“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg
You know what happens when I listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast? I think about how lucky I am that I’m not him. I don’t want to optimize my life to the point that I’m a robot. I don’t care about this special blend of herbal tea or that super fascinating diet that’ll prevent me from ever yawning again.
I don’t want to be superhuman.
I want to accept myself as I am, with minor adjustments.
The other night I found myself thumbing through Netflix’s extensive catalogue. After about ten minutes of humming and hawing, I settled upon an Australian reality tv show titled, “Unveiled.” Each episode showcases one couple who are due to marry within a few months. The angle: The bride wants extensive plastic surgery done before the wedding.
Each episode would follow a similar narrative: What would start out as, say, a simple breast augmentation procedure would quickly snowball into botox, rhinoplasty, eyebrow tattoos, hairline transplants, and that ‘freeze-your-fat-off!’ treatment. After all the procedures, the bride would document her recovery process, which would usually start with her speaking to the camera about her instant regret, and then end with how satisfied she was with the final outcome.
Now, I have no strong opinions on whether cosmetic injury is good, bad, or somewhere in the middle, but I can’t help but resonate with those brides in a very honest way. Self-improvement always emerges from a good place: to feel more confident, to work on parts of themselves, to fix something that’s always been nagging them, until it’s taken to the extreme. One thing becomes two things and two things become ten.
The only problem is that addiction to inner improvement is far more dangerous than addictions to nose jobs and frou-frou skin treatments.
Upon seeing your new face, a friend might sit you down and forcefully tell you that she’s concerned about your insecurities. Meanwhile, when she learns that you’re on a strict liquid diet, bought $1,000 worth of self-help books, and quit your job to travel the world, she’ll support you through your journey of ‘self-discovery’ (read: mid-life crisis). You can Eat, Pray, Love and nobody will give a shit, but god forbid you want to tackle your receding hairline and the alarm bells sound for your friends and family to organize an intervention.
When does consuming personal growth advice become a total life makeover? Can I pickup a Tony Robbins book without purchasing a $6,000 ticket to Unleash The Power Within? Can I embrace minimalism without counting all the physical items that I own? Can I be a better me without obliterating who I am?
The obvious problem about the self-help industry is the commoditization of advice on how to be better. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it fails to promote the single-most important message that people need to hear: You have to do you.
Self-help advice is a double-edged sword: It has the power to inspire us to make positive changes in our lives, but it also has the power to destroy the things that make us special.
When I started my blog, I didn’t think anyone would care what I had to say. Queer? Visible minority? Tattooed? Progressive? Career in progress? Believer in a better world?
But, to my surprise, these attributes made me real and relatable. Instead of sheltering myself behind an anonymous blog, I put my full name and picture of myself beside my words. This was my story. I had to speak be real or leave.
And you know what happened?
- My boss read my blog (still does on occasion) and supports my writing.
- Friends I lost touch with messaged me and thanked me for helping them out.
- Readers from Europe to Asia reached out to me saying that my writing has inspired them to reevaluate their relationship with their money and physical possessions.
- I started earning money without collaborating with banks, companies, or anyone that didn’t align with my values.
- My writing racked up 1.4+ million views within 10 months.
We all have a story to share. The beauty of the internet — and platforms like Medium, Quora, and plain ol’ blogging — is that it levels the playing field.
You can find your people : those who share your values, lifestyle, and weirdo definition of, ‘success.’ You can say no to vapid clickbait. You can say no to SEO optimization. You can make a promise to yourself that you won’t just regurgitate the same content that everyone else does.
When you feel that a certain space is lacking a particular voice, you have the opportunity to step up and be that voice. You can demonstrate to others that they’re not alone.
My minimalist lifestyle does not look like that of The Minimalists, Courtney Carver, Colin Wright, Joshua Becker, or Leo Babauta. I also live in an expensive city, hold down a 9–5, unabashedly progressive, and in my late twenties. Instead of trying to replicate their life, I adapt elements that make sense to me. I don’t want to travel the world, count my possessions, or voluntarily wash my clothes in the sink. We need to be happy with what already works.
During this #PrideMonth, embrace the lifestyle you love, not the one that looks good on Instagram. We’ve come too far to be seduced to living a life that’s not distinctively our own.