Somehow, I just found this post. It really struck a chord.
It also made me realize that all around us are calls to change our lives with fads. Sources ranging from Instagram to Pinterest to Facebook and even blogs all constantly flag NEW WAYS to change our lives! A lot of these seem to focus on health (maybe because I live where I live) – from eating mostly avocados to the Paleo diet to juice cleanses to eating all organic to an ever increasing focus on the “natural.” The emphasis is on “new ways,” implying that the way we exercise and eat now is wrong and we need to change. But I think you could apply this to a number of other lifestyle fads and self help guides. And boy is parenting susceptible to fads as well, as that article from NPR notes. Remember “Bringing Up Bebe,” “Tiger Mom,” and even “Lean In,” which also prescribed advice for parenting?
I think it’s in the American culture to strive for a different/better way of life – maybe ever since Thoreau trundled off into the woods (where he didn’t really live off the land and relied on baked goods from his family). When I lived in the UK, there weren’t a lot of lifestyle fads, other than going to the pub and walking a lot. It’s confusing to constantly receive the message that we aren’t good enough as ourselves, and that we need to change. I personally don’t think it’s good for us to receive these messages over and over. And I am totally unconvinced that lasting change is possible by following fads. After all, there will always be a new and shiner method to try, while we abandon ship on something else.
And maybe it’s because at heart I don’t think people are capable of major change. But I do think they are capable of becoming wiser – and sometimes wisdom is knowing oneself and what one is capable of.
To this end: recently, I’ve decided I love playing tennis, hiking and riding my bike. So I do those things regularly because I enjoy them, instead of soldiering along on some treadmill to burn a set amount of calories. Likewise, I like the taste of most fruits and vegetables so I eat them. But I don’t force myself to eat “superfoods” anymore simply because they’re good for me. I don’t care how many nutrients beets have – they taste like dirt to me.
On the other hand, I love the idea of always learning. So what else is out there? Maybe the answer is to try to quiet all the noise, something I’m focusing on everywhere. One of my favorite ever quotes is:
“Our minds are susceptible to the influence of external voices telling us what we require to be satisfied, voices that may drown out the faint sounds emitted by our souls and distract us from the careful, arduous task of accurately naming our priorities.”
― Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety
Back to that NPR post: possibly the biggest relief about being a working parent is that no one really ever asks me about being a parent and/or what my parenting philosophy is and/or makes a face when I say something like “formula.” Without other voices chiming in about this all the time, it leaves me, oddly, to parent with my whole heart.
Do you agree that fads get in the way of our best selves or do you vehemently disagree?