Everywhere I turn, self-help products are being promoted. Self-help gurus evangelizing to the chorus of Americans who are finding fault in themselves. Somehow, we’re never attractive enough, never thin enough, our home isn’t stylish enough, our smart phone isn’t smart enough. It’s not enough to be intelligent, you also have to be beautiful. It’s not enough to be beautiful, you also have to be fashionable. The list goes on and on. We’re constantly being declared as “not enough”. There are tons of books claiming to have the key to living a more productive, more zen, more healthy way of life. We read them all twice, and yet we never quite feel anything has changed. Why aren’t I happy yet? Why aren’t I wealthy yet? Why haven’t I reached my goal weight yet? The truth is that we aren’t happy partly because we’ve been misled. The American public has been sold a lie. And the lie is that we’re not good enough; so, rather than live a shamefully pathetic life, we should instead find bliss by enjoying these fine products and services.
Your hair isn’t blonde enough? Try our new hair dye system. You’ll look beautiful and men will flock to you.
Can’t find a date? Try our new body spray. The women will fall at your feet.
Do you feel left out because all your friends drive fancy cars? Buy this stylish car for a fraction of the cost. No one will ever believe your broke.
Corporations have found a way to create misery. They capitalize not just off our desire, but off our insecurities too. When in truth, our happiness isn’t correlated by what we buy or what books we read, and our insatiable plight to find happiness only leads us to greater depths of despair. Being in constant search of the unattainable, always viewing ourselves as “under construction” makes us lose sight of the good things in our lives; the people who bring us joy, the meaningful work we do, providing for our family, nurturing our children. The best things in life aren’t revealed during a commercial break. We take advantage of the things that bring us the greatest joy, and instead seek fulfillment in the pages of self-help books, or on the shelf of a department store.
Though we all desire to experience happiness, it’s important to note that the feeling is fleeting, just like any other emotion. On any given day we’re likely to experience a gambit of emotions, including stress, anticipation, boredom, disappointment, relief, and relaxation. But, because of the messages we’ve received from “the sponsors”, we think we’re supposed to feel happy 24/7. When our experience doesn’t match what we interpret in commercials, ads, and television shows, our confidence is tested.
You start to wonder why you’re not as happy as everyone around you. We neglect the fact that long-term happiness is often achieved by long-term sacrifice. Sacrifices made on a regular basis. Sacrifices that directly correlate to our values and our vision. In commercials, they don’t reinforce the hard work required by you alone. They hide “the realness” in the fine print along with the side effects; or at the end of an ad when they talk so fast, you can’t quite make out what was said. They don’t want us focusing on the negative reality of diet programs or prescription medications. “Results may vary”.
Instead of chasing happiness, perhaps we should look for it in our own backyard. Perhaps being grateful for the things we already have, for the body we already have, for the car we already drive, for the family and friends who already love us unconditionally; perhaps being grateful is more reliable and long-lasting than happiness. I mean, let’s face it, it’s not likely that we’re going to be happy every minute of the day. Our commute to work may be fraught with heavy traffic jams but at least you have a way to get to work. The scale may be tipping a tad bit in the wrong direction, but at least you’re alive. You may look in the mirror and see yellowing teeth, but at least you’re not being fitted for dentures just yet. Don’t allow consumerism to alter your view of yourself or your life. We’re not made to experience total happiness 24 hours a day. Experiencing other emotions are critical to our growth as humans.
I’m giving up on chasing a temporary feeling, choosing instead to gain new experiences, leave my comfort zone, increase my social circle, and open my eyes wider to the beauty that surrounds me each and every day.
America, you can’t trick me out of my dollars or my sense.