I just finished Sebastian Junger’s book called Tribe, which is about finding belonging in a world that is constantly pulling us apart and physically isolating us. I’m always at my happiest when I am the most connected with the people around me, and so I thought the book was very interesting as Junger discussed the role that real human connection can have on our over well-being as well as our society’s well-being.
The quote above really resonated with me because of how much it seems like there is pressure to chase after the extrinsic values of beauty, money, and status - at the expense of intrinsic values such as feeling competent, being authentic, and feeling connected to others.
Our culture drives us to join the mad dash of getting more than others, being more impressive than others, and do what fits the mold of being successful. The world drills into our minds that people will be more impressed by a great job title than they would be if you were fulfilled in your life. People are more likely to notice that you’re always dressed nicely more than they notice that you’re a great listener. We have a desire to gain the approval of others, so what do we do? We chase after the things that the people around us will notice, inadvertently letting go of everything else.
But what if that doesn’t fulfill us in the end? What if we go in circles trying to gain the approval of others, but end up with a life we don’t want to experience?
In the book, Junger notes that as our society has shifted from a “tribe” like format to group of individuals living and working alongside one another. Now, society sees the face value of the individual rather than those traits that are skin deep and more difficult to define.
You have a choice, to either prioritize your emotional and physical well-being, or prioritize making money and looking superficially impressive. They are not mutually exclusive, but something has to come first. Especially if you’re in your twenties, the decisions you make now can set the tone for your life, a tone that will set the themes of the life you will continue to lead in the years and decades to come
If you choose to pursue the intrinsic values in life, you will have to have discipline in the long term. You will constantly be pulled in the direction of making your entire life about looking impressive to other people, especially as you change into different seasons and stages of life. This tension is natural and is hard to deny with what our culture celebrates. You have to have the discipline to make the choices that will bring you satisfaction and joy.
The nice car doesn’t matter, the big house doesn’t matter, what matters is YOU feeling whole and fulfilled. If you can have the things you want - great, but don’t give up your fulfillment in exchange for possessions and status.
Photo by Yasmin Dangor
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