This Is Not The Self You’re Looking For

Judy Russ
Judy Russ
Dec 11, 2018 · 5 min read

I don’t like Frida Kahlo.

There! I said it.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate her revolutionary impact on feminism and Latin American identity. And it’s not that I don’t recognize the mastery of her artwork. Admittedly, my displeasure with Frida is personal, and perhaps a bit of a projection.

The content of her creations — that’s what drives me crazy.

But, let me clear something up: I am not anti-selfie.

I am the first to jump to the defense of any millennial publicly and painstakingly finding their most flattering angles during golden hour, should any of my friends nudge me in the arm and nod towards them in silent ridicule.

And I don’t feel think anybody should feel ashamed indulging in their own physical beauty — to “feel themselves”, as the young whipper snappers are saying these days.

We could use less critics who profit from tearing down natural cultural shifts that occur due to the advancement of technology (moderation is fine, but we could cool it with the curmudgeonliness).

So, I’m not here to do that.

My disappointment with Frida’s self portraits stems from her seemingly relentless search for self in all the wrong places. I’m disheartened that the energy of her agony, suffering and destructive relationships were focused into hundreds of the same image; Frida, Frida, Frida.

I have this terrible feeling that she may have learned nothing.

And I wonder… what could she have accomplished if she would’ve looked for answers elsewhere?


Self Discovery: The Witch Hunt

I’m guilty to have been involved with the modern culture of self-absorbed self help, but I don’t necessarily blame myself.

Introspection wasn’t commonly preached in my upbringing, so it was only natural for me to seek help once I started searching for “who I was” in my adolescence.

The meditation and yoga community offered a safe space for me, and tools promising to “unlock” a perfect version of myself. And that was exactly what I wanted.

Unfortunately, after what seemed like years of falling down a rabbit hole lined with promises of discovery and no results, I experienced a burnout.

This was largely impart to the fact that everything I had done was for the sake of me.

The activities I partook in, all of the people I surrounded myself with, and the personality traits I chose to put on display had the same purpose — to make myself feel better, look artsier, appear more spiritual, more holy, more loved.

But I was chasing my tail.

And it took me quite a while to understand that the search for an existing self is entirely in vain.

Because there’s not some deeply hidden part of me that I don’t yet know, waiting in a hole for me to uncover; it was up to me to define who I was. No amount of yoga, meditation, essential oils or crystals would help me do that.

I’d eventually learn to decide who I wanted to be through exposing myself to experiences, relationships, and ideas; experimenting with my tastes, what felt right, who I wanted to emulate, and what kind of person I wanted to avoid being.

While spending time looking inward was a component to my identity, it was only a slice of the pie.


There’s a Whole World Out There!

Most folks who regularly engage with the “mindfulness” community have good intentions, but usually miss the mark when it comes to “serving others”, which is touted as a major pillar of self work.

For example, the first result on Google when searching for the definition of “karma yoga”, or the yogic path of service to others, appears on the Yoga Journal website.

But the studios I had attended in the city, which always contained a fair stack of these magazines in their lobbies, rarely hosted volunteering events or offered resources for community service.

I had worked for one yoga studio (now closed) that offered income based classes on a sliding scale, but most others are tucked between quiet brownstones in upper middle class neighborhoods and have all but removed the Hindu bells and whistles to suit a wider demographic without getting down to the nitty gritty of selfless service, or the truth about their privilege.

This is a common imbalance, community wide — and though many of my yoga teachers encouraged us to “take our practice off the mat”, it wasn’t uncommon to hear gossip in the foyer just moments after class was dismissed.

It’s unfair to assume that everyone has the time and resources to, say, volunteer.

But this simple dimension of selflessness being omitted from these communities actually robs self-seekers of an important element of the process: taking a break, and looking out into the world for perspective.

(Source: Getty Images)

What we have left, then, is a world of Frida Kahlos: innocent folks in the throes of torment who repeatedly follow stairways to nowhere along the infinite corridors of their own minds, to no avail.

They find no relief from their pain; only more confusion.

But they’d need only to look out the window. Go for a walk. Talk to a friend. Try something new…

— — — — — —

When I have writers block, it’s usually because I’ve stopped “putting myself in the way of good”, a mantra that has actually stuck with me since my yoga-ing days.

That phrase doesn’t just suggest exposing myself to things that are pure and nurturing… it asks that I purposefully place myself in situations of risk, newness, and exploration — experiences that could have a good outcome.

It’s not a guarantee.

But if finding inspiration and inner peace was easy, I probably wouldn’t have shit to write about (nor, one could argue, would it be worth having).


My name is Judy, and I’m a poet, copy/ghost writer, and content curator specializing in Fitness, Travel, Outdoor Adventures and Personal Development.

I write full time in coffee shops all over Philadelphia, or at home with my pitbull mix Riley dropping tennis balls in my lap.

You can follow my newly (chaotically) launched writing career on my instagram (@amongst_mountains) — or read more fun content on my website, Amongst Mountains.org.

Judy Russ

Written by

Judy Russ

Part time writer, Part time cook. Making it up as I go along. (Food, Personal Growth, Adventure & Travel)

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