How to love doing bad

*publishing this less-than-perfect both as a support to my argument and as a way to something, anything, published and hopefully get back into the groove.*

So I haven’t blogged in a while now, so I’d thought I’d write about why I even bother.
I knew I wanted to write something general about how stuff getting done is good, about how the value of practise is in the doing, expressing yourself. How activism is good because it is good, not because it makes the world perfect. Hopefully this will inspire you, if you feel like you need it, to get out and get doing your terrible terrible talentless hobbies, because it’s worth it. Here’s why:

1. Getting stuff done is good. The act of having “done” something has an outcome, which sounds obvious but it really can’t be overstated. It’s really important to value what we can do, and what we have done. Not in qualititive or quantative terms, but in inherent meaning. That you are alive today is a good thing. That you did something that you wanted to do is a good thing, regardless of whether you did it well. What matters is that you did it.
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2. Getting stuff done encourages you to get more stuff done. We are free, mostly. But we can easily act like we’re not, convince ourselves that it’s not worth starting anything, be it a change in career path or a creative project, because we’re not good enough yet.

But when you’re paralysed with fear of failure, you’re going to do nothing, and that’s far worse than making something terrible. That’s worse than making a monstrosity of a project or a terrible awful truly just bad all round choice; because you’re stagnant. You’re not learning from that. You’re frozen, what kind of a life is that?

By contrast, when you do stuff, you start to fail. And you generally, live to paint something awful/write a terrible post/sing badly another day. Generally, you keep living through your failures, and after a certain point, you realise that there’s no shame in failing. I failed constantly to be cool, and popular, but here I am still. You get tougher. You can do more and more and more things, because it’s good to do things, and it gets more fun.
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3. Doing stuff makes you better. Everyone knows that practice makes perfect, but does anyone believe it? And does it even matter if we do if we then interpret it wrongly? The people who are the most successful in life are not people who forced themselves into practicing an activity because they wanted to become good, they are people who did an activity enough that they became amazing because they enjoy the simple act of that activity; for what it is, not for the potential status symbol their talent would eventually become.

We think that doing stuff badly isn’t worth it, but that 99% perspiration that’s talked about? Bad stuff is what that’s made of, “bad” stuff is the seeds of good stuff, and not only that, it is valuable and good in its own right, in an expression of freedom and in the choice that you made to take that action. Don’t aim to be great, aim to have fun, and then if greatness comes, it’s only a perk that came of the main aim; to have fun and be a human who does things because it is good to do things.

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4. Doing things sends a message and makes a difference.
Activism is often held to a similar backwards standard; we can’t achieve perfection, so why would we even start? But again, the value is in the meaning of the actions we choose to take. “Someone”‘s (actually Bree Newsome‘s) action to take down a violent Civil War flag isn’t just that action, it’s a statement, with meaning beyond any larger picture. It tells people, she was brave enough to do this. She believes in this. This was done, by another person, who I could be like. Newsome’s action has value in how she inspired others, and in the story that her choice tells.

It’s not her only contribution to politics, she was arrested in 2013 about voter rights, but she’s simultaneously not an activism legend. She’s another person trying make this world a better place. Her personal inspirations for taking that leap into activism come from simply existing as a black female horror film creator; nothing magical, just something human and natural and most importantly, ordinary. Not perfect or unnattainable.

Each part of what you choose to do is valuable both on its own, and as part of a bigger picture, of personal development, of a part in the continuing civil rights movement, or whatever it is that is among the things you care about (and are about. Typos are fun!)
It will inspire you, and maybe others, to become more than what you currently are. It matters *because* you did it.

5. Doing things promotes personal growth in general.
Something that is “bad” is actually something that is simply new. Something that scares you, something that challenges you. This isn’t bad. This is an opportunity to learn. Every hurt is a lesson, every lesson makes you stronger. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

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We should REVEL in our bad talents. Our talents that aren’t actually talents yet, just good, just projects, just growth. Even when they don’t get any better, there’s still value. There’s value in learning about yourself, about how you handle frustration, how you deal with it, in seeing a hurdle, and reaching it. How hard this is to do and how long it takes for you to master it, gives extra beauty to how incredible the works of other people are. It teaches you how you handle jealousy and envy, it gives you humility in knowing what you cannot do (yet, or ever, it doesn’t matter).

