We grew up in a society where we are defined by our age and what we accomplish at a certain time of our life. In this unique era of history, social media amplifies these societal pressures and expectations. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen start a wonderful discussion about the different issues we face around racism, beauty culture, identity, and success. Jason and Whitney express their frustration towards these unrealistic expectations, the people-pleasing culture that makes us lose our sense of identity when we are pressured to be a certain type of person by a certain age. This makes us question if there is an expiration date to success and how it hampers our ability to be our self and enjoy the freedom to do what we want to do. It’s a tough reality to face but we need to work towards overcoming the pressure and not let it define what success is to us no matter what our age is, how we look like and what we do in life.
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How Societal Pressure Puts An Expiration Date To Success And What We Should Do About It
One of the topics here on the show that we have covered intermittently or with different people, we dedicated part of an episode to what I’m going to discuss and we’ve sprinkled it out throughout some of the other ones. That’s the idea of ageism but more specifically, how the ideas around age, aging, appearance and success coalesce into this sticky, dangerous and confusing stew of what we’re supposed to accomplish, have, do at a specific age. This has been coming up a lot in various forms, generally through videos, social media and memes.
For some reason, I’ve been getting sent a lot of versions of people reexamining their relationship to age, work and success. It’s apropos as I’ve got a birthday coming up. For me, I feel that there’s a certain amount of reflection and reviewing my life whenever I get around a birthday. It’s interesting to be receiving these messages, memes and videos. Before I share a particular video you sent me, Whitney, this video got me emotional and I’ll talk about why it got me emotional.How do we let go of expectations? Click To Tweet
I have been strangely ruminating on memories that I haven’t thought about in a long time, almost incessantly. I don’t think that I’m necessarily that kind of person. I don’t view myself as a person who lives in the past. I don’t generally spend a ton of time thinking about what I could have done, what I should have done or reviewing my past failures or mistakes. I don’t feel like normally I spent a lot of time sitting and thinking about those things.
It’s almost like it’s stuck in a loop where I’m reviewing old bands that I’ve been in, old recordings, old projects, creative projects I haven’t thought about in so long. I noticed that part of the theme in reviewing these old memories, these old creative projects, band and all of these things from decades ago seems to be imbued with this mix of reminiscing for old times. Also, missing community, missing being with people and missing collaborating creatively. There’s another element where I feel sad that certain things didn’t work out in my life. I feel like I’ve been in an uncomfortable way of reviewing the things that didn’t go the way I wanted to in life.
That ties into the video you sent me. He’s an artist and a creator. I’d never heard of him until you send them to me. His name is Kevin James Thornton and you sent me a video he did on TikTok where he was talking about the burden of expectations that others have for us and the expectations we have for ourselves. This video from Kevin Thornton hit me in a particular way because he was talking about as an artist when he was approaching his 40s how he had this point where he was living in his car, didn’t have any savings, didn’t have any health insurance.
He realized that he had been creating in a way to try and get the approval of other people or to meet their expectations of him. He was contouring his art, what he was expressing to try, be popular and be liked and how he was compromising who he was to try and be successful as an artist vis-à-vis getting the approval, attention, money of other people supporting his artwork. He’s entering his 40s. He’s living in his car, doesn’t have money, health insurance, etc. He said something in this video that hit me in such a deep way. He said he had become the man he feared to be. I don’t know why when he said that and even saying it makes me want to cry.
That line in particular, resonated because in many ways, I feel the same. I’m realizing that my expectations and the unspoken expectations of other people in my life have created this nuanced trap or emotional trap that I feel like I’ve been in for a long time. The emotional trap is I haven’t become who I thought I would be, many of the things I was afraid to become and the things that I was afraid to fail at, I failed that. This is hitting me in such a way because I’ve been beholden to certain expectations of who I thought I would be or what I thought I would be by my mid-40s. Part of that is society’s expectations or what society and culture tell us we should be.
Part of it is also something that Kevin in this video was talking about how exhausted he felt when he got to his 40s. All these decades of work, creativity and creating art. Here he is, living in his car. Part of it is the exhaustion and feeling like you don’t know how to move forward with your life when you feel that exhausted. I realized that part of my exhaustion is years of my own expectations where I thought I was going to be the unspoken expectations of society, my family, my friends. Also, feeling like if I don’t have certain things accomplished at a certain age, I don’t have much value in society. I know from a logical perspective that doesn’t make sense but it doesn’t mean I don’t experience it emotionally.
