Updated: Mar 13, 2021
Written by Anastasia Warren
I saw a video the other day. The caption read “If this isn’t your home, you’re not doing it right”. In the video, a girl that looked to be anywhere from 21-25 years old, with long blonde hair, perfectly tanned skin, and a “perfect” body according to the most recent societal standards, opened the door to her home. With a bright smile on her face, she showed the camera around the modern, elegant, beautiful (and expensive) interior before leading the audience outside to a perfectly groomed backyard, which led up to an infinity pool overlooking rolling hills. The hashtags on the post included things like #mindset, #manifest, and #selfimprovement.
The caption stood out to me, because according to it, I was doing it wrong.
I saw another video the other day. The video showed a screenshot of a list that included things like “Getting out of their 9-5. Becoming an entrepreneur. Working for themselves”. The caption read something along the lines of “If your circle isn’t doing these things, get a different circle”.
The caption stood out to me, because according to it, I needed to get a new circle.
Something I’ve always loved (and in some cases, despised) about social media is its ability to spread knowledge and messages like never before. We have the ability to learn a new skill, get inspired, read the news, find a new workout, or see how someone is living across the world with the click of a button.
And most recently, we have the ability to learn about self development, manifesting, how to build businesses, how to build our morning routine, how to get in touch with ourselves — how to grow.
Because right now, “self-improvement” is trendy. It’s cool to post a video of yourself waking up, doing your meditation, journaling, doing a workout, making a smoothie, and getting started on your work day. It’s trendy to find your passion and purpose and build a life out of it. It’s popular to get to know yourself, do your inner work, and build the life of your dreams.
That’s good, right?
Right. It is good. It’s good that these types of conversations are being had. It’s good that we are open with our feelings, our shortcomings — where we want to improve. It’s good that we are sharing our strategies and tactics behind building the lives we want, working through our obstacles, and becoming who we want to be.
But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
What I’m seeing more and more, are videos like the ones mentioned before. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being 21-25 years old with long blonde hair and a “perfect” body, while there’s nothing wrong with living in a modern mansion, and while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to work for yourself rather than work a 9 to 5 — it is not the only way.
Not even close.
But the people making these videos know what sells — we all know what sells. Because we, as people, are attracted to pretty things, to expensive things — to shiny things.
To things we do not have.
To things we are not.
You see viral videos aren’t usually made by showing the struggle behind the dream job. The hours put in behind the business. The missed rent checks. The days an aspiring entrepreneur felt lost. A normal home or a normal day.
And so, as we scroll through our social media feeds and see videos and images that are teaching us how to live our best lives, manifest, and build our dreams, we are at the same time being shown what we “should” be trying to live up to — what we “should” be trying to attain.
But there is no should.
There is no “right”.
I fear that as we consume this content, which by the way, I do believe has the best of intentions (for the most part), we are often going further down the path of “I don’t have enough” or “I am not enough” and less down the path of “I am grateful for what I have” or “I am enough”. The latter being what self improvement, building a life you love, and success is really about.
I fear that we are often subconsciously being taught to further consume products and feel that we’re less than, rather than feel that what we have and what we’re doing is enough.
And mostly, I fear that often we pursue what we see on our screens — that we pursue what we “should” pursue — rather than pursuing what we truly want.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a certain house, a certain job, a certain car, or a certain life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting (mostly) anything for yourself. What I hope is that we remember to want things for us, not for them. What I hope is that we remember that external things aren’t always what will bring us happiness.
You see for 11 years of my life, from the age of 14 up until 25, I dreamed of living in Boston. I used to use a picture of a girl’s arm, holding coffee in her apartment on a winter day as my inspiration. I stared at that photo and I pictured the apartment I wanted. I pictured the neighborhood I wanted. I pictured myself in the city as I wanted.
And, after 11 years of manifesting, prior to really knowing what manifesting really meant, it came true.
I made the move, I moved into my dream apartment, and I built the life I wanted. I even somehow managed to attain the exact coffee mug that was in the picture I had looked at so many times before, which I didn’t realize until I subconsciously went to take the exact same picture holding it, and realized I recognized the mug from somewhere, but that is a story for a different day.
