Curating Your Better Self

Photos and words by Mara Strobel-Lanka.


In the age of Instagram perfection, the act of curation has acquired a complicated reputation. While curating a two-dimensional image of an internet persona is both a resourceful millennial tool and a toxic black hole of anti-authenticity,  there exist an overwhelming and underappreciated plethora of ways to curate our selves in much more positive manners. After all, if we are the books we read and the food we eat and the places we go and the company we keep, don’t we have the upper hand in deciding what those things are? And ultimately who they make us into? Aren’t we perfectly capable of curating our authentic selves just as much as our Instagram grids?

I started considering this idea of self-curation just after last year’s election cycle. My eyes were opened to the overwhelming need for more educated young people, more active citizens, and more empowered women. As Gloria Steinem said famously, “Far too many people are looking for the right person, instead of trying to be the right person.” It broke my heart that I didn’t know how to change the world, but it invigorated me that I did know how to change myself. In the days and months following November 8th, I immersed myself in everything from news podcasts and discussion forums, to volunteer opportunities and marches. These experiences molded me into a more politically active and globally aware person. After a whole year of provocative checks and humbling balances, I’ve arrived in the shoes of a self whose habits reflects the things I saw lacking in the mirror and in the world just a year ago. While there are still flaws, holes, and contradictions in the self I am today, I know now that with some conviction and a little faith, I can patch the holes and even out the contradictions until I’m satisfied with the self I’ve curated.

Not every act of self-curation has to be political, though in this world even the absolute act of being a woman is political. Self-curation can reach as close as deciding which food to eat or as far as choosing the very people who influence our everyday happiness. Whether the change you’re seeking to make is big or small, political or personal, there are three simple Ps to start with when curating yourself:

People. It’s been said before that our friends are a reflection of ourselves. If you’re looking to be more socially aware, artistically minded, or environmentally active, start by befriending someone who already is. A coffee date or an online chat can be all the energy you need to point your own life in the direction of your choosing.

Places. Often it feels like change is impossible in our existing lives. A quick solution? Put yourself in places that mirror your wants in goals. If you want to travel or seek new experiences, book a weekend trip to an unfamiliar destination. If you want to feel more in-tune with your community or become more social, hang out at a coffee shop that makes you feel at peace with the world (@communityloavesjax). If you want to break the barriers of a social shell or self-consciousness, physically place yourself outside of your comfort zone, whatever it may be.

Podcasts. Inside the age of information, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the intelligence just a click or swipe away. Podcasts are the convenient and trendy way to learn about the wonders and woes of the world and curate the education you receive in your everyday life. Want to learn more about tech and science? Trying to understand the implications of current events? Wanting to unpack the trials and triumphs of human existence? There’s a podcast for any and every lesson you’re pursuing.

These Ps have the power to leave breadcrumbs of habit and information that will lead you to become the person you’re looking for in your life. It’s an important lesson of adulthood and self-understanding that we have underestimated control of the habits that make us who we are. If you’re seeking a change, curate your environment to make those changes possible. After all, “if you’re not obsessed with your life, change it.”

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