The point of this video in what you shared is he was talking about liberating himself from expectations. In the practice of doing that, he felt he was creating some of the best art of his life. The challenging part of this conversation, how it relates to ageism and expectations, is how do we let go of expectations? It’s one thing to say and express verbally. I have found personally, it’s extremely challenging to do. Every time I start to let go of an expectation, whether that’s something that I co-opted from society, my family, my industry or it’s something, maybe I formed on my own by observing the success of other people.
We talk a lot about it on this podcast and we have done in different episodes how self-awareness isn’t the whole enchilada. It’s part of this puzzle of becoming more of who we are. The challenge is jumping from that awareness of, “I have a ton of expectations. Something should happen if I put in the work the time, the effort, etc. By age 44, I should have this. I should have that.” We talked a lot about the danger of should with our friend Tricia Huffman. Beyond awareness, I have found that it’s difficult to not have expectations, to jump into a new creative project, whether it’s this podcast, the songwriting, or whatever I find myself doing. I find myself stumbling over the expectation to make things great and please people and have them enjoy what I’m doing creatively.
The thing about this whole conversation is, as an artist, there’s a fine line because you want to do things that are authentic, raw and true to who you perceive you are. I want to feel myself in the things I’m creating. As an artist, to survive in the world, you do need the support of benefactors, whether that’s Patreon, fundraising, people buying your music or your art. It’s a tricky thing because to be supported by others with your art requires them to like it. This is a difficult thing, to be self-motivated without an expectation but also realizing that, as artists, our livelihood is dependent to a degree on people liking what we do, buying our art, our records and supporting our podcast.
I struggle with this on a daily basis, whether it’s us recording this, it’s me sitting down and being commissioned to write songs. Part of my resistance is I find it difficult not to focus on whether or not someone’s going to like what I do. In a way, it still feels like my financial survival depends on that. Yet, if I try too hard to please other people and give them something they like to get that financial remuneration to survive, I feel like it’s easy for me to give up part of my authenticity in the process because I’m making something they’re going to like.
I’m in a particular mood where I’m examining this relationship. Going back to the ageism part with the music coming back in my life where I’ve been writing the songs and these jingles for people, it brought back a lot of painful memories for me of being in bands, recording albums, trying to get a record deal, going on tour and having none of that work out in my 20s and 30s. Here I am in my mid-40s, having this renewed relationship with my music career and not knowing where it’s heading, not knowing where it’s going to go but feeling a lot of pain by re-engaging my music career. It’s identifying that I haven’t fully grieved what came before, like the old dreams.
I don’t dream about getting a record deal, touring the world and doing all this crap. It’s like, “Is it because I’m in my mid-40s and that’s what young artists do?” I’m examining my ageism and my limiting belief systems of, “That’s not something you do in your 40s. That’s something you do in your 20s and 30s when you have the stamina and the energy for it.” Strangely, I have this gratitude for these new musical projects and excitement around them but it also brought up a lot of pain. A lot of me realizing I haven’t fully let go or grieved the dreams of the past. Part of it is conditioning too.
I went in to see our mutual friend, Elle Marquis, who has this great vintage store in Los Angeles called Marquis Moon. If you happen to be in LA or passing through, it’s a great vintage store, you should go check it out. It’s in Highland Park. One of her friends was there and he played guitar for Chaka Khan and all these artists. He’s a cool guy and a great guitar player. We were talking about missing being in a band and missing the camaraderie of creating with people, being in a room and touring. He made an offhand comment, “I’m too old to be in a band now.” At a certain age, there’s a cutoff date where he said something to the effect of, “That’s something you do when you’re a young artist. We’re all old now.” He said, “It looks bad when you’re an old guy in a band.” I had this reaction of like, “Is that true? Is that his opinion or is this something that a lot of people feel?”
I’ve been catching up with a lot of old bandmates that I used to play music with in Detroit through Instagram. I noticed that they’re not at least publicly making music or being in the bands we use to be in. I wonder if this is a common sentiment for a musician or an artist to think, “That’s something you do when you’re a young artist. You don’t do that when you’re older now because we’ve got responsibilities and mortgage payments.” I bring that up because I noticed that ageism with being an artist is a common thing. I have judgments against myself. I have judgments against other people.
