“Perhaps the most important thing I have learned when it comes to appearance is that looking your best self is, more than anything, about what is going on inside. The more fully realised you are, the more you find your purpose, the more that will shine out of you and the better you will look.”—Anna Murphy, author of Destination Fabulous: Finding your way to the best you yet, fashion editor of The Times London
More clothes, better clothes, the right brands, superbly coiffed hair, pristine make-up, a larger house in a fancier neighborhood, a car to turn heads and the latest tech toy. Each of the items and choices listed pertain to the surface of who we present to the outside world, but we divest in the quality and contentment of our daily lives by expending energy and money solely on the surface.
There are a handful of reasons the surfaces of life grab our attention and our wallets, but primarily because while we may think we are seeking happiness and hopefully a deep contentment in perfecting our look, our waistline, our visage, our home, what we are in fact doing is avoiding what will actually bring us the deep abiding contentment that is possible. Buying something is far easier than doing the homework of going within to understand who we truly are.
We have talked about the many benefits of understanding our true selves and then honoring it (explore this post/episode), but how to do it is lesser known than say buying the latest trendy fashion items. Anna Murphy, a long-time columnist and editor of the fashion world for The Times London, wisely points out from an insider’s perspective that buying that trendy item is not going to lead you to contentment.
What will lead you to contentment is a commitment to self-discovery, and that is something that takes time. Murphy astutely points out in her forthcoming book (look for Destination Fabulous to be released on May 30th) the great value in gaining years in our life journey and instead of desiring to be young, the gift of age is where we, if we choose to shift from tending to the exterior and instead invest on our interior self, that is where we will discover the key to an enriching life that increases with each passing day, year and even decade.
“The root of all the trouble when it comes to talking and thinking about ageing is [making] the starting point our exterior, not our interior. We worry about what our faces are doing, and our bodies, and our hair.” —Anna Murphy
When companies keep our focus on our exterior, heck when society and media keeps our focus on our exterior, they keep us/[women especially] in a perpetual state of worry so that we don’t have the time or energy to explore within, to get to know ourselves, to discover our purpose, because such an endeavor as self-realisation is an investment of time and energy and cannot be rushed, but must be chosen consciously and with deep intention.
Murphy speaks from experience that she too was caught up in the web of only tending to the exterior, which only makes sense as someone who is engulfed in the global world of fashion, but as such a person in this field, she understands that there is also a reason the fashion industry continues to thrive because it evolves due to what women seek. In other words, what we demand, the fashion industry supplies.
Murphy is clear to point out that ignoring surfaces altogether is not the answer to living well either, going on to say, “Anyone who pretends that [our appearance] doesn’t [matter] is delusional.” Surfaces matter to the point that they align with our true selves and “impact the way we feel [about ourselves] and the way we show up generally in society.”
For anyone reading this post who enjoys looking their best, donning a new clothing item that they have invested in, you are in good company here at TSLL, and I am not about to say, ignore what you wear! No, no, no. The essential difference to being a fashion horse and being a conscientious shopper is knowing why you are buying the clothes you are buying. Be aggressively honest with yourself. The beautiful irony that Murphy unearths and reminds us is how we present ourselves matters, but knowing why are you presenting yourself as you are is the key to whether you will (or are) experiencing true fulfillment and enjoyment in your everyday life. Really. Be honest. Are you seeking attention (not grandiose applause, just acceptance) due to a feeling of inadequacy and needed to be accepted, OR is how you dress a reflection of a contented person who has found their purpose and how you dress aligns with what matters to you so that when you show up, it’s not about the clothes. It is about the person who will share what they have to offer, be who they uniquely are, and the clothes just get you in the door.
I share this because when you have not found or do not know your purpose, when you have been following the guidance of others, wandering onto life paths and into storylines that others approve of, but don’t sing to you, it can be a safe choice to invest in our appearance in order to gain what we cannot find within. But the wiser choice, the better investment, the one that yes, will take longer to materialize its benefits in our lives, but such benefits will be grounding so that you can begin to see our life soar, is to invest in following what interests you, exercising your curiosity and following where it leads you.
We have talked about this often on TSLL blog and podcast and in detail in my second and third books, when you carry curiosity as your constant companion throughout your entire life, you will always be learning, growing, evolving and finding that living is endlessly fascinating, so much so, that it becomes easier to let go of worrying about what you are ‘supposed’ to do.
The changes you are trying to make by tending to the exterior, by tending to the surface, are futile as they will not bring you the deep joy for living, the priceless peace of mind, the true contentment that you seek. Where we each must go instead is within – inside of each of us individually, to find what is unique to each of us, and this is something no one else can understand fully but ourselves.
