Friday, 18 March 2011

Idols, Gurus and Eric Cantona

Some people I know are so self assured. They know exactly who and what they are. I don't know who I am. I have (and will probably continue to) spend my life trying to answer the constantly nagging questions "who are you, what are you, why are you here, and just WTF are you doing?" Sometimes I think it must be so much easier to be one of those people who live without the constant chatter of questions, enquiring, pushing me to find answers. Frankly it's quite exhausting. But at the same time, looking for the answers means I'm constantly striving, and it's the times when I have given up on the striving that I have been at my lowest points, and the times when I'm looking for answers that I feel a sense of fulfilment. 

I wonder how these people know the answers? How do they have this peace within them? Would those who believe in reincarnation think these people have been reincarnated so many times they have answered all the questions? And those of us still stuck in the investigative phase are all newbies?

Last night, for want of anything better to watch, the man and me watched a film called Looking for Eric. It's about a down and out guy who has pretty much zero self confidence and his life is looking pretty bleak, until his idol Eric Cantona appears to him and starts coaching him in the ways of the world, and very quickly his life is turned around. It turned out to be a pretty good film.

For some people, life seems so easy, they just get on with it, get through life without the endless questions and analysis. But for the rest of us, frantically zigzagging through life, trying to make sense of it all, we need a bit of help. And we often find help in other people, idols, gurus, whatever you want to call them, people who inspire us. Just like the man in the film was inspired by Eric Cantona, by channelling or thinking about people we admire, we gain confidence and a focus.

How many people wear WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets? You can now get bracelets asking "What Would insert the name of your idol here Do?" for pretty much anyone you can think of, now or in history.

Most of us don't actually know what we're doing in life, and many of us face situations daily where we simply don't know what to do. From the big questions: "Should I buy this house?"" Should I have a kid?" etc to the relatively small and seemingly unimportant "What should I wear today?" Asking ourselves "What would this person who we admire do?" can give a focus for our thoughts. Often we don't even know the person personally, or if we do, maybe we wouldn't want them to know we are channeling them, lest they think us creepy or wierd. Many times we don't know what they would really do but imagination is a pretty powerful tool and sometimes just by imagining something you can find an answer.

I am willing to lay myself on the line here and admit to having a style crush on a friend. Some people just seem to be born with an innate sense of style, elegant and always right for the occassion, and always age appropriate. I, however, I was born with a totally schizophrenic style sense, never able to decide what I like, going through the complete spectrum of outfits, sometimes dressing too old, sometimes dressing too young, sometimes wearing it all at once. I think I have unsuccessfully tried just about every fashion and fad throughout my life. About a year ago I got sick and tired of my wardrobe and feeling like I was always getting it wrong so I started asking myself "is this something Soandso would wear, and what would she wear it with?" before every purchase I made. That I'm aware of this person doesn't know I do this, and I wouldn't tell her because I wouldn't want to make her feel uncomfortable (or think I was creepy and wierd), but unknowingly she has really helped me out. I can't say I am now getting it right all the time but I do now have a better focus when I'm out shopping, because frankly, the choice is so overwhelming it's no wonder I was getting it wrong alot of the time. Once I started doing this I noticed other people who "fit" the look I was trying to get. And now I have a number of style "idols" I draw on when I'm out shopping.

Let me just clear something up right now. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but blatant copying other people is tantamount to not only social death but complete loss of your true self, which doesn't help in your quest to find yourself and who YOU are. At the furthest end of the scale you also have stalking which is just plain scary. I am not talking about copying or stalking here. I'm talking about being inspired by people. I wouldn't go out and buy the same top as my style crush for instance (we have a different body type so I would look like a knob in it anyway), just trying to give myself a sense of direction. A psychological style sat nav if you will.

I am like an information sponge but I think more than that I like to soak up other people. Most of the people in my life are idols in some way, because they all have certain points or traits which I admire. You can find something great in everyone, if you know what you think is great you can find it in people. I think we all (quite often unconciously) emulate people we spend time with, particularly if we admire them. I don't think it's necessarily genetics that are to blame for us ending up like our parents...

When I started this blog post (this morning, while battling screaming kids and mounds of mushed up Shreddies on the kitchen floor) I was mainly thinking about the writer Gretchen Rubin. I have mentioned her before in a blog post, I won't go into it too much now but I recently read a book she has written called "The Happiness Project" where she sets herself resolutions to live by with the goal of increasing her daily happiness. It's a fantastic book and if you want to know more you can check out her blog at The point is, she really inspired me. And it got me thinking about all the people in my life who have inspired me, pretty much everyone I have ever met has given me something I could learn from, often an impulse to do something or change something I don't like. Once I started thinking about it I starting seeing inspirational people everywhere, and this was just in the space of a few hours. Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave doing the longest ever radio show on Radio 1 (donate to their plight by texting "Chris" to 70011), that's pretty inspiring. Not only have they inspired people to donate just by texting in, but I bet lots of people have decided to do things not only for Comic Relief but for other charities, after thinking about those guys. Our kids, our families, our friends, writers, artists, celebrities... they all help in our quest to do better, be better and find answers.


  1. I love the phrase "style stalking" and i admit i am one. I look at my collegues and love their styles. I've even tried mirroring their images but not successfully i have to say. They seem to always wear it better than me! I've spent a fortune on clothes in the past wear something once then it ends up in the charity bag! (still at least i can hold my head high and say i'm a regular charity donator!!) To be honest i think i will always be a style stalker and never be happy with how i look and if it means spending a fortune on clothes to get a look i'm happy with for now then i'm happy as i am a shopaholic :)

  2. I love that, "style stalker"! Glad I'm not the only one. And I'm all for being a shopoholic if it means finding one perfect outfit! And also if it means extra donations for charity. See by chopping we are doing our bit for charity too! I seem to have an innate ability to ruin any look I try to put together, what looks expensive and elegant on one person often looks cheap and trashy on me. Grrr! Enjoy your style stalking! :-)

  3. well i know that i am not your style idol as my kids keep telling me i dress like a crazy art teacher!!
    Inspiring another human being and having some form of impact in their life no matter how big or small is awesome. I absolutley want to inspire someone.
    You are on this scary but wonderful adventure and sharing it with us...thats inspiring!