I’ve noticed a trend lately that has started to bother me – too many people telling us that there’s something wrong with us. I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of it. Everywhere I turn, I see ads or people trying to get me to go along with their scheme to correct the problems in my life. And it’s everywhere from TV and radio to magazines & newspapers to even social media.
I have no problem with people out there trying to make an honest living. But it just seems like there are a lot of people out there with solutions looking for others to push their solutions on – and these people may not even be in need of these solutions.
I’ve noticed that there are three topics in which I find to most negative messages – you may have a different list depending on who (or what) you’re exposed to. Health (supplements and weight loss plans) seems to be the biggest area followed by career issues (jobs, debt and particular skills) and finally relationships (dating and family). So let’s look at some of the big themes:
Vitamins & Supplements:
Try walking down the vitamin & supplement aisle of your local supermarket – it can be an eye-opening experience. They have something to prevent every ailment and improve every part of your body. If you were to consume the recommended daily dose of all of these supplements each day, you’d have no appetite left for food.
Yet we’re constantly bombarded with ads about how we don’t have enough energy, can’t remember things, can’t see well without nerdy glasses and so forth. Plus, we’re learning that we’re not getting enough nutrients because our diet lacks certain berries that only grow in the rainforests of Brazil or fresh caught fish from the coast of Iceland.
While many of us do have a diet that has a lot to be desired, a lot of these problems can be solved by simply eating cleaner – more fresh and natural foods and less processed foods. It’s ironic that these supplement companies aren’t recommending that you walk up and down the produce aisle of you grocery store where you can find many foods that naturally contain the compounds in their supplements – and if the foods are locally grown, they’re even more bursting with nutrients.
If you don’t look like you could play a lifeguard on the next incarnation of Baywatch, then there’s something wrong with you. This and other similar pieces of nonsense are why so many teenage girls end up with eating disorders – if you don’t look like Brittany Spears (and act like her) the boys will find someone else. But adults are just as vulnerable. Yes our metabolism is slower and we make less time for exercise so how about this magic pill that makes your appetite go away or the diet that lets you eat anything you want or the pill that helps you lose inches while you sleep?
While it’s important to be healthy and at a manageable weight, you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you’re body fat is at 8%. Even if you’ve got a ways to go to get back to your ideal weight, many of these schemes that people are trying to push on you will most likely not help you, but they could possibly harm you. Unfortunately, the only healthy way to get in shape requires that you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
But make sure you doing it for the right reason. While looking give does give you confidence, there’s more to you that people find attractive than your body. I’m exercising so that I can be healthy and I see a good physique as a reward for my hard work. I don’t exercise for the sole purpose of looking good – it’s more for the purpose of feeling good both physically and about myself.
One of the biggest problems I have with late night TV ads is how stupid they make me feel. Here I am, a college educated (with a masters degree, too) person working hard while some guy that dropped out of high school is living the good life and is willing to share his secret with me for $150. What a fool I am to sit here and try to actually help people make changes in their lives when I could be lying on the beach while making a fortune by placing a few classified ads.
There’s also this notion among the self-help types that there’s something wrong with you if you have a 9-5 job. Granted, 9-5 is often 7-7 (or even longer) to many people, but there are people I know that punch a clock that are happier than the people that are living their dreams. While it’s nice to be your own boss, there’s no shame in working for “the man” until you’re ready to go off on your own. Many people who take my social media class feel embarrassed that they have a day job.
Again, a lot of this comes from these so-called gurus that want to sell you their personal development programs so that they can support their lifestyle by just flapping their gums (as a speaker, I must admit guilt here). What many of these people fail to tell you is that people that own small businesses without a plan to grow that business into a large business are more slaves than their working stiff counterparts.
I spent nine months looking for work back in 2003 and spent the first third of that period embarrassed about my situation. It wasn’t until I realized that I was more than my job, that I was able to deal with it and move myself in a more positive direction. You don’t need a glamorous job to support a glamorous lifestyle if you’re happy with the way things are. While it’s nice to be a business owner, it’s not for everyone. And while it’s nice to have a steady paycheck, it’s not for everyone either.
Money & Debt:
It seems like every ad for luxury items exists for the sole purpose of making people feel inadequate. Just like you’re a fat disgusting slob because you don’t look like a swimsuit model, you’re nothing if you don’t drive a luxury car and vacation in exotic destinations twice per year. The people in Hollywood whose fame has made them forget what life is like for the rest of us, parade around in outfits that could feed a family of four for a month and make the rest of us sit in awe of their lavish, carefree, self-indulgent lifestyles.
