March results of the Image Experiment

What I learnt this month experimenting with my image:

  • I lost 5% of my body weight without any conscious effort.
  • I discovered a new rendition of beauty
  • Pantene is the oldest, cheapest and best thing for silky hair
  • Pinterest is the best thing for figuring out what you want to look like

Throwback to what the Image Experiment is. Basically, me, a pretty average-looking millennial girl, who isn’t very appearance-conscious, just enough to own a few Marc Jacobs bags and Hermes scarves, but not to wear them very often, trying to follow the cool kids’ image trends.

Null hypothesis: for a woman with no obvious image problems, there is no benefit in working on her image by using popular make up routines (I have changed this to following trends and paying more attention to how she looks in general). H1: for a woman with no obvious image problems, there is a benefit in working on her image by following trends and paying more attention to how she looks in general.

I.

I lost 5% of my body weight without any conscious effort.

Numbers? 3 kg, or 7 pounds, in one month. No hunger. No gym. No BS, as they say. Not even a new fancy water bottle.

Historically, my appetite goes up and down, for months at a time, and there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it.

As a consequence, my weight has always fluctuated. I wish it didn’t because I end up with a proliferation of different size clothes, but fighting it is a monumental investment of energy I am not prepared to make. Thus, I go between a BMI of 22 and 26. My self-esteem follows closely.

I wonder if doing my Image Experiment caused this latest appetite decline. One of the premises of the experiment was that “when we signal to others, we signal to ourselves, just a little bit.” I am starting to think that this is indeed true. After all, when you are aware that others are looking at you, you behave differently. Not necessarily better or worse, just differently.

Being more cognisant that I am not alone in this world, I guess I became more in tune with my belief that a certain range of weight is fundamental to looking maximally well. (Sorry I am not more #bodypositive). Since I do want to engage with people around me, I want to make it is easy as possible. And it is easier when you look well. Hence, the weight change. Or so I hypothesise.

II.

I discovered a new rendition of beauty.

I have done the dirty deed of using the discover section of Instagram. Usually, the cat photos cheer me up. The photos of people’s lifestyles? Not so much. Yeah, yeah, don’t compare yourself. Yeah, it’s a highlight reel. Yeah, they are all edited, often professionally – and taken by photographers. But still.

This time though, I was cheered up alright. I found an ethnic girl who was really stunning. Does she look beautiful in the usual Western, Hollywood sense? I don’t think so. Her eyebrows are weird, her chin is too pointy, her lips aren’t big enough, she doesn’t try to go for the same type of sexy look that we’re used to seeing.

There was something refreshing and life-affirming about seeing this. It’s not quite beauty in all shapes and sizes, again sorry #bodypositive people, but it is something to do with diversity. (P.S. To annoy supporters of social constructionism even more: despite being indoctrinated with images of people like Charlise Theron and Michelle Pfeiffer all my life, I still think this girl is stunning. Explain?)

Me by very talented @soposoposopochka 🖤

A post shared by Tamuna Tsiklauri (@tamunatsiklauri) on

III.

As for the goodies you see in the photo, all of them are 5/5.

I heard a lot of bad things about Pantene: that it makes your hair fall out, etc, but I’ve used it at various point all my life and I think it’s great. And very cheap for what it is. Hair was super silky and light after using the conditioner and the 1 minutes ampoules. The ampoules in the box are actual real plastic ampoules, you have to break the top off, as if it’s heparin or something. They would make you feel very much like “stand back, I am doing science”, if you’re a five year old, that is.

The L’Oreal clay facial wash with charcoal is actually black, which feels odd, but it’s nice and leaves your skin supple.

The Freeman clay mask with sea minerals is phenomenal. One of the best I tried. It’s violently electric blue though, so apply privately and in confidence.

The Seba Med thing came in the Birchbox, it is like paint stripper, only it didn’t cause excess dryness, to my great surprise. I would still use sparingly. Birchbox is increasingly useless, but anyway, I will keep subscribed for the time being.

I also tried the Herbal Essences Dry Shampoo. It was a lot more palatable, I should really say more tolerable, though some does inevitably make its way onto your soft palate, than the more common Batiste variety. Even though it’s not tinted, this dry shampoo wasn’t very noticeable in my hair, which is a great thing (because the tinted varieties prevent you from touching your hair, unless you’re planning to wash your hands straight after that or look like a coal miner). But you really, really have to shake it like a gin fizz. If not, you’ll end up with wet hair like I did when I first tried it.

IV.

To figure out what it is I want to look like, I made a Pinterest board. It really helped, and it’s great for making shopping lists. All these beautiful people have done the hard work of figuring out what goes well together and so all I have to do is pick and choose. Or basically, copy what they did. Handy!

