Sunday, February 19, 2012

Do I Want to "Deserve the Best"?

For the last few months, I've been feeling increasingly overloaded by the amount of things that are on my current priorities list. Research work, general exam studies, relationships, friends, home chores, home improvement, fitness, food, hobbies, decluttering, personal style, savings/budgeting, and sleep/rest/downtime... I'd primarily been chalking up the increasing number of things on my plate to the notion of "adulthood"; I'm theoretically an adult, so there are just a lot of things I have to pay attention to as a responsible grown-up-person, right?

However, I've been doing some thinking recently about the effects of our cultural hymn to deserving "the best." Oprah encourages us to "live our best lives." Katy Perry sings, "Baby, you're a firework/Come on, show 'em what you're worth." We're all (hopefully) told we're worth absolutely the best. From many, many sources, I'm hearing that we all deserve a wonderful, amazing, happy life, with a fulfilling job and a beautiful house and a loving family. We can become more successful and happy and healthy and full of love for ourselves and the universe than we ever thought possible. Etc.

All right, so we deserve the best of everything. That has to be a good thing, right? BUT. You know where this message is frequently coming from? Those who would like to sell us the "best" things or experiences or lifestyles that we "deserve." Let's take L'Oreal:


L'Oreal's slogan "Because you're worth it" is just brilliant as a marketing tool. It positions their products at the top of the line, tells you that you are a worthy and valuable person (absolutely!), and then implies that getting L'Oreal products is a celebration of your value!

And see, what I've lately been questioning is how much all of this insistence that we're worth having the best life possible along every axis also fosters the idea that what we have is BAD and NOT OKAY if it isn't the BEST. After all, not many people are making money out of convincing you that the lives we lead are perfect and wonderful exactly as they is. Instead, we certainly should never "settle." We're worth better. We deserve more! We deserve to buy L'Oreal, or the name-brand yogurt, or whatever it is that Oprah is suggesting in the magazine this month. (We deserve to buy Oprah's magazine so we can learn what items and behaviors we should be adding to our lives.) We deserve to have our perfectly-decorated and clean home, in which we spend time with our perfect partner when we're not at our perfect job. And if we don't have those things...the implication is that we should be working toward them, that we're absolutely capable of having them. And, if we're not, that we're settling for less than we "deserve." And that would be terrible, wouldn't it?

But what if some of those things actually don't need to become personal priorities? And what if the desire to get the "best" is stopping you from enjoying the "absolutely good enough"? Maybe it's okay to settle for a messy house that'll never grace a design blog. Or the person you love who loves you, even if it's possible that you could find someone even more compatible than he or she is. So for now, I'm attempting to figure out a bit more which things I really care about for myself, and which things I'm willing to let slide. I've unsubscribed, for now, to a few blogs that were perpetuating the idea of "look how beautiful my life ought to be!" (Bye bye, Apartment Therapy!) I'm going to try to look more at my notion of what it takes to be a "responsible adult" and see what isn't necessarily accurate. I think it's also worth looking at how much social influence is defining what I'm calling "best." Maybe it should be more like this, where what I choose becomes the definition of my "best":

What do you all think about this? It's hard to argue that striving for the best isn't always a good thing...but I do think there's something to the notion of choosing areas where it's actually fine (even good) to decide to "settle." Do you find the notion of "living your best life" inspiring or frustrating or somewhere in between?


Terri said...

Hm, I have a horrible memory of saying in a job interview that I deserved the job.  I'm haunted by it to this day.  I can remember feeling as you described when I was much younger, but that is long since passed.  You should see my house--a disaster.  It is only clean during semester breaks!  I am happy with good enough.

Melanie said...

 I never liked the Nike ads that said something like "nobody remembers who came second" or  "number one is the only thing that counts" when the fact is that 99.99 percent of people are number twos or fives or 10,000th...  The concept of "best" usually implies competition when I think it should be a personal thing. And yeah, nobody can live in a constant state of superlatives - that's madness.  Your post is food for thought.

Clair said...

I applaud you. This is amazingly well said! Truly, I can't add anything to it, because I think you are 100% right. =)

Thank you so much for the reminder. Happiness is about experiencing the journey wherever we are at the moment. xoxo

Sarah said...

I do think constantly striving for more isn't necessarily living your best life. I think people place value on being stressed. What's that about?

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