And I’ll warn you in advance: this post is something of a manifesto. Stay with me, because it gets good.
Let me explain.
Lately, I’ve been suffering a lot– and I mean A LOT– with the sense that what I do, have, and earn is never enough. Maybe this is familiar to you. Maybe you’ve been there too.
The mantras in my head have gone like this:
I never make enough money. I never have enough time. I am never as far ahead of the game as other people in my field. I am never, never good enough at what I do for my own incredibly high, self-inflicted standards of performance (hello, Type-A). I am never enough for my family, in part because I am never there, because I am always working too hard, because I am never working hard enough to get to where I want to go. I am never enough for my friends, because I never see them, because I am never enough at work. My entire life is never enough. Never, never, never enough.
In other words, I– yes, me, I am saying this out loud– have been telling myself that I– yes, me, the person who should know better– am never enough.
I have been telling myself, on a relentless non-stop feed, that I am never enough.
It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.
Maybe this is familiar to you, too.
I began to think about this issue in detail a few weeks ago, and to do some work to try to shift it, but I wasn’t having much luck. Somewhere, I had a vague sense that it had something to do with my interactions on social media, but I wasn’t sure exactly how.
What I did know, though, was that social media wasn’t helping. Every day on social media, I saw entrepreneurs, coaches and pretty much everyone in the self-improvement field pretending– you read that right, too– that they had it all figured out. Secretly, over time, I’d come to hate many of them, or roll my eyes at their posts, or worry about the impact they were having on their readers.
And yet, despite the fact that I knew that their lives were carefully curated online and their reporting of their experiences was extremely limited in the context of what was REALLY going on for many of them (trust me, I know some gory details), I nonetheless allowed myself to become ragingly green with envy over what I saw of their lives through this lens.
I allowed myself to have thoughts like, what the %^&* is that person in my field doing that I’m not doing that they get to have that jet-setting lifestyle/vacation/house in X luxury location/fill-in-the-blank experience, amount of money, or object.
I allowed myself to get really, really angry at where I find myself some days.
I even allowed myself to become resentful of what I have, because it’s NOT-THAT.
This is ugly stuff, people. Especially when I look at my two beautiful kids, my amazing family, and how fortunate I have been over the course of my life. I admit it: it’s gross, but it has been my growing reality for some time.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s familiar to you too.
So how did I get to that place?
I wasn’t quite sure, until two days ago.
What happened two days ago? I came across this article right here, about a guy who liked everything he saw on Facebook for a period of forty-eight hours, thereby intentionally messing with Facebook’s algorithm, just to see what it would do to his feed and his well-being.
And after reading the results, my strong opinion is that everyone who is on social media needs to read this article, because it will tell you everything you need to know about why you feel the way you do– whatever it is–when you’re online.
You see, it turns out that Facebook’s algorithm is so finely tuned to what you “like” that it subtly and carefully decides what to post on your feed, for your consumption, in order to reinforce those choices.
And it is constantly, relentlessly refining that picture over and over and over again so that your entire feed (including what you see from your friends, and what your friends see of you) is curated based on what you interact with using that tiny little thumbs up.
But that’s only part of the picture.
Next, I came across this article about the emotional responses we have, and the resulting choices we make in our own lives, based on what we see on social media– and what that does to our self-worth, our ambition, and even our financial planning. Get ready, because it’s pretty grave, and it explains a lot in terms of this question of “never enough.”
Once I began to process what I had learned, I started to evaluate my online interactions from a new perspective. What I found was this:
I “like” dozens of folks in the self-improvement field who like to hold themselves out as having found the answers to everything.
I “like” the professional pages of hundreds of folks in the online entrepreneurial world, including a select bunch who like to hold themselves out as having achieved massive success, a perfect lifestyle, or the perfect relationship.
I “like” a huge number of groups on Facebook dedicated to applying the methodologies of those people in one way or another.
Then, as I observed the posts that were appearing on my feed as a result, I began to look closely at how those people who I’ve been liking ad nauseum were marketing their services.
What I found was a pervasive practice that I’d heard about, but mostly tried to avoid in my own practices.
