This morning I read an article by Emma Baddington, a columnist of the Guardian who writes that “at 48 I should be inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow and her abs but they make me want to throw things.” She goes on “It’s lovely to hear about midlife high -achievers-professionally, sexually, abdominally…but I can’t be alone in slithering unhappily down the slope from admiring optimism into aspiration and then expectation, from “You could get Gwynnie’s abs “ to “Why don’t I have Gwynnie’s abs?” 
“Haha! how funny”, I thought but then on a less funny note, what a bummer: I can relate! Can’t we all? Don’t we all know the feeling? That painful shift from admiring optimism to expectation and despairing comparison.
And it happens throughout all age categories. We can replace stellar Gwynnie by Selena Gomes, Hailey and/or Justin Bieber, Elon Musk, Jennifer Lopez, Lebron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jeff Bezos, our good-looking neighbor with the killer bum or our best friend, who’s not only extremely witty but also totally in love with her beautiful and well behaved intelligent kids and her most amazing, successful husband whom she fondly refers to as her soul mate.
We read an article or see a picture of a successful, good-looking, sparkling personality, and then we start feeling the violent vibe shift from “WOW”, as in “I could get Gwynnie’s abs” to “NAH” “I don’t have Gwynnie’s abs and I never will and I feel like a failure”.
Let’s track the emotional process behind this devastatingly gripping energy fall from high vibe to low vibe. We feel envy, one of the most dreadful emotions out there. As envy is such a nasty emotion, we obviously don’t want to feel it and we try everything to hide it from our Selves. We feel ashamed to feel envy. But not only do we feel shame for feeling envious, we also feel that nagging feeling of shame triggered by the absence of Gwynnie’s abs. The shame load is doubled in the end and very hard to bear, let alone to be ignored.
Let’s recap: there are the abs, our first reaction, the “WOW” moment, the comparison with our abs, the “NAH moment, the free fall of our energy from high to low, the shame for feeling envy which shame load is doubled for not having Gwynnie’s abs.
Self-reflection is such a magnificent tool as it is in the end the only way to establish the triggers behind the unhinging emotion. When we feel bad, the first intelligent move should be to establish the trigger for the energy drop. I deliberately use the word “intelligent” as it is in that moment of self-reflection that our life-long friend the brain enters the energy crime scene.
What is it that triggered the emotion of envy and that heavy portion of shame coming with that extra topping of shame?
I remember the day where I started loving my brain as a true friend. Before that day, I acknowledged its limited use in resolving math issues. I also considered it as a party pooper commanding my Self to tame my spending habits or even a toxic friend uncunningly switching on the fight-or-flight mode in response to imagined stress situations.
By thinking stressful, limiting thoughts as in “I feel like a failure as I do not have Gwynnie’s abs”, the brain can turn on a totally disproportionate stress response and conjure up a feeling of deep anxiety. That’s when we are being hijacked by the infamous amygdala who fires stress hormones just as if we were about to be eaten by a tiger. Unfortunately, we equally get the same unconscious adrenaline high as if we were being chased by a predator. Yep there we have it. The not so pretty reality is that we are addicted to thinking self-limiting thoughts. We can’t help it, we like it! The “feeling low arena” has become our comfort zone. We love throwing pity parties.
If we are being honest with our Selves, today it’s Gwynnie’s abs, tomorrow it’s the neighbor’s tight round bum and next week it’s the news that some nobody from a remote part of this world won the 900 million lotto jackpot. The world is unfair and I feel not good enough and I have a million chances in a day to compare my Self to the successful crowd on social media and to reinforce my low sense of self-esteem.
It’s a vicious cycle of self-destruction which never ends unless we have a serious conversation with our friend the brain. Fortunately, we are so much more than our brain and we can educate our brains to think different self-empowering thoughts. If my brain should become my friend it should think “I am good en(t)ough”. It is only when the brain has been reformatted with this one life saving thought that inspiring life stories can actually inspire us without fueling our insecurities.
If we think and feel that we already good en(t)ough we are in a place where we can actually be inspired and inspire others. If I think and feel good about my Self, I accept the real me. I accept the real Self that knows its strengths and its weaknesses. The Self that inspires others and accepts to be inspired by others. The Self that only judges it’s Self and only lets it’ s Self be judged by it’ s Self.
My energy levels have truly benefited from writing this piece. It feels liberating and empowering. I am ready for inspiration. I like Gwynnie by the way, she seems authentic. She exudes that high-achievers’ vibe that has educated her brain to think she is good en(t)ough. That what’s makes her success.
Here I sit with a grin on my face, feeling a sense of deep satisfaction bathing in a warm vibe of inner peace.
I feel ready to be inspired and inspire!
Today I will let my Self be empowered by wearing a casual armour jumper inspired by magic Gwynnie’s court look. I also think that I will probably be adding her latest GOOP exfoliating sleep milk to my bathroom shelf to emulate that “midlifer’s high -achievers-professionally, sexually, abdominally” glow.
It can’t be a coincidence that we are born the same year and are introverts and have always been “pretend extroverts” according to the Myers -Briggs assessment ’
I won’t do the jade egg thing though nor will I slither down the slope comparing my abs or my business empire… That’s where it risks getting toxic, that’s where I will tell my brain to think that I am good en(t)ough.
 HTSI September 3, 2022 https://www.ft.com/content/0b3f1a87-b167-4db6-9e2e-4c6edef24289