Why do we love reality make over shows so much? Is it our voyeuristic tendencies coming out to play watching someone lose massive amounts of weight, or get a wardrobe update, or have their house transformed, as we watch from a safe distance? Is it a lurid fascination with seeing someone we may think of as in need of help and learning about how they got to where they are? Is it a genuine curiosity about improvement in general and how we can better ourselves or our environs? Is it seeing the transformation?
I think in some way all of these ideas are at play in varying percentages. Who doesn’t love to watch a doctor pop a huge pimple, or a run down house gutted and rebuilt into a beautiful retreat, or a larger home-bound person transform into a healthier version of themselves? We are enthralled with the whole timeline… who are these people? How did they get where they are? Why didn’t they get help before? And then we get to watch the process of change happen.
For me, the most interesting part is watching the process of change happen. Seeing the person tell their story of why they are where they are on their journey, realizing they can take a step in a new direction, and then starting on that journey is engrossing. And as a coach, I especially love to watch shows where the person is improving on themselves in some way. I listen for the emotion, the hidden reasons, the words or phrases that indicate how invested in the process they really are. And I don’t think it’s just trained coaches who do this. We all have the capacity to tune into these subtle cues.
So if we are all watching reality TV, and enjoying the process and the transformations, what are we getting out of the whole experience? Is it just mindless entertainment, or is some of it sticking with us long after the show has ended? And are the shows we are drawn to watching a reflection of work we think we need to do on ourselves? As I mentioned, I love watching make over shows where the people change their wardrobe, or lose weight, or get a haircut or new look. And honestly, I’ve thought all these things about myself. I could stand to lose a few pounds, and buy some new clothes, and change what I do with my beard. I also love watching home makeover shows where they completely gut the house and transform it into a show home. Mainly because I have rooms in my house I’d love to do the same thing to.
Am I getting ideas about diet, exercise, clothes, and bathroom sink finishes? Absolutely. Will I be inspired to try a new moisturizer or go to IKEA to look at bathroom sinks? Sure. But the one thing missing from all the ideas and inspiration I’m gleaning from these shows is time. These journeys all take time… more time than an hour long TLC show can fit into an hour block. So they fudge the timeline. They have an army of people behind the scenes finishing projects, shopping, and building. TV magic is hiding the cold hard truth about any shift worth taking. It’s not going to take an hour. And it’s not going to be easy.
And I think that’s why these shows are popular, and on the same token they are helping to dash dreams and knock people off of a healthy journey they would like to take. It’s a fantasy being sold as “reality”. When you decide that you want to lead a healthier life, that is a big life shift and a substantial goal to set for yourself. And this new journey is going to take time, effort, and struggle. You will get knocked down. You will be disappointed. You will want to quit. And those struggles are the reality these shows don’t really dig into.
Reality make over shows are fun to watch, and we can be inspired by them to make changes of our own, but we also need to understand “reality” isn’t reality. Be inspired, but be logical. And be smart in planning your own new journey.