Picking apart the meme-induced movement
“Living your best life” has become a viral internet sensation. The phrase is often accompanied by pictures of drinks by the beach, lavish places, or lively parties. These picturesque moments where we are on the top of our game.
*See above for prime example*
But if we take a step back, what does “living my best life” even mean?
Is it when we're making the most money? When we have the most friends? When we're working our dream job? When we look our best?
The reality is - it means something different to everyone.
Currently, I like to believe that I am “living my best life” as I am on month 8 of traveling through Central and South America. Traveling is always where I am happiest and where I truly feel as though this is the best possible life for me. I spend my days chatting with locals, trying new foods, witnessing stunning landscapes, and practicing (read: butchering) other languages. I mean what could get better than that? Whenever I’m home, I am saving and planning for my next trip. So then of course traveling must be my “best life” right?
But then something funny happens, I’ll see yet another friend get engaged, another baby announcement, job promotions, keys to new homes and cars, and I can’t help but question my decisions.
I know this does not make me unique. Social media is famous for making people compare their own lives to those of others. But it forces me to pause and look critically about the lifestyle I am choosing. Should I be looking to settle down? Should I be looking for my life partner? I am 28- some would say “my biological clock is ticking.” Am I being reckless by not getting my 9 to 5 job back? It’s only AFTER I torture myself with these thoughts - sparking my omnipresent anxiety - that I take a pause to picture myself in their shoes. Am I ready to spend forever with one person? Probably not.
Have I EVER wanted kids? No.
Do I want to be in a corporate structure climbing the latter? Nope. Okay, so then how is it so hard for us to accept where we are? There are a few factors. One is that we are consistently comparing ourselves to others and secondly is that we are always seeking something else, which in turn makes us not fully appreciate what we already have.
Social media is the platform for comparison and criticism. We think: why don't I look like that? Why isn't my life going in that direction? But rarely do we stop to think- is that even what I want?
I even see it when I’m traveling. I find myself fixated on the next destination or being envious of my friends traveling a different part of the world. All while I’m traveling the magnificent lands of Latin America- I mean, how ridiculous is that?
We are also comparing ourselves with people's social media “highlight reels.” Which in turn, can make us feel worse on a low day or could even bring us down on a good day; because we were happy about our new car until we looked at Tom's Instagram and saw his new Tesla. Social media seems to make everyone’s life appear to be perfect. (Except for the oversharing Aunt on Facebook where we tend to hear about ever minor woe or worry). So we are all seeking this perfection that is unattainable in this messy life. I love Brené Brown and I pulled this quote from her book Daring Greatly, “Perfectionism is more about perception than internal motivation, and there is no way to control perception, no matter how much time and energy we spend trying.” That struck a major chord with me. Perfectionism and this drive to be the one with the "best life" are often not even about ourselves, but rather how we are viewed by others. Conformity is the death of creativity and perfectionism is seeking outside approval, not internal contentment.
In addition to falling victim to the comparison monster, we have a problem with being present. In our weird little human societies, we are always looking towards the next. We want to lose another 5 pounds, we want that promotion, we want a nicer car, we want our boyfriend to propose already. The classic "the grass is always greener" scenario. And please don't get me wrong- it’s great to have goals, want to strive for something or work towards changing something in our lives. AWESOME, work b*itch. But let us be sure to always address the motivation and intention of our actions. Ensure that you are making those changes for yourself and not for what society is pressuring and influencing you to do. Let's direct our focus on ourselves and not others expectations.
Subsequently, regularly looking to something else makes us less appreciative of what we already have accomplished and all that we already have. Philosopher Alan Watts refers to this phenomenon as "the backwards law" - the idea that the more you pursue feeling better, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. *MIND, BLOWN*
Sometimes it’s not about having the best possible life but it’s about making the best of your life or what life is throwing at you. Trust me, I know how hard that can be. Gratitude practices have helped allow me to be present in the moment and force me to appreciate even the smallest of things. I try to say three things I’m grateful for right when I wake up. But I find the practice most helpful when you’re in the middle of the sh*tstorm. Say three (or ten if you need) things you are appreciative/grateful/thankful for. It helps me to step outside of the negative thought train, breathe, and remember that I have good things going (my health, my safety etc.).
In conclusion, let us never forget to take a moment to slow down. Yes, working towards that next goal is important but remember to pause to appreciate all that you have and acknowledge how far it is that you've come. Life is never perfect so when you stop striving for perfection you'll be able to see all the little moments of joy that actually make for our best life.
I am TRULY ecstatic for all of my friends and family that are finding their own happiness and their own “best life.” So here's to celebrating all the various directions people are going in. Everyones "best" is going to look different and that is what is DOPE about this little thing called life. If everyone’s “best life” looked the same, how flipping boring would that be?
So next time your panic ensues after a scroll through Instagram, take a deep breath. Keep living YOUR best life, whatever that means to you.