I also think about Bob Dylan. On the day of this recording, it’s Bob Dylan’s birthday. I had the pleasure of listening to hours’ worth of Bob Dylan’s music on the radio station. He is 80 and still touring. He doesn’t give a crap. Bob Dylan doesn’t care, so why do we care? It’s a thing that I realized is a painful thing for me. I’m trying to get to my resistances and my judgments that are holding me back from expressing certain things. At the core of this, it’s confusing to me why we, as humans, put some expiration date on success. It’s like, “You’re supposed to be successful by this age or you may as well give up.” I don’t understand why we do that. Where does that even come from?
I’m exploring this and asking these questions because I’m trying to give myself more space and freedom around this and not feel heavy and sad. The video that I’ve been watching from Kevin has been giving me a lot of pauses. I’ve been examining a lot of my emotions around expectations, failure and success. I don’t want to be hard on myself. I want to let myself off the hook of thinking that I ought to have done something by this age because I do like making music and I do like creating. I don’t want to give that up because that’s something you do when you’re young, whatever that means.
I feel it’s also coming up around investing. We’ve talked a little bit on the podcast, Whitney, about you exploring and investing. Through your encouragement, I have finally started to do it. I’m going to be investing in some things. That’s a side note to this conversation. That’s also a part of the ageism with that conversation, too. It’s like, “You’re too old. You should have been doing this in your twenties. You should have been doing this when you were in your 30s so the compound interest could accrue. You would have much more money now.” Forgiving myself for not doing it in my 20s, 30s and now only getting into investing when I’m in my mid-40s.It’s a difficult thing to be self-motivated without an expectation. Click To Tweet
It’s exhausting to judge ourselves based on our age and to think it’s too late. To me, that’s one of the most damaging parts of this conversation is whenever I have a version of that thought, “It’s too late, why bother?” I’m being mindful of not believing that thought because that’s one of the most destructive thoughts we can have as human beings, “It’s too late. I’m too old. Why bother?” That is a sticky thought that has many tentacles to it.
I think about these things too because it ties into a lot of different messages that are perpetuated similar to racism. The more I examine racism, the more I see it in subtle ways. On the surface, people can verbally say, “I’m not racist.” If they examine their lives and their behavior, myself included being a white person, have likely participated in it perhaps without even knowing. A lot of this is perpetuated. If somebody is ignorant, then they’ll continue participating in it. It’s similar to beauty culture as a whole. It’s hard to step away from it because it’s common and it’s embedded in us.
I examine beauty culture a lot. I’m fascinated with Gen Z given their age range, which in 2021 is between 9 years old and 24 years old. It’s fascinating. The more I sat with that age range, the more I felt that’s an intense period of our lives when our brains are developing and our hormones are changing. There’s so much going on between the years of 9 and 24. It’s heavy. Knowing those numbers, I recognize that there’s a lot of Millennials that are similar to Gen Zs. If you’re 25, you’re technically a Millennial in 2021. They act a lot like Gen Zs do because of the blurred lines with generations.
I bring that up because I see that it’s like our future in a lot of ways. Those people start to have more and more influence through the media, social media, advertisements which often hire young people. Young people are hired to model and act. They are listened to. They’re savvy about social media. They generally have a lot of influence. Paying attention to them is important. This may be true of any generation but I don’t remember this as a Millennial being a huge deal likely because of social media’s ability to amplify. It feels like there’s so much focus on age with Gen Z. Millennials seem to be focused, myself included. Millennials are between the ages of 25 to 40 and there’s a lot of identity crisis that happens during those years and fears around getting older.
I also wonder, is that feeling more intense because Millennials are hearing Gen Z bring up age so much and call Millennials and Boomers old. I feel like Gen X doesn’t get brought up quite as much as either commentary on Boomers and Millennials. Somehow Gen X skips over it. Maybe Gen Z doesn’t realize there is Gen X and they blur them all together. My point being is there’s a lot of this tension in calling out Boomers and Millennials, talking about the differences as I’m doing right now. It seems to have a lot of weight to it. They’re clinging to their youth out of a lot of this fear. I wonder if this fear has been passed down so much.
