Day in and day out, through aspirational products and heartfelt-seeming commercial messages, in the psychobabble of gurus and the motivational rhythms of Facebook testimonies, between the lines of pop songs and the dialogue of TV comedies, we are taught to communicate triumph while privately experiencing ourselves as inadequate and our lives as disappointing.
I wake up these days with a mission in my heart to reject the world’s insistence that I hustle.
It feels great.
Messages in society are constantly telling me I need to skill up, build my brand, or demonstrate my value and usefulness. That I need to justify my existence and always be improving.
I’ve realized most of this is meant to coerce me into something more monetizable: a better worker, a more active user of ad-tech social media platforms, a subscriber, a purchaser of products.
All too often, this works with manipulative advertising designed to exploit or exacerbate inadequacies, fears, and anxieties. Just buy this thing and you’ll finally be beautiful. You’ll finally be cool. You’ll finally be an expert artist. You’ll finally be a good singer. You’ll finally be good enough…
Here’s the part where I say “sign up for my newsletter and you can read the rest of this mind-blowing blog post to discover a way out of this hell!” (wink wink)
At the same time as we are offered products to fix or cover our inadequacies, our experiences on social media train us to paint a smiley face all over our complicated lives.
This insistence on triumphal happiness actually tends to be enforced by the users themselves, in an unwitting lock step of behavioral patterns: We share our lives as an embellished string of happy successes, while hiding our embarrassments and failures and depressions as shameful secrets hinted at solely in occasionally self-deprecating humor.
Stick your neck out in vulnerable honesty, and a contrarian will show up to tell you to look on the bright side and stop complaining. Here are all the reasons you should be happy instead of sad. Or an earnest encourager will tell you to cheer up without connecting to your anxiety or pain with empathy first.
Their discomfort with an honest truth of your human experience is palpable, as if to say “Please don’t show me your flawed humanity, or else I might have to face my own!”
I’m not happy all the time. Neither are you. We can put down the theater masks of manic happiness. I have a full human share of fears and anxieties and insecurities. I’m a complex creative creature who experiences a full range of human emotions and situations.
I’m not here to ruminate or dwell on depressing things, but rather I want to advocate that you express the full range of your human experience in front of your loved ones so that you can know and be deeply known.
We have to rediscover how to navigate each day. We have to learn how to embrace the imperfection of the present moment and accept the wide range of experiences that fall between happiness and sadness, success and failure, true love and hatred, popularity and invisibility. But in order to do that, we have to examine and deconstruct the reductive solutions and the magical thinking that we’ve been fed since birth.
I’m not alive to hustle, or measure up, or justify my existence. I’m not perfect. I have limitations and flaws.
When we give up the hustle and make space for what is already here, I think we will all be amazed what we will find and where it could take us.
This is enough.