Switch on the TV, browse your phone or laptop...what do you see? Ads, articles, videos - all telling you to make your teeth whiter, buy a new car, drink the new drink, 'live your best life'.
This is nothing new. In 1965, Mick Jagger crooned the lyrics to 'I can't get no satisfaction'...
"When I'm watchin' my tv, and a man comes on and tells me how white my shirts can be, but he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me"
Yep, materialism, individualism and the concept of keeping up with the Jones' (Kardashians nowadays) have all been around a long time. However, with today's technology and the ability to access almost anything at anytime, it seems to have reached a whole new level. It's like there's a constant race to the top - but really, it's a scramble to the bottom.
People still care about people, of course. We see examples of this every day. But at the same time, a bunch of us have our blinders on. There's so much out there about how to serve ourselves - but what about looking after others?
We need to look outside of ourselves more. That's really living our best life.
We shouldn't be living in a society where elderly neighbours lay dead for months before they're discovered. We shouldn't be living in a world where we don't reach out and ask people if they're ok, even if they are different to us. Even if it's scary.
There are many places in the world where community is still at the heart of life compared to in the West. Where it would be strange not to talk to your neighbour.
Are we really too busy, too focused on ourselves, to pay attention?
Keeping it real
I'm just throwing this stuff out there. I'm not perfect. I don't always find it easy to reach out to people. I'm introverted. I think about myself. And sometimes, I still struggle with my fear of people hurting me. Often, I think people are things to be afraid of. And yet, when I live that way, my world becomes very small.
But we need to try. Lately, I've been opening my heart more and connecting with the people around me. Sometimes I'm a big ball of anxiety. But my heart is bigger than ever, and so is my world.
It's well-known that having strong social connections is good for your health. Loneliness and isolation can lead to a host of mental and physical problems. But did you know that having compassion and empathy for others isn't just great for the people you're helping - it's a boon for you too?
Numerous studies suggest that when we are giving of ourselves, we feel as good as we would if we were the ones on the receiving end. Thanks, warm fuzzies! Not only that, but it's also part of our nature to give - even though self-interest seems to be taking pride of place in modern society. But don't take my word for it: you can check some of the studies I've looked at here if you're into the science of it all:
Giving leads to happiness in young children
The benefits of empathy
Spontaneous giving and calculated greed
Social connection and compassion: Important predictors of health and well-being
Honestly though, we don't need to wait for studies to tell us to do the right thing, do we? Let's throw them out the window and just blimmin do it. It's always a work in progress and all of us have made mistakes, but - cheesy as it sounds - we can make a better tomorrow.
Feel the fear. Be your best. Give back.