Excellence, Beauty and Reality: What Gives?

by Belinda Munoz on February 28, 2011

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The western culture reveres excellence. Starting at a very young age, we learn to harbor indifference, or worse, disdain, for mediocrity as we seek and strive for the best, the most beautiful and the brightest. Anything less elicits dissatisfaction, anxiety or even unhappiness in a culture wired for achievement, performance, productivity and victory.

Awards/Rewards
We reward excellence with accolades and admiration. In the arts and entertainment world, Hollywood produces quality storytelling made for throngs of fans, critics and self-proclaimed wannabes. We rush to theaters, stadiums and arenas year-round to witness, learn from and be in awe of incredible talent so powerful it makes us double over with laughter, nostalgic for bygone eras or teary over love lost. The red carpet rolls out for the glitterati as annual traditions of billion dollar awards shows commence full of glitz, glamour and glory, keeping the blogs, TV stations, tabloids and magazines abuzz with every possible iteration of the best and worst (dresses, speeches, jewelry, etc.). To the best of the best, the most coveted awards are bestowed for stirring the most hearts, breaking the most records, or bringing in the most bank.

In humbler circles of the workaday sort, awards and rewards are as ever-present though in much less ostentatious scale. The well-oiled machine of an operation awards a gold star to the “Employee of the Month”, offers pay raises to good workers and extends promotions to those who prove themselves more than competent at their job.

The Feel Good Factor
No doubt we gain inspiration from actors, athletes and rock stars whom we admire for their superlative skills. We watch in amazement as these god-like creatures push the bar further; wowing the most sophisticated of audiences, showing a new paradigm of excellence. If we’re being brutally honest, their victory must feel ten times better than flipping the digitus impudicus to every naysayer who offered no encouragement on their way to the top. What’s sweeter than making the dream real? And if we adore them, their success feels, if only a little bit, like it’s ours.

The Feel-Not-So-Good Factor
But by virtue of the nature of competition and comparison, we can’t all be the winners, the brightest, the most beautiful or the best. When the show is over and the screens fade to black, we must face our realities that may or may not be as dazzling as those designer shoes and dresses prancing around in front of the cameras. They may or may not be full of mediocrity and ordinary moments; moments filled with a losing battle with laundry and never-ending shoulda-been-done-yesterday lists, lowered expectations and possibly even daily disappointments.

Reality, Bittersweet and Gray Reality
It would serve us well to remember that manufactured spectacles of the global-viewing kind, rife with jaw-dropping multi-million dollar paychecks and even bigger invoices, exist not for our expectations (of ourselves and of others) to be blown out of proportion and not to intentionally make us feel inferior in any way. Showbiz exists for entertainment. The best and the brightest actors, rock stars and athletes are indeed incredibly talented, but no matter how much glitter and chatter they generate, their movie, music or ballgame is not for mandatory consumption. It’s optional. It’s as much of a choice to escape to, be entertained by and possibly learn from, as reading a paperback is. Isn’t it? What is mandatory is for us to be able to separate showbiz from our real lives. And if we’ve been around the block, we know that the stars are fine for watching but they’re not our guiding light; we hold the steering wheel and the internal GPS to our own direction.

But what about our children? They may or may not be as savvy when it comes to delineating between real-world standards versus artificial standards that are made (or nipped, tucked or suctioned) to look real. Not that I have anything against it. I don’t. But for those in their teens or younger whose sense of self is still developing, who have yet to feel good in their skin, they may feel a little more pressure than someone like me who is a grownup, has dealt with my share of insecurities and has somehow landed on a place of self-acceptance.

Perhaps showbiz is fine as it is.  Perhaps we need first to define what humanity means before we or our kids get too caught up in the oh so convincing stories, effects and camera work that showbiz offers.

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Excellence, beauty, and reality — what gives?
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Image by Vectorportal

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TheKitchenWitch February 28, 2011 at 6:41 am

You make an excellent point–why such focus on the outside and so little on the inside?

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2 Tessa February 28, 2011 at 7:48 am

great post….at a great time. I was a bit disgusted when top news on my Yahoo! page was the best and worst dressed for the Oscars. I was also shocked at how many tweets revolved around the Oscars. Wow, there is real life, and REAL NEWS! Why do we waste so much of our time and money on these outward, ego-feeding things?

