We are living in a time of brain-hacking algorithms, pop-up propaganda and information everywhere. From the moment we wake up, to the time we stumble into bed, we are fed messages about what we should look like, wear, eat and buy, how much we should be earning, who we should love and how we should parent. Many of us probably spend more time thinking about other people’s lives than investing in our own. Add to this the pace at which we are encouraged to function, and it’s no wonder so many of us are feeling overwhelmed, insecure, untethered and worn out. What’s more, we are surrounded by bright, artificial light, in our homes, shops and offices, on our phones and laptops. We are overstimulated and obsessed with productivity. It’s playing havoc with our nervous systems and ability to sleep. We are paying the price of having banished the calming shadows and rich texture from our lives, in favour of speed and efficiency. Our eyes and hearts are weary. We give away freely that most precious of resources – our attention – and in doing so, we cheat ourselves out of the gifts that are already here.
While powerful and valuable in many ways, social media is turning us into comparison addicts and validation junkies. We interrupt precious life moments to take a picture and post it, then spend the next hour checking how much approval we have received from people we hardly even know. Any time we have a spare minute, out comes the phone and down go the eyes, as we scroll our way into someone else’s highly styled life, the jealousy bubbling, as we make the assumption that they actually live like that. Every time we do this, we miss unknowable opportunities for connection, serendipity and everyday adventure in our own lives, for the mind has gone somewhere the body cannot follow.
Many of us can’t make a move without stressing about what others will think. We sit in line waiting for permission from somebody else, all the while worrying about things that haven’t yet happened. We tell ourselves stories about our limits, downplaying where we measure up and overplaying where we fall down. When we dare to imagine following our dreams, we are surrounded by so many manicured images of success we start wondering whether there’s any room left for us. Countless broken dreams lie scattered across the world for no reason other than someone compared themselves to someone else and thought, ‘I am not good enough.’ The upshot of this crisis of confidence is, at best, inertia.
Somewhere along the line, someone started a rumour that happiness lies in the accumulation of things, money, power and status, all the while looking young, pretty and skinny, or young, handsome and strong. But when we measure our lives with other people’s yardsticks, opening ourselves up to the tyranny of ‘should’, we put ourselves under immense pressure to achieve, and do and own stuff we don’t really care about. This desire for more affects our behaviour, our decision making and the way we feel about ourselves – not to mention the impact on our planet. Whatever we have or become, it’s not enough, or so we are led to believe. And here’s the real irony. What we outwardly push for is often very different to what we inwardly long for. We have come to a point where we need to pause, take a look around and decide for ourselves what really matters.
What we need right now is a new way of seeing the world, and our place within it. We need new approaches to life’s challenges. We need tools for intentional and conscious living and a framework for deciding what really matters to us, so we can move on from the constant desire for more, better, best. We need to find ways to slow down, so life does not rush right past us. We need to start noticing more beauty to lift our spirits, and keep us inspired. We need to give ourselves permission to let go of judgement and the endless pursuit of perfection. And we need to start seeing each other – and ourselves – for the perfectly imperfect treasures that we are.