It’s something called “hitting the pain point.”
Yes, this is an actual marketing term for a practice that is taught in most online workshops for service-oriented entrepreneurs. Get ready to inhale if you haven’t heard of it before.
“Hitting the pain point” is when an online entrepreneur– usually one who is supposed to be doing something for the benefit and personal growth of others– looks at the primary point of pain and suffering in her client base, and via her marketing, calls attention to that wound, sticks her finger in it, pokes around and makes it bleed a little, and then offers herself up as the ultimate solution, for a price.
Pretty appalling, right? But I bet if you look around at the world of self-improvement, you’ll see this EVERYWHERE now that you know about it.
So what did I uncover when I put all of these observations together? Here’s what I can report about my feed on a daily basis:
It is packed with people telling me everything that is allegedly wrong with my life . . . so that they can sell me something.
It is packed with people holding themselves out as wildly successful entrepreneurs with the magic bullet to multi-million dollar businesses . . . so that they can sell me something.
It is packed with people who claim to have overcome every problem imaginable in life (you name it: debt, a bad marriage, business failure, a hateful career, bad copywriting, body image issues, eating disorders, workout addiction, smoking, a crap sex life, and even, just this week, the scourge of ENVYING OTHER PEOPLE ONLINE), and have transcended all of them to reach a holy stage of life perfection instead . . . so that they can sell me something.
Looking at the big picture of all of this, it is no wonder I have been feeling so absolutely awful about myself.
My feed has been full of people TRYING to make me feel bad about myself, my life, and even my achievements, as a marketing ploy.
And as the New York Times article points out,
that has left me with a very important choice.
Which brings me back to the title of this post: I QUIT.
As of today, I am vowing to recurate my life. Perhaps you’ll choose to join me.
I will not work with people who try to make me feel bad about myself any more.
I will not give my money to people who try to make me feel bad about myself any more.
I will not like the Facebook pages of people who try to make me feel bad about myself any more, and I will not friend people who market their services that way.
I will not subscribe to the email mailing list of anyone who tries to make me feel bad about myself any more.
And above all, this: I will not be someone who does it to others.
Today I vow that I will no longer keep company with people who intentionally hurt me, because I become the company I keep. (tweet this.)
I quit the idea that I have to poke at the suffering of others to be successful.
I quit the idea that I have to have it all figured out (or pretend to) to be good at what I do.
I quit the idea that life is ever perfect, or that we are ever finished evolving or can possibly achieve some state of perfection that allows others to put us on a pedestal.
I quit all of the seemingly mandatory marketing rules of this business universe I operate in, because ethically I just can’t stand to live there any more.
I realize this will burn some bridges, but at this point, I don’t actually care. I’m over it.
Which brings me to the following:
I don’t want to work with you if the reason you’re working with me is because you want the life you think I have, or because you think that I am somehow more perfect that you.
I am about building on what works, not about fixing some purported thing that’s wrong with you.
And if I have to sell you on how bad your life is to get your business, you should not be working with me.
Here is what I know about what I do: I am very, very, very good at it. And I am here on earth to help people become the best incarnation of who they can be, and to grow into an ever-increasing love of what is.
That is not to say that work is always easy.
But I am done with convincing anyone, or having anyone convince me, that the starting place for that work is somehow a place of imperfection.
It is not.
You are already enough. Say it with me, out loud: I am already enough.
This morning, as an experiment, I stood on the subway and looked around at everyone on it with the thought in my head that every single person on it was already perfect. If you want to blow your daily experience and your mind given the constantly comparative thumbs-up-thumbs-down world we live in, just try that little exercise on for size.
You, and everything you are, and everyone you know, and everyone you will ever encounter, is already perfect.
Your life is merely, and miraculously, a constant process of refining that perfection.
What a delight that is. How lucky we all are to be so fortunate to have that chance. And how blessed am I to work with people who are in that process with me.
You are already enough, exactly as you are. So am I.
Together, let’s make a choice: let’s not give anyone else permission, ever again, to tell us any different.
Here’s to starting over. I quit.
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