In our current culture, filtered perfection seems to be the new norm. We do not have to look farther than our Facebook feed and Pinterest-inspired friends who seem to be well, doing it all. We know we are looking at everyone's highlights reel, but why does it still feel bad and why don't we feel like we are doing enough and why can't we just look a little bit better and why can't we earn just a little bit more?! This negative spinning cycle of thoughts can be so draining, exhausting, and consuming of our emotional and physical space. We feel a tug of sadness, frustration, and hopelessness because we don't think things can change and we don't know how to change our current situation.
Friends, I want you to know that if you find yourself with some of this thinking when logging onto your social media outlets or even observing those around you, you are definitely not alone! Our culture wants us to participate in this vicious cycle because when we are dissatisfied, we are likely to invest in more. Invest in more products that we think will help us lose weight, invest in more products that will help us look younger, invest in more products that will make our kids happier, invest in more products that will make our lives more organized, invest in more products that somehow promises us something better, for ourselves or our families. Basically, investing in everything BUT OURSELVES.
When we seek happiness from things outside of ourselves, we are going to be in a constant chase. We are chasing happiness in a race that is not defined and not meant to be completed. Are you tired of the chase to be more and do more? Are you tired of running after something (not even sure what it might be) and feeling dissatisfied in your current life path or some of your life choices? Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like no matter how much you have or do, you never quite feel the way you thought you were going to?
When we feel the struggle or like things are messy, we can sometimes get stuck in a negative place of guilt, shame, or pity. But, being in a struggle can also be amazing. Amazing in the sense that we are SO MOTIVATED to do something about where we are at and what we are doing in our lives. If you are someone who is constantly chasing after the next thing but you feel like something is just missing and you are not as content as you thought you should be and YOU ARE TIRED of running and your self care and family are suffering, here are several strategies to evaluate your current situation and move forward.
1. Breathe, physically and metaphorically: I know, this sounds kind of obvious, right?! But, when we are tense or stressed, we often breathe shorter breaths resulting in less oxygen when we might need it the most. And, metaphorically speaking, when we are chasing something, we are often not appreciating what we have and what we are currently doing. Our focus is not on the present, but the past or the future. Allow yourself to embrace the present and recognize the things you have done GREAT and how far you have come and all that you can be grateful for.
2. Conduct a Pop Culture Purge: I typically assign this task to my teen clients because there is so much in the media that skews self-perceptions, especially when it comes to beauty and physical appearance. But, social media and pop culture sources can also be significant triggers that elicit shame, doubt, anger, frustration, and sadness. I encourage you to be curious what your engagement looks like on social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) and how you feel before, during, and after. For many of us, we might log on because we are bored or need a break from something, but we do not realize that this action sets us up to feel inadequate and bring up feelings of low self-worth just from a few minutes of being online. Try to be more aware of how you are spending time online and make choices depending on your unique situation.
3. Be Intentional: Be intentional with how you are spending your time and who you are spending your time with. For many individuals, we feel pressure to sign our children up for multiple activities, participate in social media, and spend time with family and friends. All can be great things, but participate in these people and activities in a way that will SERVE you and your family the best. You may have to say 'no' to some things in your life to either free up some time or are just contributing to emotional clutter that does not help you. YOU have the choice to decide how you are spending your time. If what you are currently doing is not working, evaluate how you can be more intentional with your time and how you can make your day work for you and not the other way around.
4. Have Gratitude: When we don't feel good about ourselves or in what we are doing, it is hard to see the good within and around us. Try to do a gratitude check each day. What can you be grateful for? What do we take for granted? How can we thank our bodies for what it does for us every single day? How can we appreciate the small things around us, such as a place to call home and family or friends who care about us? Try to bring the focus inward so we are reflecting on the many good things that we often dismiss or do not think about because of the distractions around us.
5. Give Yourself Permission to Be Imperfect: The reality is that we will never have enough or be good enough. Perfection is simply a title that is not meant to be acquired. Thus, the challenge becomes living in a culture that is demanding about physical appearance, income, craft-making skills, home size, type of car, and the list goes. How can you embrace where you are at and continue to work hard on the things in your life? If you haven't heard it before, please give YOURSELF PERMISSION to be who you are where are you currently at. YOU ARE ENOUGH. The world needs your unique gifts, and there is no one more qualified to provide these other than you.
When you feel like you are Chasing Happiness in your life, use it as an indicator to know you might participating in certain dynamics that are filling your time, rather than FULFILLING you. What are you really seeking, and can it actually be purchased? And I think you know as well as I, the answer lies within.
If you want more information about how to buffer against social media and cultural messages, please check out Dr. Machin's website. She offers coaching, consulting, and speaking services, and is launching an e-course specifically for teens to help with navigating body image and social media called the #LoveYourSelfie Sisterhood. She also has an on-going monthly program for women called The Encouragement Café. You can also find up to date information and uplifting messages on Facebook and Instagram. When Dr. Machin is not teaching, writing, cooking, cleaning, talking, hanging with her husband, exercising, or running after her three children, she is enjoying a 5-minute cup of coffee in peace!