I remember my mom passing down a lot of fears inadvertently because she’s concerned with her age and has been for as long as I can remember. There is an energy around it that I pick up on. I’ve been reflecting on it a lot because of social media. I have to step away from social media often and ask myself, “Is this true what I’m feeling? Is it this underlying current of energy that people are passing around to each other?” I feel like the older generations that are raising and are influencing the younger generations are passing on these messaging like beauty culture messaging that we get passed on from celebrities and influencers. You see this over and over again. You feel like you’re aspiring to be it. There’s that draw to these things.
If we don’t stop to examine why they’re happening, then we become persuaded by it. That’s what I’m trying to do. When I notice myself getting triggered, I find comfort in doing some research to better understand it just like I’m doing so much research to better understand racism, for example. It’s not driven by comfort because racism is an uncomfortable conversation. It’s driven by the desire to change and I feel the same way about ageism, beauty culture, capitalism and hustle culture. Grind culture is a term I was hearing and noticing how this is affecting people.
This same topic ties into ageism in some ways but also ties into a big struggle that younger generations and Millennials had been focusing on a lot on kids. It seems energetically through social media, especially TikTok, where Gen Z, younger Millennials are vocal and have a strong presence. They’re talking a lot about not wanting to have kids. I’ve been fascinated by that because I’m in this stage of my life exploring it and wondering. I would be able to have kids if I wanted to as the clock ticks, which is another part of ageism, especially as a woman.
Hearing these perspectives on having children and one that struck me on TikTok is a number of people talking about how abortion laws being a big focus in our government how some people believe that the reason the government wants to try to control women’s choices is rooted in capitalism and even rooted in things like racism and slavery. This is all speculation. I’ve been trying to do some research on it. I don’t know if we will get an answer. It is something interesting to think about. If you’re being forced to have a child that you don’t want, is that because you’re adding another person into the world for the population to ensure there are always workers?
This is a lot of ignorance on my part, so don’t take any of this as fact. The speculation is that a lot of the abortion laws are stricter in southern cultures, where there tend to be more challenges with money and race. What I’m picking up on is that they want to ensure that poor people and nonwhite people continue to have children because those people will likely go into the roles of the workforce where they can work minimum wage to get by. If those people aren’t around, where are they going to find these employees? It’s something interesting to reflect on.
I heard in the past of the difference in education and the rates of having an unwanted child are less and people that are educated have money. The rates are higher in unwanted pregnancies for people that don’t have a lot of money or are not white. I want to go look up all this data but it got me to wonder, “Is there some manipulation happening here to keep our system going?” It ties into a lot of this. It’s this overall perspective from people that are waking up in social media giving us a lot of opportunities to examine these things.
One of the most important things that we’re seeing happen is people are speaking out openly, especially Gen Z are being vocal about these things and their human rights. They may be afraid of getting older because older generations have passed down a lot of fear, “You better have kids before you get too old.” That another way of manipulating people to have kids and rush the decision, I think about that a lot too, “What’s the rush to get married? What’s the rush to get kids? I don’t even know if I want to have kids. Why don’t I just pick some person to get married to?” A lot of that pressure feeds into it because there’s a lot of money to be made in childbirth, first of all.
Another thing I’ve seen several times on TikTok is people talking about how expensive it is to give birth, let alone to raise a child. We’ve also talked about on the show the big differences in different generations in terms of how much money people make. The generations are making less and less money compared to the older generations. That’s another big struggle with getting older. A lot of people are collectively suffering and things are unbalanced financially. When you feel financially insecure, do you want to have kids?Ageism with being an artist is a common thing. Click To Tweet
Part of the money shifts is happening is because younger generations are waking up and saying, “I’m not willing to slave away to make money. I’m not willing to grind and make all this money for what?” In one of the videos, I saw was this woman was like, “I’m done with grind culture. Why do I want to work all these hours to make money to buy things I don’t need and be unhappy?” We have a lot of capitalistic drive around and it’s confusing. Coupled with the emotions you’re having, even though you’re Gen X, you’re still heavily influenced by Millennials and Gen Z or having these conversations and asking all these questions. Why is the big question over and over again?
Based on the things that you’ve said, Jason, a lot of your notions are coming from the older generations that are pressuring you to be the things that you haven’t been or aren’t yet. Maybe you don’t even want those things that you thought all this time. That ties into the people-pleasing too because you start to lose your sense of identity. You’ve got pressure to be a certain type of person by a certain age and if you’re not that, you feel like you failed. If you examine that failure, you can think, “Do I even want to be this person that society is pressured? Who’s been pressuring me all along?” There’s been so much influence in our society from all this pressure that it’s slowly withering away but people’s identities are shaken.
