Need An Identity Makeover? Look No Further.
Oh boy, a new book, Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me details author Rachel Bertsche’s year of emulating the lifestyles of several celebrities one month at a time. That means practicing being the best of Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow (of Goop.com fame!), Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, and more on thirty day rotations. Bertsche studied her select fave celebs' public statements, gleaning advice, attitudes, recipes, exercises, ideas for more courageous style/clothing choices etc. Eventually the writer was able to channel key celebrity traits at will. She even wore a purple tutu over her yoga outfit at the grocery store a la Sarah Jessica Parker.
A few years ago, writer Robyn Okrant made a splash with her book about dedicating a year of her life living according to Oprah’s every televised directive, tuning in daily to discover the secrets to living the best life ever. The Ultimate Life Coach offered her endless wisdom regarding what to eat, wear, feel, cook, and believe about the world and our own selves. The author acted on this advice daily. I read and enjoyed her book, but years later all I can remember of it is that taking a year of Oprah's advice regarding must-haves, must-be's, and must-do's was expensive. That, and the author discovered that leopard print flats really do go with all kinds of pants.
These writers are or were in their thirties at the time of writing their books. Despite their provocative ideas, some of us more seasoned ladies might prefer not to compete on terms laid out by representatives of a demographic I now refer to as “kids.”
These authors actually have a point, however. “As a (wo)man thinketh, so is (s)he,” according to the Bible and the old James Allen book I love so much. And we all know what Stephen Covey has to say about habits making or breaking our lives. And so I wonder:
1) Can my life be better? How?
2) Is it too late for this older dog to learn new tricks?
3) How much will it cost?
4) What celebs around my age could I channel for thirty days at a time?
5) If I pick Meryl Streep would I go nuts being a different person every day?
Alas, so many of the women I would want to model myself after temporarily are no longer with us. Audrey Hepburn is one.
Too many celebrity women over the age of fifty or sixty cancel themselves out as my prospective role models because they seem not to have gotten over the terror of falling off the youthful beauty bandwagon. I am talking about you, Melanie Griffith, Lisa Rinna of the eternal lips, and you, Michelle Pfeiffer.
Famous people I do admire refer publicly to messiness in their lives, of things not working out, but of persisting anyway. Some lay claim to unique imperfections of which they make no apology in light of lessons learned: Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, Vanessa Redgrave. Hey admirable older folks, I don’t need any help in making more errors or messes in my life but I love you to pieces for dropping the mantle of perfection and control.
It’s true though that we can develop hidden aspects of ourselves by acting according to anybody’s example in any number of lifestyle choices. In fact this is how we come to be *ourselves* for better or worse.
A therapist I visited thirty years ago suggested to me that whenever I suffered a situational lack of self-confidence, I should ask for an assist from a well-developed figment of my imagination, say Katherine Hepburn in one of her memorable movie roles. “Study her wardrobe, her manner, her ability to talk straightforwardly to anyone,” she recommended. “Take that persona into any situation you need it.”
I remember asking her if that wasn’t defeating the purpose of getting more confident in myself and the choices I made in life. She reminded me that from a practical standpoint, I hadn’t had a whole lot of strong role models in my family of origin, so I was free to find the best I could. Her thought was that every centered personality has many shades to it, bearing as it does the influences of others. The poet claims that we contain multitudes within ourselves - we carry the influence of others with us in our psyches, our bones, and our hearts. We can choose who among them to give the most power to, and when, and she suggested I focus on the best I could find to study and learn from.
I took her advice and eventually, my “people” became a virtual internal advisory board of helpers. I didn’t stick to only women with chutzpah, but to great thinkers and writers. Whatever I thought I could not do, someone on my secret advisory board could. Channeling useful strengths when needed enabled me really own a few in due time. I still wish I had Jennifer Aniston’s arm muscles, but I know how to find personal strengths and develop them, and that's why, with the help of a grant to do so, I love helping college students find theirs.
I am still up for self-improvement and enjoy a challenge, and so have chosen to live the rest of July emulating some of the best characteristics of The World’s Most Interesting Man. That is the point of all this, isn’t it? Having done some research already, I’m afraid if he were for real he’d say that people looking for the most interesting, fulfilling lives for themselves really don’t need to refer to anyone else’s script once they come of age. In this fascinating, ever changing world, we are equipped!