We all have needs and wants and we’ve all had it drilled into us that wants are different from needs. That we don’t “need” all the things that we think we do; that, in fact, most of the things we think we can’t live without are just materialistic wants.

But what about when the line between what is a need and what is a want becomes blurred?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week on this and how it affects my life and more importantly, my quality of life.

The truth is that we only need a few simple things to exist. Food, shelter.. really not much to live. Our society has become so stuck on wants that are perceived as needs that there is almost a disgusting sense of greed that so many think they need to have a life.

When I moved a year and a half ago, it was a long distance move from one city to another and I decided to make this the time to purge my “things” and start over. I held onto the most important items but very much cleansed my life of most of my material objects. What happened is that I have found myself living with the sense of “I have what I need, I don’t need more than this”.. true in one sense but the reality that has become obvious to me lately is that sometimes something that you think is just a want is really a need… when you look at living versus existing.

I can live anywhere… yet I moved to Victoria – and specifically to the area of Victoria that I did – because of a need to have a certain lifestyle to have a quality of life that’s not just a want anymore, but a need – a need to be happy. Being able to walk to work instead of drive in gridlock commuting… being close enough to the ocean and beautiful beaches to walk to on a whim and sit and stare and smell the air…having an apartment with character instead of a cookie cutter look… these are all, on the surface, extraneous wants yet to me, they have become needs for me to have a life that is fulfilling. Going back to the morning rushing and exhausting end of day from commuting hell is not something that is permissible now to me. This lifestyle is a need for me. Non-negotiable to my happiness; and my happiness is finally on my radar.

Just like we need food to fuel our bodies and enable us to live, our souls need nourishment too. You can argue that having love and companionship isn’t necessary and in some sense that’s true. I have spent the last long while living the truth that while friends are nice and feel good, anything beyond that isn’t a need for me. That I’m all good alone and that I don’t need anyone in my life to make me complete… and that is a truth… I can exist alone. Yet having recently started to let people into my life and my heart, it has shown me that what I have always perceived as a want may in fact be a need. Not in the way that I can’t live without love and companionship, but with an awareness that for my life to be the quality that I need, then having people who I love and hold close to me is fundamental to that happiness. Living openly in relationships that fulfill who I am and how I love is a need to me now in my relationships, no longer just a want.

We always hear “life is too short to live without….” and the simple truth is that it’s not the quantity of life, it’s the quality of the life we choose to live with that’s important. Sometimes the wants become needs and we don’t realize it.

I was working, staffing a booth for the Clinic that I work for, this weekend. It was at an expo that focused on “Ageless Living” The expo was organized and promoted by a local company that is a conglomeration of pharmacies, plastic surgeons, dermatologists and the like – all firmly centered on the concept and realization of the “perfection” of the physical self.

The clinic I manage is focused on the body as well but in a slightly different way; we provide Chiropractic, Physio, Acupuncture and Massage. So we were invited to attend and take part and, like so many things in life… it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The daytime “health” expo was filled with Botox give-away draws, booths of companies solely focused on making the outside of your body as close to the societal ideal of perfect as they can. One company name is actually Ideal Me. While the day was a usual wandering of people who come to health fairs it was noticeably more populated with a certain grouping of people… mostly women, and mostly very “made up”. I have rarely seen that much silicon and collagen in one place. While I know that they exist, it was still startling to see that there is an entire company that exists with its business devoted to fake eyelashes. Signs that promise “the appearance of youth”…Sigh

The evening gala event of a local “Dancing With The Stars” continued to give me food for thought. Watching the rehearsals, and later, the event itself and seeing the amount of time and resources that people put into making themselves look a certain way stuns me. Seeing how much effort they put into creating and maintaining a facade must be exhausting.

Now don’t get me wrong… I believe that we each have the right to do what we want to in order to make ourselves feel good about our Selves… note I said “Selves”. That’s because there’s more to us than the packaging that we come in. If you have the resources and the desire and the time to apply makeup and do your hair and find and pick out just the right outfit- for every occasion – and augment your body with implants, nips and tucks (I’ve seriously considered some nipping and tucking myself….), fake eyelashes, hair extensions, tooth whitening and veneers, chemical peels…. well, if that is your thing and you are doing it because it truly makes you feel good.. then more power to you. Fill your boots. But if you are doing these things because you can’t go out without feeling “less than” without it all; well, that’s what irked me about the whole event. That we are being made to believe, still – after all the talk to the opposite – that our worth and our value is based on how we appear and what we look like on the outside. I certainly do care that I have been showered and my hair is somewhat not a mess and I have, usually, some mascara and gloss on when I go to work… I like to wear clothes that make me feel good… It’s not that I don’t “get it” but it’s all too much. I was almost sickened by the end of the day – seeing so much preening and displays of excess of physical Self obsession.

I was approached numerous times by young women looking for the booth that measured body fat or the booth to drop their name in for the plastic surgery prize draws… they would sometimes look at the info in my booth and many would comment that they needed Physiotherapy or Chiro for this or that and it was quickly followed with “but I don’t have the money (or time)”… yet they were always wearing expensive clothes, more make up than I care to think about applying, carrying high-end bags and wearing shoes that easily cost the equivalent of 4 treatments that they said they couldn’t afford. Why? Simple… because, to them, the importance is on what they look like, not how they feel or how healthy they really are.

On the upside, the day did give me a bit of perspective that I needed. I have struggled for most of my life with eating disorders, body dysmorphia and self-loathing for my physical Self. It is something that I battle with every day and it is the one thing about myself that I want to change most.Not my body… but my relationship with it. I long to not care what the number on the scale says, what the tape measure tells me. I want to look in the mirror and see my flaws and not hate myself for them. I want to make love without a single thought being in my mind about how I look and what I need to hide or cover up. Hell, I want to be able to have someone touch me again without having to control the panic that comes with exposing my body.It’s a work in progress… made a little better by a day that allowed me to go home last night and thank my body for being strong enough to work a 14 hour day on my feet, doing set-up and tear-down alone… that it may not be “perfect” but it’s given me experiences and taken me places and rarely lets me down. I may not be in that place yet that I love how it looks, but I do love it.