Is 2020 The End of Superficiality?


Living in Miami we all love a good lewk…even at the gym. Hair, nails, face, the whole nine. Before this year, the trend has been moving more and more towards a perfectionism that almost seemed unreal, between updates in aesthetic surgery, photoshopping, Instagram filters, as well as curating specific photographs for your Instagram feed, superficiality appeared to be a new religion.

I’d like to pause here to define superficiality. Superficiality is not just the enjoyment of the surface things; the material, fashion, image, money, looks, but the elevation of the surface over the internal. It isn’t necessarily that people individually were doing this, but it seemed that society was moving in that direction. There were certainly examples of counterculture questioning the race to Lambos and lipo, but it was getting undeniable that the airbrushing and the keeping up with that famous K-family was getting more and more prevalent among everyone we knew. Instagram influencing was becoming the new norm, and most of us were thinking, why not just embrace the false eyelashes and over-the-top flashiness of this new 2019 life.

Then 2020 rolled in. Suddenly a mask on your face meant that half your makeup wouldn’t be seen. Half of your social life wouldn’t even happen. Half of your workouts might not even happen. Your hair might not get done, it might not be safe for your nail tech or you to get your nails done as often. Or maybe you lost some (or all) of your income and you just had to reprioritize what parts of your routine really mattered. And maybe it turned out, you didn’t actually miss getting your nails done. Maybe you felt better not fretting over putting your full face of makeup on every day. Maybe you remembered you actually like your face without some of the goop. Guys seem to be experimenting with home barbering and facial hair out of boredom and curiosity.

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Another thing that has happened since the year has gone full-on Jumanji.  Previously preoccupied with full social lives, full employment levels, secure health and stable economies, social injustice may have seemed in the past like it would work itself out. Or at least that was what most people who were unsettled by different current events told themselves when no action appeared to be taken en masse against large corporations or corrupt people who did wrong against one another. With time on our hands to spare, and glaring reasons to speak up, we have had to reexamine what really matters in our society, causing us all to ask, is it time to go further than skin-deep?

What’s funny is, and I am sure that females reading this piece will understand instantly, is this is a debate that feminism has had for ages: enjoying the visceral things in life and the deep spiritual things in life are not mutually exclusive. Meaning: you can wear a full face of contoured makeup and fight for social justice. The question I am posing here is this; Are we ready as a culture to stop elevating the visceral at the expense of the deeper conversation? Or even more important; Are we ready to stop pitting the two against each other?

The last several years have been not only superficial with looks but also superficial with labels. People tend to label people who are into their looks, fashion, or fitness as stupid or vapid, and I would encourage everyone to look again and try to drop those stereotypes and labels. Spirituality and inner depth tend to get a bad rap of being hokey and “woo-woo” but it doesn’t mean those people can’t have major drip on the gram too. Being one dimensional is almost impossible, and as much as we want to call each other out, we need to try to see how we are alike and try to come together and go deeper.

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Enjoying fitness is so much more than enjoying looks as STAY FIT 305 so often talks about, and enjoying lewks is great too, because image is a part of who we all are, but it may be a healthy thing for our society to be moving away from the elevation of the outer being over all else. A healthy integration of all of the parts of ourselves, including looks, body, personality, emotions, values, and relationships can help balance us internally and mentally.

The external is so easy to compare that it can easily create a question in your mind of your value. However, the internal is intangible and invaluable. The internal is available to fight battles on behalf of the struggles of others. The internal is something that can be questioned by others but cannot be defined by others. In this way the internal counters the external so that if you begin to question your value based on someone else’s image, you remember the intangible value of both of your inner existence and remember there is no real comparison, you both have an intangible value as humans, and no longer see each other as competition, but as companions in this wild ride. 

Sarah Russ, LCSW is a mental health professional in Miami focused on practical, actionable therapeutic strategies for mental well-being in a world of overstimulation and misconceptions about what constitutes true self-care. Sarah received her Master of Social Work from NYU and has been working in mental health for seven years. She specializes in healthy coping strategies and crisis management for those with chronic illnesses, substance use, and anxiety. You can follow her @mentalhealthformillenials or schedule a session with her at Arvon & Associates in Aventura, Doral, or Virtually by calling 305-936-8000.

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