People have lost their sense of identity or don’t even know what it is because our culture is confused based on all these different generational reactions. At the same time, it’s still being perpetuated like I feel racism is. We have a lot of people aware that racism is a problem but we still have enough ignorant people. We have enough people that are perpetuating racism because it benefits them in some way like ageism benefits some people and beauty culture benefits some people. While we know how hurtful those things can be, we have to do a lot of inner work in order to start to contribute to the outer work and recognize it’s all taking a long time. Simultaneously, we’re trying to figure out who we are as individuals. No wonder all of these things are confusing.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to wanting to be happy. Sometimes, it feels hard to be happy when you’re getting all these mixed messages from society. Similar to Kevin on TikTok, you guys might be of similar ages or at least in the same generations, you’re probably bearing the brunt of it. You’ve probably spent the great majority of your life with all of this messaging that if you want to be successful, you have to be X, Y, Z, or do X, Y, Z. If you don’t do those, then you’re not successful.
You’ve spent so much time. It’s only been the past few years that you, Jason Wrobel, have woken up because I’ve seen that shift within you. In the last few years, I feel like you woke up and you’re like, “I don’t even think I want to hear this crap that I’ve been working so hard for.” That’s part of where we’re at as a society because a lot of people are having those same realizations but the problem is there’s still pressure in the air. We’re in a transition. It’s going to feel awkward and messy.
Most days, I feel like I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing. Sometimes, that feels liberating and there feels like a lot of space and freedom around not knowing what the hell I’m doing or where any of this is leading. Other days, it feels terrifying because I am slowly unwinding the programming and the wiring of, “All of this has to lead to something.” It’s the same formula that society dictates but a mutated version. What does society dictate? You graduate high school, go to four years of college, and maybe you go on and get a Master’s. Who knows? You meet your person, fall in love, get married, have 2.5 kids, and have a cat or dog. The nuclear family dream that’s left over from the ‘50s.
That archetype is still being parroted over and over as if that’s the life we want as Americans and that’s what’s going to make us happy. As entrepreneurs or as artists, there’s also this formula of, “I don’t even know what the hell the formula would even be.” Put your stuff out there, get a bunch of social media followers, maybe you’ll get a book deal or maybe you’ll get a record deal. Maybe it’ll get huge online and go viral. We’ve talked a lot about the versions of this. The thing that I’m working on is, “Who am I? What kind of life do I want if I’m not in this mode of thinking that everything has to build on itself and ultimately lead to something?”
They think in some ways, that’s the archetype. You put all these years in grinding, working, hustling, and burning yourself to the bone because it’s going to result in fame, money and success. It’s difficult because we are bombarded with people who give us that messaging. “I worked for all this time then it was all worth it because I got successful. All those years of struggle were worth it.” What if you struggle all those years and you don’t get the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Newsflash, most people don’t get the fame, the money, the “material success” even though they might have 10, 15, 20 years of work behind them.
It’s the promise of, “You could make it too.” I’m starting to recalibrate, “What do I want in life? What feels fulfilling? What feels joyful? How do I want to express myself?” These are all questions I’m sitting with. Also, why does this matter? I told you at the beginning of this podcast that I’ve been getting bombarded with interesting messages around age, success and creativity. There’s a writer and her name is CL Polk. She posted something on Twitter and the tweet says, “I see that we’re stressing out over the idea that if you don’t debut by a certain age, you’re doomed. Loves, I signed with my agent on my 47th birthday. I won the World Fantasy Award for that novel when I was 50 years old.”
Here’s the thing that got me and that I’ve been meditating on. “The only thing that art asks of you is to do it.” That’s profound to me. That whole tweet is a healthy perspective. A, because she’s reminding us that the door on creativity and opportunity doesn’t close at some age like, “You had your shot. You’re done.” That doesn’t happen. B, inspiration or creativity or art or passion doesn’t care about your age. You can have an amazing idea at 5 or at 55 years old.Why do we put an expiration date on success? Click To Tweet
That particular phrase that CL Polk shared was profound to me. I say that because there have been so many times, I’ve stopped myself because of like, “Why bother? Who cares? No one’s going to care. You’re too old for this.” Realizing that when I have these ideas that come up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning or I take a nap, some idea comes and I race to my phone to record it, that’s a whole another tangent. Do we even know where thoughts come from? Do we know where ideas come from? Is it God? Is it the unified field? Is there some grand field of consciousness that dumps ideas on us?