The only downside is that now I am convinced I need an Yves Saint Laurent bag.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 01.17.40

How to not feel dirty all over after looking at the fake spirituality of the boho goddesses of Bali

Goddessism is big among our millennial ladies. This article isn’t about the fact that social media and real life are different. It is about the cheapening of real philosophy that happens on social media and goes unnoticed by too many people.

As you will know, I am not big into positive thinking, at least the inspirational Insta-motivation variety. I have yet another issue with Instagram. It is the one social network that makes me feel kind of icky, and for ages I couldn’t understand why. We all know that social media is a highlight reel, a filtered version of another’s life, etc – but Instagram accentuates this empty feeling. I think it’s because it lacks the option of having any depth.

You can link to a thoughtful article on most networks, but you deliberately need to judge everything by its cover on Instagram.

One could argue it is some kind of inferiority that I am feeling. And it is. It’s a fear that I could never be as perfect as the people in the pictures. Indeed, I couldn’t be. They couldn’t be either. In fact, the subspecies I will discuss below follows a very clear prescribed regimen specifying their clothes, food, wisdom, aspirations, art, fitness, other half and much more. But the point is the horrible fake “spirituality” of these accounts.

coping with fake mindfulness of instagram
Are the comments written by real people or bots? Fakeness traded between fakeness merchants

Instagram is so full of beautiful, minimalist, natural, spiritual, compassionate, eco-friendly yoga-practicing perfect people, women, to be specific.

They look out over the ocean and look so dreamy with the sunset backdrop. The pictures are full with gentle sunlight, smiles and smoothies made of the most righteous greens and the caption inevitably features love of the world, the followers or something trendy. Obviously, these “tropical feels” exist on other media, but Instagram seems to have thousands of accounts with virtually the same vibe. The content clearly has a lot of work dedicated to it, but I struggle to see why people enjoy it. Perhaps, some find that it is genuine?

Whenever I encountered these insta-perfect people in real life, they tend to be highly cynical and critical of others, curse like sailors, yell at their children in a way that makes me worry about the integrity of the windows, drink (not just the smoothies), are insecure about their appearance and just generally be far removed from the fairy tale vibe of their Instagram account.

Many of them go from one beautiful location to another; the further removed from the West, the better –  or at least create the impression that they do. More often than not, the photos are made over a few weeks (of what I assume is pretty hard work of shooting) and then released over the following months.

fake mindfulness of instagram positive thinking
Wisdom meets commerce

Their work is always something special, magical and sacred. There is much about happiness, love of simple things, spirituality, being natural, a wanderer, a wild child, a vagabond, giving hugs and so on.

By playing bingo with the above you can create a nice tagline for the top of the page: “Don’t let your dreams just be dreams” obtained Lisa Smith of @lisadanielle_ It seems that the expertise behind these statements is rather limited and largely repeated by/from other Instagram users in a nice Pacific ocean echo chamber. I doubt that the subscribers care very much. They look for pictures of a life

…from another place, tropical and blue,

We have never been to.

This is from Sylvia Plath’s “Finisterre”. I love the emotion behind these words: they got etched into my mind straight after the first reading. I doubt she would have liked Instagram very much.

fake mindfulness of instagram bali goddesses
Why wouldn’t you be wild and free?

These women tend to paint, create jewellery, produce their own make up lines or run seminars. The more competent ones paint and the really great ones photograph: weddings, editorials and so on. I shudder at their daily routine of waking up and knowing that they need to go out of their way to take shots of things that will appear good to thousands of people. Perhaps, they shudder at the thought of writing an essay, especially one that is clear to the point which can only be obtained by being honest. Not honest like an eco-friendly coffee brand is honest; honest like a best friend is honest. The high quality pictures make it into the Instagram feed; the less artsy are only dignified with a place in the Stories.

contrived mindfulness of instagram
“Be yourself, you’re beautiful”, but make sure you are young, actually beautiful and totally carefree

Their appearance is uniformly the sort that can only be obtained by strenuous HIIT and no carbs. Don’t forget the tan.

The goal is to look like the perfectly accepted idea of female beauty, but with a spiritual twist.

A half-naked woman in her late twenties with a body fat of about 18% with a dreamy smile will caption her photo with something like “Remember, everyone is beautiful. Accept your self fully. Love is everything.”

fake pretentious contrived instagram accounts
Soulful gratitude, it’s not for show

The more thorough Instagramers will have a story of how they used to hate their body/themselves/their failures, but came to be in a healthy relationship with themselves and now it is their life’s mission to bring this harmony into the world.

