I was at the grocery store today, standing in the checkout line as you do and idly looking about. I glanced over at the magazines, and of course the new Shape magazine immediately caught my eye given the large semi-naked picture of a beautiful Sharon Stone on the cover. My mind starts meandering down its normal path, “Wow, she looks really good. How old is she now? She must be pleased about that…” etc etc.
But then I looked up and I noticed that not one — not one Â — person in the grocery store looked even remotely like Sharon Stone. I saw mothers looking very tired wrangling their small children; I saw co-workers laughing with each other and being silly; I saw couples doing their shopping while strolling very comfortably and happily next to each other; I saw one girl staring pensively off into the distance; I saw another mother clapping her hands and making her baby laugh.
Then I looked back at the magazine cover, and I realized — I suddenly grokked — that it was completely fake. No one looks like that, not even Sharon Stone looks like that. They may as well have put a picture of Lisa Simpson on the cover and told everyone that they are expected to look like this:
The picture of Sharon Stone was no more real than a picture of a cartoon character. But we take on these images and we judge ourselves and others on these fake cartoon images. We expect ourselves and others to look like those images, but it is unattainable, as unattainable as making yourself look like Lisa Simpson.
And in the process of chasing this fake idea of beauty, we miss the real beauty in both ourselves and others. I saw happiness, sadness, weariness, silliness, and love in the faces of the people all around me in the grocery store. And it was beautiful. Joyful in all the emotions and unutterably beautiful.
The cartoons on the magazine covers look just real enough to fool us, but the next time you feel your mind falling for the illusion, look up. Look at the people around you and realize that none of them resemble the image on the magazine cover. They are true. The magazine cover is not.