Focus On Your Whole Self

We humans sure spend a lot of time on our exteriors.

I ain’t talking about our houses.

Our bodies. Faces. Hair. Anything visible for another human eye — or the ones looking back at us from a mirror.

Maybe some of it’s just plain vanity. The rest of it could be we’re just trying to look our best, whatever our best might be. Whatever the reason for all the effort, we spend a lot of time and money trying to look a certain way.

Check it out: In 2018, the cosmetics industry was worth $532 billion. BILLION. That’s a lotta war paint.

The hair industry reported a net worth of nearly $70 billion in 2018. BILLION. That’s a lotta hair coloring and shampoo.

Anything we can’t cover or rinse out, we’ll find other ways to change. For example, we can get obsessed with our bodies, and the way they’re shaped — or not shaped. If we’re round, we want to knock off some of the curvy parts. If we’re skinny, we’ll try to add some curvy parts. The fitness industry now has grown into an $83 billion dollar enterprise. BILLION. That’s a lotta treadmill time.

If running eleventy billion miles and lifting a few tons of weight doesn’t give us the body we want, we now can just buy spare parts. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Americans annually spend more than $16 billion on various enhancements. BILLION. That’s a lotta plastic.

Man, the stuff we go through just to make ourselves presentable — to somebody.

Once we’ve done our best with the body, we then spend more money covering it with clothing. Gotta find the right fit, whether we’re trying to hide what the treadmill didn’t knock off or trying to show off what the weights did for us.

Wanna take a wild guess at how much people spend on clothing? You’re not gonna believe this.

A whopping $2.4 trillion. TRILLION. That’s way more than a billion, and a billion is already a chunk.

Lest anyone thinks I’m targeting only the ladies, I’m not. Guys are just the same when it comes to either vanity or insecurities. Men account for nearly half the overall revenue generated from clothing sales. Males also spend money on their hair and fitness. There are even statistics indicating a rising market in the cosmetics industry just for guys. As an old dude, I haven’t quite caught onto this one. About the only thing I put on my face is soap — the bar kind, applied with a washrag. My wife has those loofah thingys, but I don’t trust anything that can hide that many bubbles. The only makeup I’ve ever worn was a camo stick. I don’t think any cosmetic ever invented can help my mug. Besides, I earned all those wrinkles.

All that money and time focused on our exteriors.

But what about our interiors?

If I remember my human anatomy courses right, there’s some pretty important stuff hiding beneath our skin. Organs, veins, arteries, etc. I hear those are somewhat vital to remaining upright in our lives.

But nobody buys an exfoliant for his or her intestines.

Maybe we pay less attention to our insides because we can’t see ’em. (Thank God. I’d hate to look in a mirror and find my colon staring back at me.) And maybe we’re not fully aware of how what we put inside affects the outside. I got a hint of this as a teenager. Like many of my peers, I dealt with acne outbreaks. Someone told me all those Mountain Dews I was chugging down my insides were helping push those zits to my outside.

I thought they were full of something other than a soft drink.

Once I backed off the drinks, my face started clearing up. How weird is that?

As an adult, I’m still getting those same warnings. I’m supposed to watch what I put inside my old carcass. I’m not worried about zits, but now I’ve gotta worry about other issues. Think about it: How old were you when you first started hearing about “cholesterol?” Who knew there were good fats and bad fats? Fats is fats, amirite?

Our poor hearts. With the way I’ve eaten in the past, I may as well have been chowing down on buckets of glue. My arteries were on their way to looking like a Houston traffic jam.

Our personal diets also have a way of determining our energy levels. Man, that really ticks me off. Eat enough of the wrong kind of stuff, and it’s enough to leave us sluggish. It’s like the time I got a tank of bad gasoline in my new truck. The truck looked shiny and awesome on the outside, but with the wrong gas in the tank, it wasn’t going anywhere.

Even more aggravating is the eventual understanding that the stuff we cram inside can still find its way outside. Let me pig out on pizza and burgers for a couple of weeks, and I’ll start looking as if I’m wearing them jammed inside my jeans. Those double-meat cheeseburgers will hang right over my belt as if I hung ’em there instead of eating ’em.

It stinks. We’re sending stuff down our gullets in hopes we’ll never have to see it again, but sure enough, it all finds a way to make an eventual appearance.

But of all the things absorbed through our bodies, some of the worst don’t enter through our pie-holes. No, there are the things we see, hear and read. News, or even daily interactions, can affect our own health — both mentally and physically. Drama and conflict take their toll no matter where we find ’em. The American Psychological Association reports “anxiety, fatigue and sleep loss” as some of the effects people experience from just reading or watching the news. I have friends who have abandoned social media altogether simply because they can’t find anything positive there. Seems everybody’s mad at something or someone. It’s hard to feel happy when seemingly no one else is.

I’m guilty of allowing what I read, see or hear determine my own mood. I’m an avid news reader; I start nearly every day with a cup of coffee and my news feeds. I want to stay informed, but I’m doing so knowing whatever I find is pretty much going to get my day off on the wrong foot. I’m giving my brain indigestion within the first few bites.

I managed to prove this theory to myself this past summer. My wife and I visited our grandkids. On my first morning with them, I didn’t get to scroll the news with my coffee. My granddaughter wanted to watch funny animal videos with me on my phone. She sat in my lap, and we watched ducks, monkeys, kittens and whatever else she wanted to see. I laughed harder at her giggles and reactions than I did when the duck chased the monkey up the tree.

The rest of my day? I was in a great mood, all day long. I left my phone inside and played with the kids. I think I can handle being blissfully ignorant of the world’s doings for a few short spells at a time. If the end truly is nigh, I’ll let it be a surprise. I like surprises.

We all want to be the best “us,” but to get there, we have to consider the whole “us.” Decorating our exteriors while neglecting our interiors does nothing but camouflage who we are — and who we want to be. What good does it do to look good if we’re wrecking our insides and scrambling our minds with garbage? I’ve known many an attractive person whose attitude and behavior made him or her downright ugly.

Improving ourselves should be a lifelong pursuit.

We just have to remember: There’s more to our whole selves than what we can see in the mirror.