To sum it up, I quite literally manifested (and worked for) my dream.
And it was amazing and beautiful and it gave me everything I never knew I needed. But the biggest thing it gave me? It gave me the lesson that for me, happiness doesn’t come from a city, an apartment, or a neighborhood.
Happiness comes from me.
And so, upon realizing this, I started focusing on finding happiness from internal sources rather than external. I started focusing on living my life a bit more than I focused on dreaming of it. Having already accomplished my large life dream, I realized that I didn’t necessarily know exactly “what’s next”. I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to live or what I wanted my home to look like or how I wanted my life to play out.
And for a while, I was okay with that. That is, up until recently, when I consumed one two many social posts and started to feel completely lost and unworthy without a perfectly crafted vision for my future in place.
So, I did as I do. I got out a pen and paper. I wrote my one year, five year, and ten year visions. I wrote out my morning and workout routines based on the most recent video I had seen or podcast I had listened to. A day later, I questioned if the visions I had written were what I even wanted. Two days later, I wrote a new morning routine based on a new tactic I had seen, and then I threw it out altogether because who has a whole hour for a morning routine anyway?
I was flailing.
I felt that if I didn’t have a perfectly clear vision on my future, my passion, and my purpose, that I was lost. I felt that if I didn’t have the most optimal days planned out, that I was failing. I felt that if I didn’t have the perfect long term and short term plans, I was never going to amount to anything.
I felt that I would never be enough.
What we forget is that some of the best things in life happen when we least expect them. That some of the best things happen when we don’t have a plan or an agenda — when we do things simply because we want to.
We forget that what works for others might not work for us, that there are many different roads to reach the same destination, and that the way to truly win the game, is choosing the right road for us.
I fear that we feel inadequate if we don’t have a perfect plan or know exactly what we want the rest of our lives to look like.
I fear that we are often so overwhelmed with ways to better ourselves and tactics to put in place that we choose inaction instead of action because it all just feels like too much. I fear that we forget to trust ourselves and what works for us, and instead constantly look to them.
And mostly, I fear that we hold ourselves back from taking chances, going for dreams, taking action, and trying new things because we fear we are not ready or don’t have it perfectly planned out — because we spend too much time thinking instead of doing.
There’s nothing wrong with having a clear vision, passion, or purpose. There’s nothing wrong with optimizing your routines and your life. There’s nothing wrong with doing the inner work to know yourself before you make large moves. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things for yourself or wanting to look a certain way or wanting to live somewhere or wanting to do whatever you want to do — as long as it’s you who wants them.
And, contrary to most of this post, there’s really nothing wrong with posting about your successes and how you got there in order to inspire others and for the world to see.
What I hope is that we, as consumers — as people — remember.
What I hope is that we remember that true self improvement, mindset shifts, success, and happiness come from within. They come from knowing we are enough, and being grateful for what we have. They come from working hard and going for what we want and getting back up when we fail and being OK with it when we evolve, and in turn, our dreams and plans shift.
Because they will.
What I hope is that we remember, while we may feel like finding happiness is so so so complicated, it’s actually pretty simple.
Because happiness is knowing our worth. It’s doing our best. It’s taking care of ourselves and those around us. It’s being confident in who we are. It’s having dreams of the future, and when we don’t have those, it’s remaining calm and living our life anyway.
And so, I wonder what would happen if we, rather than only manifesting the body we want, the home we want, or the car we want — started manifesting the person we want to be.
I wonder what would happen if we stopped focusing so much on what we want to have or have done, and started focusing on who we want to be.
P.S. If you take nothing else from this, remember this: Before you put “hemp seed smoothie” into your morning routine because that’s what your favorite influencer does, ask yourself, “Do I even like hemp seed smoothies?” Say it with me, “We do not have to wear army pants and flip flops just because Cady Heron wore army pants and flip flops”. And, Gen Z, if you don’t know, well then you don’t know.