Today I scrolled on Twitter. That’s not the most interesting thing ever, but that’s one of the things I did today. I saw on Twitter trending that self-made, this idea of self-sufficency, women were being celebrated. Just also stumbled onto this Twitter thread about people working 9-5 and feeling like they had no hobbies. These two separate posts on Twitter led me to a conclusion-
Our culture truly glorifies self-sufficiency but then everyone wonders why they feel so isolated.
Before you come at me, this statement 100% needs unpacking and I will happily do that for you. After all, isn’t that what this blog is for?
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Self-made (self-sufficiency) is a really dumb term.
There. I said it. What we were all thinking. Self-made isn’t real. The self-made billionaires – while I totally agree they had great ideas and executed those ideas well, they didn’t do it all on their own. They had help. They weren’t completely living lives of self-sufficiency. Rihanna probably needed someone with more of a business background to help her launch Fenty. Dolly Parton didn’t produce all of her music on her own. These women are not entirely self-made. And in some ways, that dismisses the community they had around them helping them to succeed.
Which leads to my next point.
Our society doesn’t place a good emphasis on community.
We often talk about society – meaning the grander culture, the U.S. and its distinctive regions and corresponding politics – but we don’t talk about community. The people you grew up with, the neighbors you have now. What boggles me about the U.S. is the intense work culture we have so much so that we’ve made our coworkers our “family.”
You have to sacrifice personal growth or readjust your career goals to build a life where you spend time with your family and friends. This is due to the U.S. policies and standards in corporations. Other countries have made it easier and more culturally acceptable to have such strong bonds with family. Ours does not. Lots of Americans feel like cogs in a machine. They feel drained and so trying to place expectations of strong family bonds feels like too much to place on themselves.
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We think we’re supposed to do this adulting thing alone.
Maybe this is a shift in our culture for the last 30-40 years (my weak approximation) but it used to be that kids lived at home even as adults until they were married. Nowadays, kids are itching to move out and live the lie of self-sufficiency. And while I love this desire for independence, the culture of individualism is toxic. The culture leads to a cycle of feeling like the chores one would do more efficiently in the context of the family is impossible.
In this Twitter thread, people would talk about how they only had a few hours at home before needing to rest for work. They lounge on the couch feeling drained from the day. On the weekends, they’d do the laundry or go grocery shopping. And they often felt behind on these tasks. Not necessarily having the energy to do more than that on their weekend.
In a more community centered society, I don’t think being an adult would feel as difficult as it does. Oftentimes, we’re learning by trial and error. Not because we don’t have the information, but rather our access to those resources (namely, our family and larger community) have fractured due to physical mobility. And an expectation to desire that physical mobility. For example, Youtube videos and television shows showing young adults moving out of their parent’s home as soon as they are financially stable.
Though self-sufficiency is presented as a dream, young adults feel more alone than ever.
Don’t get me wrong – I know social media has played a role in this. FOMO is real (and it sucks). But I do wonder if pursuing a job or a career far from family and from childhood friends makes feeling connected to a community hard.
That’s not to say you can’t make new friends. But how do you make friends and sustain those relationships if you’re at work most of the time? Does a 9-5 adequately fit in with a lifestyle that can support making friends? I don’t think so.
Self-sufficiency is a myth our culture is trying hard to sell. In reality, we are all made up of the people in our lives and the wisdom they’ve given us (either through mistakes or advice). It’s frustrating to see being a billionaire being put up as the cultural ideal when in reality people’s goals often separate them from connections. And connections are where real joy is found. We can find fulfillment in our work, but I think we forget that it’s work and we all need a break sometimes.
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I can only hope when we’re not working, that we won’t find ourselves bowling alone.