The Detrimental Effects of Living on Auto-Pilot
I was mindlessly tapping through Instagram when I saw a story from one of my favorite lifestyle bloggers. She was promoting her recent nail polish collaboration and showcasing her freshly painted manicure.
Frankly, this blogger makes trying on new cosmetic products look entirely fascinating. She is up on the latest trends and it’s like I didn’t know that I needed to know these things until she told me so.
I replayed the Instagram Story to hear her narrate, “Every time I see a woman with a perfect manicure, I think that she has her life together. I try to replicate this by always having my nails done.” Well, exactly. Women who have their lives together have perfect nails. Right?
I suddenly felt the urge to buy this nail polish. Although my medicine cabinet is already filled with slightly differing shades of nude, this one looked no different. So why did I want this nail polish? Why did I feel like I even needed it?
As a passive spectator looking for constant stimulation on Instagram, I unknowingly became the perfect compulsive consumer. With my mind on auto-pilot, I was buying into a much bigger notion that fuels our infatuation with social media. We need something to feel something.
I wondered what other gendered beauty notions I was endorsing.
‘Women who wear designer outfits are fashionable. Women who carry expensive handbags are rich. Women who drive luxury cars are successful. Women who go to the gym everyday are healthy. Women who look good are happy.’
Once we look the part, we’ll feel the part, right? Does this explain why I own several containers of blue gummy hair vitamins, every shade of Bali Body bronzing lotion, and I’m just a click away from purchasing a Fit Fab Fun subscription?
Well, I’ll tell you this.
While I was working as a television producer, I appeared as though I had my life together. Despite working 75+ hours/week, hardly getting 5 hours of sleep, and rarely seeing my friends or family, I didn’t have much of a life at all.
However, I always had the perfect manicure to prove my success.
On many Sunday afternoons, I would silently cry in the nail salon while glued to e-mails, taking frantic phone calls from the massage chair and canceling any plans for the day. In television production, it wouldn’t be a normal weekend if something didn’t go wrong right before a big shoot.
At the time, I thought my sacrifices were paying off. I had consistent work as a freelance producer with a reputation for strong integrity and unwavering perfectionism. I got to travel around the world shooting America’s favorite reality shows. I had the honor of producing meaningful stories filled with depth and compassion on noteworthy documentary series. I loved the people I got to meet and all the places I got to see.
As a producer, I would split 6 months out of the year between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and spend the rest of the time shooting in different cities around the US. Who can complain when you get to work in paradise?
Meanwhile, I forgot how it felt to sleep in my own bed. I missed just about every birthday, bridal shower, and wedding. I didn’t get to see my dad blow out his candles on his 60th birthday. My brother’s wedding was a blur when I flew in from Croatia for 48-hours.
On some nights, I would go to bed with wet hair at 2AM and set my alarm for 5AM. While thinking to myself, ‘I know I’m taking years off of my life,’ I pressed on. I didn’t have time to feel real emotions, and I felt like I didn’t need restful sleep to do my job well. My family and friends would always be there, and this lifestyle was temporary, I thought.
While I can tell you exactly how many important milestones I missed, I can hardly remember a single seemingly life-or-death situation at work that justified missing each event. Just as I didn’t question the validity behind these outdated beauty notions, the cracks in my own identity were much more significant than chipped nail polish.
By giving 100% to my career, I didn’t have any energy left to enjoy anything else in my life. While my dedication felt ambitious at the time, I fell under the false assumption that my outward appearance of togetherness would lead to inner happiness. Meanwhile, I watched 5 years go by as a passive participant in my own life.
When these false realities are authenticated through seemingly perfect-looking social media accounts, it makes us feel inadequate. I fell into this trap when I thought I could overcompensate by buying things that made my life look put together. In reality, I was left with meaningless stuff and not enough meaningful memories.
Choosing to live my life differently takes conscious effort and it’s well worth it. For me, this change in mentality is how I learned to start showing up in my life as my true self. By no longer focusing on who I wanted to be, I’m finding balance through just appreciating myself for being me.
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