“When in truth the most important changes you can make when it comes to how you look actually stem from those you make within.” —Anna Murphy
With age, Murphy reminds, but sometimes we forget, we have the opportunity to be a student of life and the world we live in. And the world we live in, if we follow blindly, if we don’t think critically, is not one that always has our best interests at heart. I am not saying the world is cruel. In fact, it is important to underline that we live in a far safer, healthier and better educated world than in any other time in history, which is why, to not understand the influences around us is a choice. A better choice, is to choose to go deeper within to understand why the choices we may have been making in hopes of attaining happiness or contentment are not reaping the benefits we thought we would find. So in essence, each journey of exploration is unique to each of us. What is working? What is fulfilling you? What is not? What promises are not being fulfilled yet we keep choosing them? Why are they are not able to be fulfilled?
To begin with, the creating of the anti-aging movement is toxic beginning with its turn of phrase – anti-age. As Murphy points out, Who doesn’t want to live longer? Who doesn’t want to age? If we don’t age, we’re dead. Why would anyone want to be anti-age? What we accept perpetuates unhelpful industries, and we have unfortunately, accepted anti-aging as something worth investing in.
“There is money to be made — a lot of money — in making us afraid to see lines on our faces and grey in our hair . . . [and] All of this is concerned with surfaces. Not what lies beneath.” — Anna Murphy
While I look forward to sharing and exploring more of Murphy’s discussion on fulfillment by shifting the perception of aging in a culture that deems it as a negative occurrence in our inevitable life journey, I want to underscore the life-changing value of shifting from focusing on the exterior to focusing on going within. There is a beautiful irony when we shift our attention, our money, and our time to self-exploration. Murphy concludes that “The greatest act of self-love is properly to come to know this ‘you’.” So for all of the ideas of how to welcome self-love and self-care into your regular approach to living well, begin and return to again and again, the choice of truly getting to know yourself and that, THAT, is what will lead you to a deeply fulfilling life. The ironic part of this entire journey is, well, let me first include Murphy’s words on this irony:
“[Keeping interested and interesting] more than anything [else] will transform the way you feel, and the way you are seen by others. And you are actively taking care of yourself, not just your spirit, but also the supposedly superficial aspects — face, body, wardrobe — that have an anything-but-superficial impact on the way you feel.”
In other words, by befriending your curiosity and following what interests you without expectation of where you will be led, what you are led to is your purpose, and when you find your purpose, you begin to treat yourself with more self-love – caring for your health, your well-being, your mind, your appearance – because you want to be able to do what you can uniquely do and do it well. In order to do that, you strengthen your self-respect, and part of self-respect is caring about how you dress, caring about how you present yourself. You are not dressing in such a way to gain approval, but to be able to engage how you wish to engage in doing what you can uniquely do and do well to contribute positively to the larger world.
“To invest time in finding out who you actually are, what really matters to you, what you really want, is to give yourself to chance to identify what you need to add to your life, and what you need to take away.”
It is along the road to self-discovery and your purpose that you gradually and then more immediately and easily become aware of what you no longer need, but had in the past thought you did – whether certain items you purchased, certain beauty regimens, certain relationships, etc. – and you also become unwavering in what nourishes you to be your best and give your best. That self-knowledge makes it easier to be clear and strong in navigating forward with choices that may not be recognizable to those who have long been in your life, but you no longer are living to please others, and that is a priceless liberation that gives you back your life, that pushes away the worry certain parts of society would wish for us to bear as our burden, but we now know better. And this wisdom comes with aging should we choose to be a student of a course we are all enrolled, both extending appreciation for all that we have learned but then most importantly, applying the knowledge we have gained.
“By truly embracing who you are, by finding a purpose and a contentment that can be elusive to pin down when you are young, you will find your way to a new visibility, a visibility that is more potent than that which you have enjoyed in earlier decades. Besides, that variety of visibility that a young woman often has can in truth be something of a burden. It is all too often transactional, an extrapolation of her sexual allure and putative availity. She is object, not subject. To be truly seen is to be truly heard; to be subject, not object.”
And when you are the subject of your life, you are the narrator, the lead, more accurately, the director of your life, not the puppet who is at the mercy of the whims of anyone else. Just as the object grammatically in a sentence is acted upon and has no control of the direction of the sentence, the subject takes the helm, says yes, says no, and directs their own ship, tells their own story. What a powerful and life changing gift we can give to ourselves, if only we will have the courage to choose to do so.
I am so grateful Anna Murphy has written this book, and I highly recommend it. I want to thank TSLL reader Rona for bringing this book to my attention months ago, and it is my hope to welcome Anna onto the podcast so we can delve further into all that she has learned and shared.
Destination Fabulous: Finding your way to the best you yet by Anna Murphy
Listen to episode #358 where I interview the author of Destination Fabulous, Anna Murphy. Already a favorite episode of listeners.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MAY ENJOY:
Why Not . . . Become Self-Actualized?, episode #25