A girl I know hates her art. Doesn’t everyone know this girl? Either that, or you are that girl. She looks at her art, that others admire, and hates it for not being what she wants it to be. She can’t see anything else, and even if she does, she can’t admit it, because it’s not perfection, or even good by her own standards, to like it would be a failure.

Ultimately, can we reach a better way?

But what if instead we revel in the boring “progress” part of the journey? The part that is beautiful because you made it, not because it’s perfect. The part that reflects that you love this, and you’re succeeding in doing this, purely driven by love and expression. Alternately, we could all decide tomorrow to have low standards; so we’ll always exceed them and we’ll never be disappointed again. Nihilism, “shoot for the stars and if you miss you’ll die in space which is pretty cool” style. Learning to revel in the mediocre, the fabric of everyday life. Choose your shitty hobbies and run with them, learn from them and enjoy them. Fill your home and your life and your time with rubbish, your very own carefully selected and lovingly nourished rubbish.

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Me, surrounded by all my awful but amazing things, which are great because they are mine. (Image shows a happy yellow labrador who’s head is poking out of an enormous background of autumn leaves.)

To finish off; here, have a song that I love because it likes to relentlessly jolt me into activity the moment I start playing it:

What Beauty Really Is: A Theory

(Note: I’ve had a lot of thoughts on this, and I’ll probably have a lot more, but I wanted to lay out in full my interpretation of the loaded meaning and understanding of beauty, in a hopefully intersectional way. I apologise for the lack of external sources in this post, as this is mainly a personal interpretation. See beneath for a TL:DR.)

Beauty dominates the discussion almost everywhere, even when we don’t notice it. From when we’re laughing at things that look like certain presidential candidates (see below), to when we’re discussing what makes a “real” woman, beauty is at the heart of so many conversations.

Who Wore It Better?

This makes sense, there’s a lot that appearances can tell us about someone…or at least, so we think. It’s proven that good looks benefit from a “Halo Effect”, in which people rate attractive people more positively overall, for attributes unrelated to looks, like intelligence. It’s common knowlege that being “attractive” helps people find love, another central tenant of Western entertainment media (name one film without any romantic subplots. See? Now try songs without love themes!)

But what exactly is it? Media likes to also present answers. Beauty is the golden ratio. Beauty is good health. Beauty is confidence. Beauty is a certain weight. Beauty is a certain colour, or style, or manner, or attitude. Beauty is something equally vague and intangible, like “glamour” or “charisma”. It’s hard not to be incredulous when there are so many answers out there, and especially when so many of them seem to touch a little deeper than they claim to be:

Could this *be* anymore white bread?

Thus, I have my own theory, which collates all of the current theories and puts them together cohesively.


My own theory

There are three clear and definable aspects to the current beauty talk that resounds in our media streams. First is the most obvious and objective, (though it is by no means perfectly objective, as I will explain).

  1.  Symmetry (a synonym for Health)
    Almost all “scientific” articles about beauty talk about averaging features, and merging faces to create more and more beautiful faces, or mirroring one half of a face, or measuring the symmetry of existing people’s faces. On the face of it (pun!) this is the most objective, but don’t be deceived by appearances (oh my god I’m on fire today.)most beautiful
  2.  Gendered signifiers/ Fertility.
    This is where things start to get dodgy. As can be seen in the image of “most attractive couple” (judged by 100 british respondents), there’s obvious differences, and even if we ignore labelling bias, there are features seen as feminine and as masculine, such as strong jawlines, stubble, wider hips, smaller waists, broader shoulders, etcetera. But obviously, that’s not where the line is drawn, This is where you get the most douchebags claiming that “but biology” as an excuse to perve over contorted and ludicrous cartoon drawings of women with enormous busts, tiny waists, and twisted hips, because hey, it’s biological, it shows she’s fertile and therefore this boner is valid, valid I tell you!
  3. Personal Preference
    The most entirely nebulous one. This is where glamour or attitude or style starts to come into question, though undoubtably there will be people who claim it is actually to do with Health, like, the fact she can afford that expensive coat means that she’s presumably strong and healthy enough to acquire the resources necessary, blah blah blah, validate my attractions with SCIENCE plz. But it’s more to do with what we’re taught is attractive, but our bodies wouldn’t automatically recognise if we were dropped in a new planet or country (insomuch as they would automatically recognise anything, the jury is still out on that one), such as the elaborate neck rings of the Kayan people, or the hairlessness of Western female celebrities. It’s basically made up of all our personal preferences and internalised bigotries rolled into one.

