We’ve all been taught to dream big, think positive, and aspire to greatness.
The “motivational” Tony Robbins-esque mindset has us all thinking that we can manifest the life of our dreams by posting a list of our goals somewhere to read every day, cutting out vision boards, and basically focusing all our attention on our desired future.
It’s all very well and good to set goals and stay positive, but have you ever stopped to consider the actual effect that aspirational thinking has on you?
If you’re like me (or most of my clients), obsessively focusing on your aspirational future doesn’t motivate you or make you stay focused… it makes you feel like shit, and make bad decisions.
Let’s take shopping as an example. Many women buy clothes that are just a liiiittle too tight, in the hopes that these tight clothes will encourage them to finally drop just a few more pounds, so that they can rock their hot new clothes with a hot new body and feel sexy and be happy.
But what actually happens is that they end up with a closet full of clothes that are too tight, and every time they try to get dressed for something it’s like their entire wardrobe is calling them fat, and they end up feeling frustrated and sad and insecure, and having nothing to wear that’s flattering or remotely comfortable.
I do this too, only instead of shopping for an aspirational body, I shop for an aspirational lifestyle.
Despite currently living in Syracuse NY and working from home (thus only necessitating a wardrobe full of yoga pants and hoodies) I constantly get swept up in the purchasing of fabulous party tops, high waisted gaucho pants, headbands covered in flowers, and brightly colored sundresses. I aspire to live the kind of life that this wardrobe would be appropriate for, and when I shop it all plays out in my mind, how I’m going to make friends who invite me to fabulous events and I’m going to need this backless yellow romper!
Then when I go to get dressed to leave the house (usually to babysit my niece and nephew or go to Chipotle) my options are: something way too loud and tight and impractical… or ratty gym shorts that don’t fit anymore but I haven’t replaced yet.
Basically I have nothing to wear. In those moments I get mad at myself and my wardrobe, and I feel dissatisfied and resentful of my life (despite the fact that I lovebabysitting and Chipotle!) for being too boring to require nice clothes. Everyone on the internet seems to have somewhere to wear nice clothes. They must have more interesting places to go. UGH.
This is what we get when we’re aspirational: a feeling that we (or our lives) are not good enough. And that sucks.
The same goes for following social media accounts of people whose bodies, lifestyles, fashion sense, or home-making skills you aspire to. Sure, you can get tons of cute ideas for home projects and meals and outfits and workouts, but along with those ideas you might also get a daily dose of disappointment about some aspect of you and your life as it is right now.
The habit of following people who look like they have their shit together in the hopes of maybe someday finally getting your shit together too (by drinking green smoothies and filling your home with fresh flowers and doing yoga every morning) is not going to work.
You will never get your actual real-life shit together as much as someone on instagram looks like they have their shit together.
It’s impossible, and it in the meantime you constantly feel like you’re failing at life.
Next time you go scrolling through social media, pay attention: what percentage of the accounts you follow are “aspirational” for you, supposedly inspiring you to create a better body, or life? What percentage affirm that where you are right this moment is perfect?
And how do you feel after scrolling?
Which reminds me, most of the shit we aspire to isn’t actually even about what wewant deep down! It’s often about what we think we should want, and how we want to be perceived.
This is exactly how I ended up following 200 witchy-feminine-goddess-tarot-crystal accounts last year. Granted my hormones were completely fucking with my reality, but I genuinely felt like witchy-feminine-goddess was my future. All my peers and the female leaders I admired were into that kind of shit, and I had finally embraced being female so I was like… I should love this! I should be this! I should use a diva cup and meditate and freebleed and chant and pray and do rituals with stones!
But I basically instead of being inspired by these accounts, they always made me feel like I was failing at being a woman. (Plus I was a shitty witch.)
I got some pleasure from doing witchy stuff sometimes, but the pleasure mostly came from living out the image of myself I had in my head for my own aspirational future. I liked pulling oracle cards and arranging crystals, because I liked picturing myself as being the kind of person who did those things.
This is aspirational self-image, and it’s some tricky business.
I have a friend who took up running because he wanted to be the kind of person who wakes up early and runs. He ended up running a half marathon, which officially makes him a “runner” in my eyes, and yet he told me that he only really enjoyed the idea of himself as a runner… never the actual running.
He ran for the same reason I bought crystals– because we were each invested in an idea of our future selves that we cherished and aspired to, despite the process of getting there kind of sucking.
I recently gave myself permission to unfollow every single social media account that was asirational. Goodbye witches and femme goddesses! Goodbye beautiful women doing yoga on the beach! Goodbye female weight-lifters! Goodbye travel accounts!
It was fucking liberating. My feed is now full of affirmation of who I am, education on social justice, humor, and people whose writing I adore. Scrolling has never been such a positive experience!
All of this is to say– fuck aspirationalism.
By all means, figure out what you want in life and go after it, but don’t let aspirational thinking mess with your head, send you in the wrong direction, or make you feel shitty about who and where you are right this very moment.
We can do so much better than making vision boards and feeling bad about ourselves.
Happy Tuesday ya’ll.
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