I read the most interesting article yesterday: Improving Ourselves to Death by Alexandra Schwartz. The article is from a year ago, but still relevant today, I think even more so. The author is taking a critical look at our current obsession with improving every aspect of our lives: not only the physical (gotta get slimmer, stronger and healthier!) but also the spiritual (align those chakras!) and emotional (hi mindfulness✌) aspects.
Nothing is off-limits in the quest for improving our lives: we gotta organize our closets (only the Marie Kondo method will do), advance our careers, cleanse our insides with the latest craze (currently: celery juice, but it will change again soon), increase our productivity, be more organized, stop thinking negative thoughts, meditate, go to counselling to get our inner life sorted, count our steps, count our macros, count our hours of sleep at night.
Our faces need to be wrinkle-free and contoured perfectly, our eyebrows microbladed, lashes extended, hair free of greys and styled to within an inch of its life, fat frozen off, vaginas tightened, teeth bleached, nails manicured, feet soaked in special masks that make the skin come off in sheets, and a thousand other treatments that are aimed at making us look better.
When it comes to our diets the guidelines are more strict (and confusing!) than ever: cut out gluten, cut out sugar, cut out dairy, become a chemist and learn everything there is about ketosis, increase the fat content, no decrease the fat content, don’t deep-fry your food, air-fry it, drink more water, drink more green juice (but cold-pressed, not centrifugal-pressed), eat more tumeric, drinking coffee is bad again (I think), drink hot lemon water instead (as if that could ever come close to replacing coffee). And please don’t tell me you’re still consuming processed foods?! Tsk, tsk.
Obviously there is always room for improvement on the fitness-front, because as long as we believe that our bodies aren’t good enough the way they are the fitness industry will continue to make a killing (the global revenue in 2016 was $83.1 billion, and it’s growing by an estimated 2.6% every year).
Thanks to technology we can chart our progress – or lack thereof – and share it on social media as “motivation”, which for some is an opportunity to brag about their made-to-look-amazing life and for the rest of us yet another reason to feel inadequate about ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of it myself. I journal, I do yoga, I try to meditate, and it’s only a matter of time before I cave and start juicing again (those artfully styled photos of green juice on Instagram get me every time).
I don’t think it’s wrong wanting to improve ourselves. Some areas of ourselves. But this article opened my eyes to how crazy it has become. Nothing we do is good enough any more, every minute of every day should be used to get better, faster, leaner, stronger. Not even our sleep is sacred, but is being tracked, analyzed, and most likely found lacking.
It’s almost impossible not to get caught in the frenzy because it’s literally everywhere. But it’s exhausting, and dangerous for our mental well-being. If you believe the current trend then every single aspect of you isn’t good enough. We are contantly urged to do more, hustle harder, work longer.
You have a job? You should have a career!
You like your position? Well, you should want a better one. Be ambitious! The sky’s the limit!
You have a hobby you enjoy? You should make it your business! If you don’t have the goal of becoming an entrepreneur you’re not living up to your potential, baby.
You enjoy leisurely jogs? You should want to run marathons. Push yourself!
You feel good about our body? Take another look. Are you sure you couldn’t make it better? Of course you could. Lose ten pounds and you will be so proud of yourself!
You still eat gluten and put normal milk in your coffee? Are you crazy? If you’re not creating Instagram-worthy smoothie bowls and drink celery juice every morning you’re not doing life right.
No wonder people get burned out, anxious and depressed.
The good news is that nobody holds a gun to our heads and forces us to participate in the improvement-craze. Recognizing the problem is the first step towards solving it. I’m tempted to give you a ten-step plan or encourage you to make a list, but that would defeat the purpose.
Here’s what we should all do instead: nothing. Just live our lives for a while. Go to work, go home, hang out with friends, relax. No step-counting, no calorie-counting, no analyzing our lack of ambition and worrying that something is wrong with us. We are fine.
It’s important to learn from past mistakes. It’s good to strive towards becoming a kinder, more compassionate person. Learning something new can be fun and stimulating and enrich life.
But improving every single aspect of us and our lives just because someone tells us to? That’s bullshit.
We don’t have to strive towards being best at everything. It’s okay to be average.
Let’s stop worrying about not being good enough, and just live. Without an agenda, without feeling guilty for not doing enough. It’s okay to rest, to leave the dirty dishes in the sink and watch a movie instead. And you know what? If you wanna get really crazy then order a pizza and eat it while watching the movie. On the couch, with a glass of wine.
Trust me – it’s amazing.