other beautiful, wonderful things. That’s the whole meaning of “inspiration.” Like the other day, when it was about 70 degrees here in Philly. The sky was this brilliant blue and the leaves were rustling softly, and I was sitting at the open window with my boy on my lap. I was inspired. It was so perfect and peaceful that something welled up inside of me in a desire to capture this moment, to share the loveliness of what I was experiencing, to create something that evoked similar overwhelming feelings of contentment. That’s inspiration. It’s wonderful.
And yet, when I talk to friends about blogs and pinboards and other means of modern inspiration, the most common thought expressed is that they “depress me.” Seeing all of these pictures of beautiful things seem to have the opposite effect. Rather than “inspiring” us to create something beautiful in response, instead of motivating us, they leave us feeling defeated. They convince us that this thing of beauty is something I can never achieve, so my life is less valuable as a result.
As I contemplate how my reading patterns and internet consumption has changed, I realize that a large part of avoiding those icky feelings involves being realistic in my compiling of inspiration. I guess sometimes I gather things that are unrealistic and are pretty to look at in a strictly, “this could never happen, but isn’t it NICE?” sort of sense (hullo, gorgeous million-dollar gown). But the majority of the stuff I glean and read and save is stuff I think I could someday aspire to in reality.
As murky as the water always is when we discuss body image, I think that’s the easiest example of what I mean. If you check out my “workout inspiration board” there are women of one specific type. Not because I think these women are wholly more attractive than the thinner or more muscular women floating all over Pinterest. But more specifically, because they are inspiration for me- and while, inspiration (meaning “I’m not there yet”), also attainable for me. Sure, those thin or muscular ladies I mentioned may be just as lovely, but saving images of them wouldn’t be inspiring in the sense of motivating me- not realistically. Because there’s a really slim (ha!) chance that I’ll be able to attain that goal. These ladies, though, are inspiring. They’re gorgeous, and motivate me by convincing me that I can be gorgeous, too.
In sort of the same way, I guess I could save images of lovely, stark white and bare kitchens. They are really nice. But the truth is, my kitchen is small and sort of cramped. (…I meeeean “cozy.”) It’s a little more realistic for me to be inspired by kitchens that are equally tiny, with piles of clutter that are organized neatly and attractively. It’s still inspiration. But it’s much more within my realm of possibility.
I guess my point is that we can argue about media portraying one standard of unrealistic beauty (and we should, because they do), but we should be careful in doing the same to ourselves. And I mean in any arena- not just with our bodies, but also our houses, our clothing, and everything else. I guess I think that there are several varieties of “beautiful,” and when we grow discontent because of beautiful things, perhaps it’s because we’re assigning one very narrow definition. Maybe being realistic with ourselves about what sort of loveliness is possible in our own lives can help us to better consume “inspiration” without negative effect.
What do you think?
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