So it’s no wonder why so many people are way over their heads in debt trying to keep up with the Joneses. Don’t want to put off that vacation that your family deserves any longer, get a home equity line. Credit cards maxed out, try a debt consolidation service. No wonder most people are up to their eyeballs in debt.
I heard a great story about a couple that lived in a small studio apartment so they could save enough up to buy a house with no mortgage. They made good money and their friends and family thought they were crazy for not buying a house right away, or living in a bigger apartment. But they managed to block it all out and within a couple years (before they were even 30 years old) bought a house with 100% down. No closing costs, no points, no mortgage. How’s that for someone to be jealous of?
Skills & Abilities:
Sadly, this happens even on a micro scale. You have people out there claiming to be experts in a given area telling you that everything you know is wrong. I noticed this right away when I first ventured into the field of being a professional speaker. One of the first things I did was attend seminars by others to both sharpen my skills and check out the competition. It was truly an eye opener because I began to realize that many of these so called experts didn’t know a whole lot about their topics.
I remember attending a workshop on public speaking where I gave a five minute elevator pitch about my business and the “expert” told me that my talk was great but I lost my audience because I didn’t grab their attention within the first six seconds. I said that you have a lot more than six seconds to grab the attention and the “expert” insisted I was wrong. This resulted in a lively discussion in front of the group where I asked everyone in the audience if they fell asleep (or even lost interest) during the first six seconds. They all agreed that it’s ridiculous to think that you only have that short amount of time to grab attention – I proved my point.
After the event, the expert approached me and was kind of annoyed with me – after all, he was the expert. He then went on to talk about his speaking experience which consisted of mainly Toastmasters and Rotary clubs. I then pulled from my briefcase a copy of a contract where I made more in one hour than he did for an all day event. The point of this story is that even my own area of expertise, I see people trying to tell others that they are inadequate solely for personal gain. I wasn’t the only one that this person gave bogus advice to that day, but I was the last.
Life is interesting and takes in many directions. Some of us end up marrying at an early age while others are bachelors or bachelorettes for life. Yet there are all these ads, movies and TV shows that poke fun of people that don’t have someone in their lives.
Some people are perfectly happy not being tied down by a relationship while others are miserable because they’re in a relationship. I can think of times where I was very unhappy because I wasn’t in a relationship and times where I was more unhappy because I was in one. But I can also think of times when some of my friends were in relationships and were restricted from doing things so I was glad to be on my own. And I can also think of many times where just thinking about that special gal in my life made me forget about everything else in the world.
If you’re happy with the way things are, don’t feel pressured to change because others want you to. In the United States, more than half of all marriages end in divorce which is unfortunate. I believe that a lot of that is due to people taking steps because they feel pressured to. They date people because they feel like they should be in a relationship. And then after a while, they see their friends getting married so they feel it’s the next logical step so they take it – even though deep down they know they’re settling.
I can speak from experience that every relationship I’ve gone into due to pressure has turned out bad. And trust me, a bad relationship is much worse than no relationship at all.
It’s ironic that the same people who pressure you to start your own business also tell you that you don’t spend enough time with your family. I remember one motivational speaker talking about the close relationships he has with his kids and then in the same program talking about how he travels to speak over 250 days per year. To put it in perspective, the average school year is 180 days per year so that’s a lot of time to be away. This program was recorded long before the days of cell phones, video conferencing and the internet, so he would have had to stay in touch via phone.
I have to admit that I’m critical from time to time of people that put their families on the back burner so that they can be a hot shot with their careers. That’s partially due to the fact that I’ve met so many people through the years that have regretted missing their kids grow up while they were busy working hard to launch that business or get that promotion. It’s a mistake I’ve vowed not to make.
But not everyone is fortunate in the sense where they have the balance they desire. For most of us, something has to give. I admire the people that work two or more jobs to get their kids in good school system or put them through college. Ditto to those couples that alternate working shifts so they can both bring in an income.
But there’s nothing wrong with people delaying starting a family until they feel they are financially comfortable to do so. There’s nothing wrong with a father giving up his career to be a Mr. Mom. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a pay cut to be able to be more of a parent or spouse.
Again, as long as you feel what you’re doing is in the best interest of your family, you shouldn’t feel guilty for what you’re doing.
No matter where you are in a particular area of your life, there’s always someone out there that’ll try to make you feel inadequate. Sometimes it’s for personal or monetary gains while other times while other times it’s ego driven. The bottom line is that you need to take control of your life and decide which direction you want to go in. Letting others make that choice for you (or pressure you into making that choice) will only make you unhappy. This is your game and you make the rules. The more you realize this, the more you’ll gravitate towards the life you truly want.