They frequently have a soul mate whom they tag in their Instagram and express their gratitude at least twice a week. Don’t be alarmed if some of these bits of wisdom have a tag like for some minimalist watch maker or a boho clothes vendor, usually with an eco-twist:

coping with the Instagram goddesses of Bali
Lost fishing nets with a purpose

The perpetual summer bodies don’t come easy, I am sure, but the Insta goddesses never bother to make a big deal out of it. However, a nice yoga pose with a “thoughtful” quote is a must. Mindfulness goes without saying. Are there still people who don’t practice mindfulness? Myself, I doubt that between reaching out to bikini manufacturers and running contests for a handmade fairtrade eco-friendly blanket and shooting non-contrived photos of their rigorous relaxation routines they have much “time” for real mindfulness.

Clothes-wise, less is more – because why should we hide? That’s just wouldn’t be that spiritual or close to nature. The boho-twise requires the addition of a hat and numerous bracelets to the bikini bottoms. The top is covered by the long beach-wave hair.

What do goddesses eat? It’s all vegan, raw, super-foody and green. Banish gluten, lactose and all other negativity. The tone of their remarks is so matter of fact, like they’ve never seen a BLT in their lives.

dealing with the fakeness of instagram
Apparently this is a smoothie. You learn something new everyday.

So for example, a goddess could start every morning with 20 sun salutations and a green smoothie. They charge her up with the sort of energy the no coffee could ever do (throw back to her life before she entered the true world of Bali). It is usually followed by the description of the unfolding life force of nature filling her within and she literally can’t imagine having it any other way.

how to stop feeling bad after instagram
Give and you shall receive

I have no reason to stick it to Lauren Bullen of @gypsea_lust in particular. They are legion. They come from all countries and write in all languages (though they all spend time in Bali). You know a few people like this. So alike, that you weren’t sure I wasn’t writing about them until you checked the username. They run Instagram-supported businesses, that’s fine, but it is the fact that they are selling something that isn’t real that bothers me.

It seems obvious that people would be able to tell that this is an account made for marketing. But because of this spiritual vibe, insidiously, this affects the moral compass for many otherwise bright people I know.

My millennial peers are often unable to see the difference between shallow marketing and deeper philosophy. Has it always been this way I wonder?

This kind of stuff makes me want to clear my head. So if, like me, you come across this phenomenon, don’t be down. Breath.

P.S. Sorry for the radio silence. I’m moving. It’s a journey. Many journeys back and forth between two houses, in fact. Lots of challenges of all sorts and remembering to breath has been my number one rule. I will write about the whole experience once the dust resettles on my suitcases.

Credit: inspired by Varvara Gorbash

Authenticity and being in the public eye

Larry King is a great interviewer. Lately, he has been talking to increasingly questionable characters. Keeping an open mind, I watched his interview with Dan Bilzerian. [For those who aren’t familiar, Bilzerian has 20 million Instagram followers as of early 2017. He makes his money through poker and spends it in extremely unreserved ways – documenting some of it on Instagram.] At first, the interview seemed surprisingly good.

I am always curious about public personalities – how much of what they say is an act? One would imagine that Bilzerian is either a very calculated act, or not an act at all.

Bilzerian said you need to sign an non-disclosure agreement to walk into his house. Fair enough, he values his privacy – after all he has ridiculous numbers of people in his house all the time. He really surprised me when he said that Trump is raw and unfiltered. Could he, a poker player, really think that? I don’t think so. This casts a shadow not on his intelligence, but on the extent to which he is genuine. Hence, it is now a tougher judgement call to interpret what he says. I’m not sure what Bilzerian stands to gain from this statement about Trump. Perhaps, he would associate himself with Trump as they do have some features in common – but that’s obvious as is. Perhaps, to endear himself to Trump supporters? After all, Bilzerian does have more Insta followers than One Direction. Perhaps, it is that both of them use the same marketing strategy – an appearance of being unreserved and unfiltered – and therefore worthy of trust.

One of the things that attracts me to the writings of N.N. Taleb is that they appear to be quite genuine. He is yet to say something that seems completely contradictory to me.

However, I am increasingly suspicious of public figures. Actors are able to laugh at the same joke during the 10th take and still look like it’s real. I wonder if there’s anyone in the public sphere who the audience can afford to take at their word? Suggestions are very welcome. However, it is also possible that being authentic and being in the public eye aren’t compatible.

There’s an inherent contradiction here: people don’t gain a platform to expose their thoughts, they gain it to accomplish something. Being in the public eye has certain risks attached, so it is unlikely that anyone does it without expecting any benefit.

What if a celebrity already has a platform and then decides to use it for some other purpose? It is hard to separate support of good causes from self-promotion through associating oneself with good causes. At best, we are left with uncertainty.

are public figures genuine