Our culture is obsessed with advice: how to exercise, how to eat, how to hustle, how to relax. The listicle-rich realm of online media is cacophonous with attention-grabbing gabbing that’s glorified as guidance, and it pelts us perpetually with its tokens of “wisdom.” Social media, meanwhile, is a mecca of motivational mantras, piled on top of one another in heaps of contradictions. Just do it — but just be! Lean in — but let it go!
To integrate all of the instructions into everyday life would be a preposterous task, if not entirely impossible, as this piece by Sara Kloek so aptly illuminates. If you try to collect every shiny “wisdom” token, you’ll collapse under the weight. And you’ll find, too, that few are solid gold; more are plastic, spray-painted silver.
But the real problem with this obsessive offering of answers to life’s tough questions isn’t just the overload. It’s not just the confusion, or the inauthenticity, or even the inaccuracy.
It’s the strain it puts on everyone’s self-worth.
When you can’t seem to adhere to the advice, to do what you’re supposed to do if you want to be happy and healthy and successful and loved, you feel like something is wrong with you.
But sometimes, Nike be damned, you JUST CAN’T DO IT. You might be tired or distracted or scared. You might not be ready yet.
Sometimes, you might do the exact opposite of the “right thing.” Sometimes that “right thing” is forgiving yourself for doing the “wrong thing,” and somehow, you can’t even seem to do THAT.
Life gets harder, not easier, when you let too many other people tell you how to live it. A yearning for insight makes you vulnerable to taking too many stories as truth, instead of carefully selecting the ones that really resonate with who you are and what you need.