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  • Beth Bradford

What "lifestyle" is social media espousing?

I just read several articles about Rachel Hollis, who evidently saw a rise to fame telling women what they most likely forgot--that they have to stop punishing themselves and begin living their dreams. She's written books and makes a ton of money on conferences telling women this. It's the American Dream for women--but is it?


We are told that if we work hard enough, we can accomplish anything. On surface, that sounds great. However, we have to ask ourselves--is this what we really want?


Let me give you an example. I know several people who dream of competing in Kona (i.e. not getting a charity slot or winning a lottery). One of my friends, after years of hard work and sacrifice, did. I know another who still dreams of this. This man has a full-time job and struggles to fit in solid workouts. His triathlon success has been relatively mediocre, and significant progress hasn't been made over the past several years. Perhaps in 20 years, when he is in his 50's, he might be able to eek a qualifying spot, but what was he really seeking?


I see various social media posts of people's highlight reels. Because I'm a former competitor, I still see posts of athletes post-race or post-workout. It makes me somewhat envious of their current level of fitness, but only somewhat.


But I also see the "influencers." Their pictures are hardly candid--like someone "just happened" to have snapped a photo of them while drinking coffee. I see many yoga influencers posting from an exotic location--as if yoga bliss can only be achieved there. Or perhaps an unrealistic pose is shot in their large conservatory with perfect lighting.


Some of these influencers might provide some motivation or information that is helpful. Yet many of them make their money "influencing" you to buy something--whether it's a book, a "course," or a product. Ultimately it gives you the impression that their life is wonderful, and your life can be wonderful if you have what they have.


It's all about feeding your insecurity and feeling of lack.


What causes us to follow some people and not others teaches social media and artificial intelligence what you truly desire. It points you to markets that prey upon your feeling that you aren't enough.


And yes, maybe that social media post does indeed tell you that you are enough. Why not just stop there? Because we don't believe it. We need to continually be fed this, so, like an addict, we keep giving our attention to this desire for belonging, this feeling that THIS will make me complete.


It doesn't stop there, though. I also see people equate "belonging" with material things. We see influencers with $600 shoes or purses, and it might give us the sense that we have to have these things in order to achieve the success they have. But their shoes and bags have been purchased with your attention--with your money. They might convince you that by purchasing what they have is an "investment" in your own future. My favorite phrase from salesmen and marketers is "you can't afford NOT to have this." Go fuck yourself.


I remember loving the show "Sex and the City." I used to go to my friend's house to watch it because I couldn't afford HBO (I still can't, and even if I could, I probably wouldn't watch it anymore). The show was hailed by feminists for painting women as smart and independent. I was in my late 20's/early 30's at the time, so I wanted what they wanted. I wanted a vibrant lifestyle of going out to lunch with my friends and drinking wine and meeting hot men. I looked at my own life--living in the Deep South on a graduate school stipend with an unsophisticated wardrobe. I saw them as happy--mostly.


My distaste for the show began when I found out how obsessed with shoes Carrie was. She wouldn't think twice about spending $600 on a pair of shoes. Being someone who has never been into shoes, I never understood how she could live on a writer's salary in New York City and be able to have that many expensive shoes and outfits. At one point, she complained that she couldn't afford to buy out her apartment. Miranda explained to her that her closet of shoes contained her investment.


In other words, what she wore on her feet was much more important than her own dwelling.


Yet this show sent women to Jimmy Choo, desperate to have the types of shoes Carrie had. They wanted all the things these women had, as if purchasing them would magically transform their lives. Most of the clothing brands paid to have their products featured on the show, and it worked. Women ripped through their paychecks buying overly priced clothes and shoes in hopes that they, too, could "have it all."


In fact, some, like Rachel Hollis, would tell you that having an overpriced bag would reorient you into a prosperous mindset. No, a mindset can't be bought. No amount of expensive shoes, bags or clothes can change your mindset. It doesn't take a $1700 workshop or a $5000 retreat to Bali. All of those are fleeting, and they only make you thirst for more.


A mindset can only be changed by turning it on and turning off the media that reinforces materialistic desires. If you want materialistic things, you'll get them, but you won't be satisfied, and your soul might be sold in the meantime.


Instead, consider what feelings your desire. Belonging? You already belong. Approval? You are approved. Security? You have that deep within. It's all a matter of getting rid of the things that tell you otherwise.


Cover Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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