    A very photoshopped female celebrity with hair in all the
    Soo hairless!! Soo completely confusing/not a factor in attractiveness to someone in a culture where shaving isn’t a thing!!

So yeah, that’s my list and my theory. Now, how are these not objective? Well firstly, the idea that symmetry is beautiful does sound like it has biological merit, I mean, it makes sense that we’d want healthy and strong people to breed with, right? Well not exactly. Some of the most attractive people, according to the media, are slightly quirky looking, and often men like George Clooney throw these articles all in a tizzy, and they have to make an excuse about how age reflects ability to survive, and that the same goes for scars, and anything else that isn’t symmetrical and doesn’t make sense from this ableist, age-ist and let’s be frank, classist perspective. Health doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither does our understanding or perception of it. We learn that some weights and body types are “healthy”, and other’s “disgusting”, we learn to think of those in wheelchairs or with speech impediments etc as infantile, child-like, de-sexualised objects (whilst completely ignoring the very high rates of sexual abuse against disabled women, even in a lot of intersectional feminist spaces). We learn to associate certain levels of skin colour with health, like a ruddy tan changing from unhealthy and ugly to beautiful to “fake and orange” and therefore now deemed “ugly” again, unless it’s at just the *right* level. It’s complicated.

The gender one is the most icky for me. There are clearly gender signifiers, and there are clearly ways people distinguish these, and by that, determine their sexual identity (heteroflexibility shout out!). But also, a lot of gender and sex is a construct that heavily overlaps. A male-presenting person in eye-liner with long hair? Why am I attracted to this? This is why it heavily merges with number 3, learned attraction and taste. The only way this section works at all is that many people are attracted heavily to one gender, and understanding gender as the visible presentation to the world, the man with the jaw that’s been widened by deliberate medical testosterone treatment is saying the exact same thing to potential relationships as the man with a jaw widened by a natural testosterone puberty. But a lot of people like to ignore this aspect, and treat this section like the “get out of transphobic jail free” card. Biological children are no longer just a matter of putting random junk together and hoping it works, and in reality, relationships and families reflect that now.

Finally, and most importantly for me, comes the personal preference section. This in reality is where all the classist, racist, transphobic, ableist nonsense comes from. Whilst there’s a thread of truth in both the above sections that cannot be denied, there’s no sense in claiming they truly hold much influence. For one thing, there’s no one single person that we in this otherwise homogenous society all hold to be the most beautiful person. A lot of people (myself included), worship Angelina Jolie and her cheekbones, but ask a random room of people if she’s attractive and they’d like her? You’d be amazed at how many “no’s” you get…unless of course, you’re one of them. Which would be fine…I’m one of them who doesn’t think that either Brad Pitt or George Clooney is attractive in the slightest. My boyfriend claims to prefer me to Beyonce (I don’t!). People have different tastes, and that’s because of this final and most important section of attractiveness and beauty.

What we value in life, whilst some of it is learned bigoted junk, is important in how we live and who we choose to be with. You don’t find many hippies swooning after clean cut jocks, you don’t find many stoner’s crushing on cheerleaders (though damn, now I want to see that movie!). Because they hold different values, all junk aside. In unlearning the restrictive nonsense of rules like “wide jaws are unfeminine” or “big people are lazy” or “can people in wheelchairs even…you know….right??”, then we open the door to finding what we truly look for in a person and people we can truly be happy with, without arbitrary rulings about heights, dick lengths, ratios and all the rest.


The Answer:

The answer is actually very simple. Aside from the “are they alive enough to be interested in and capable of dating” and “do I like that gender identity”, the rest comes down to what makes people HAPPY. Is it what makes you happy? Guess what, you’re going to find them attractive. They might be funny in the way that you like, clever in the way that you like, kind in the way that you like, and ultimately, that’s what’s going to make your heart flutter. It’s why we fall for our favourite musicians, our favourite actors. And it’s why chasing a list of numbers is only ever going to make you unhappy.

*insert image of a touching quote about people being more than paper and ink but flesh and life, if only I could find it*