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3 BigLittleWolf February 28, 2011 at 7:51 am

Wonderful post, and issues that need airing and thought – over and over. I think we address these issues with our children over the years – in different ways at different times. Certainly, as media and peer pressure exert more influence on them, we had better be around to reinforce (already instilled) values to do with substance.

But it ain’t easy.

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4 Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri February 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

Well crafted post Belinda. Thought provoking issues about what reality is and what people perceive. I worry about trying to explain the differences to my daughter, the idea that the inside is the most important. The outside is usually transient.

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5 ayala February 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Good point,Belinda. There are so many important issues going on without enough light shed on them. With my boys we always discuss important issues going on. When they were small I always read to them books that were sensitive and tolerant to important issues.

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6 Colleen February 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

It is amazing the different perspective we have on startdom as adults. I wouldn’t swap what I have for a life of fame, fortune and glamour because it all comes with a price. A price that is very high indeed.

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7 brian February 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm

great post! working with kids i see this often…and parents feed into it…seeing what other children get/have they feed it to their children…what we dont see often is the other side of stardom…or the challenges that come with winning….

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8 Charlotte February 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Yes, I totally agree with the points you make and abhor our culture’s insistence on praising the superficial only. And, I do think we need to remember that those actors have worked hard at a job they love. I’m the first to sneer at the Lindsay Lohans and Charlie Sheens of the world, but Colin Firth? Not so much. I think he acts for the love of acting, for the same reason that I write. And how about the older gentleman who wrote the screenplay for The King’s Speech? A late bloomer indeed. And he’s raised awareness about the issue of stuttering. That is the power of creativity, right there.

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9 Jack@TheJackB February 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Nuance is sometimes hard for young children to understand, but it is an important distinction to make.

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10 rob white March 1, 2011 at 6:29 am

Very thought provoking, Belinda. The reason we love the best and the brightest is because we glimpse our own Unlimited Nature in action. People who are living and expressing themselves fully have a remarkable capacity to inspire us all. I harbor a disdain for the accolades we heap on Hollywood – praising vanity only serves to strengthen the Artificial-Self. There is a great distinction to be made between praising that which inspires our ‘unlimitedness’ and that which keeps us limited.

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11 Mama Zen March 1, 2011 at 8:17 am

Excellent, excellent post. I think that the get rich and famous at any cost culture is having a really negative impact on our kids.

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12 Talon March 1, 2011 at 8:57 am

I always think it’s sad how revered people are for being famous…like that is, in and of itself, a goal.

This was a wonderful and thoughtful post, Belinda.

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13 Sara Healy March 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Belinda,

As usual, an excellent written reminder to all of us; the glitz and glamor all pass in time. I do agree that we need to teach our children that the people they see on the screens and follow in the magazines are human and make mistakes, just like the rest of us.

BTW I had to look up “digitus impudicus.” I didn’t get it at first…sometimes I can be a bit slow:~) However, it was worth it because it really made me laugh when I realized what it was. I will remember the next time I want to tell someone about my middle finger:~)

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14 Tess The Bold Life March 1, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Hi Belinda,
This is well written and powerful. I love what Rob White says about praising the artificial self. Wow. Lots of insight here as always.

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15 Kelly March 1, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Timely post, Belinda. I was just talking with a friend about our culture’s push for children to achieve, for talents to be used for money and fame … but then how many rich and famous people are miserable. It’s a sword that can cut to the quick before the wielder knows what happened. I hope my children learn to strive for happiness instead, to do what makes them happy rather than what makes them rich. Perhaps those will be the same, perhaps they won’t. Hopefully they will get my message and not Hollywood’s.

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16 Marci | Liberating Choices March 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm

“we hold the steering wheel and the internal GPS to our own direction” – love this metaphor for not letting entertainment be our guide. Entertainment can be a wild ride, but it’s always good to stay in the driver’s street.

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17 Ben March 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm

It’s good to pan out and look at the big picture and what’s really worth fighting for and what’s not. I agree, children are especially susceptible to falling into the trap of over-glamorizing the perceived best of the best. It’s sad that they’re being so inundated in so many ways.

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