Elizabeth Gilbert explored this in her book, Big Magic, which is great. Her idea around this is thought–forms in ideas and creative inspiration will go around tapping people on the shoulder until someone pays attention and wants to birth that idea into the world. Her perspective on creativity is not a personal thing like, “That’s Whitney’s idea. That’s Jason’s idea.” It’s just an idea. The question is, whether Whitney, Jason, the reader or whoever wants to take that idea, run with it and materialize it into the world in some form.
That’s a healthy perspective. Art, creativity, and ideas don’t care about age. It doesn’t care about your perception of your ability or disability. Thoughts, ideas, creative inspiration and passion can come at any time at any age. It’s important to remember that. I’m saying it out loud on this podcast because I’m saying it to myself, “If you believe in God, unified field theory, universal consciousness, spirit or whatever you believe in, it’s comforting to know that if we do our best to keep ourselves open to it, there’s no end to creativity, inspiration or passion. These new things can come to us. It doesn’t matter what age we’re at.”
I want to put that out, print it out write it out, and put it in my office. Maybe my only job is not to manage the success of something I create or try and force it to be successful or manipulate people to like it. Maybe my only job is simple. When I say it’s simple, I’m not saying it’s easy. Maybe the simplicity is to be a good shepherd for the ideas that want to come through. Maybe that’s it. “Is this an idea I want to help shepherd into reality, yes or no?” “Yes.” “How can I get the hell out of my own way and be a good shepherd for that idea, not trying to manipulate the outcome, make it be something and force it to be a bestseller?”
It takes a lot of courage to do that because of the pressure to make it successful and the pressure to have people like it. Ultimately, isn’t that out of our hands? To some degree, I release a book or a record and I spend $20,000 buying Instagram, TikTok and Facebook ads. Certainly, people try to force the thing they create to be successful. This is not a new thing. People put in a ton of money. We’ve talked about in previous episodes different authors paying people to go to bookstores and buy their books so they can be on the bestseller list. We know that people are forcing their creative things to be a success. They do it all the time but that feels gross to me. I don’t know if the right word is earning success. That also feels like maybe not the right thing.
When we are manipulating the system so that we can be successful, that feels icky. That feels then like life didn’t decide. We forced it to be successful. I don’t want to approach it that way either. I want to create things, release them and let them do what they’re going to do because the alternative is way too much pressure. The alternative of trying to make it be something or spending tens of thousands of dollars to force it. You could do that with albums, too, like, “Go download my record. I’ll pay you $20 to do it.” All you have to do is have enough money and you can force the thing to be successful in the world.
I don’t find that to be something I want to do and I don’t know that’s necessarily an ethical thing. What I want to do moving forward is to try to stop forcing things in my life, which is difficult to do because my sense of safety is still tied to the idea that if people like me, I’ll feel safe. It’s still that old tribal thing of, “If I’m liked, I’m approved of and people love what I’m contributing to the group, I’ll be too valuable to dispose of.” I have this old ancient wiring that I’m still dealing with of, “Maybe you’re worthy of love and you’re worthy of acceptance and you don’t have to force it on people.”
It’s like, “I’m worthy. Look what I created.” To me, that’s almost like an adolescent or infantile response of like, “Love me. I’m worthy, mom and dad.” When I say it’s simple, it’s not easy. For me, it’s like, “Be a good shepherd for the creativity and let it come through,” but the difficult part is all of the, “You need to be loved. You need to be worthy of affection. You need to be worthy of attention.” I’m not asking for sympathy when I say this but choosing to be an artist in the world is a tough road because of all these factors.
I’m not sure that you have a choice. People choose not to be artists. Let me put it this way. Artists will choose not to be artists because of everything that you’re describing. One of the things that’s a huge part of this conversation is I feel like many people are trying to force themselves into a mold that they don’t fit in. That can come in the shape of, “I want to do this but I’m afraid so let me mold myself into something that I’m not. People are telling me that I can’t do it, so I’m going to believe them.” It’s ultimately all rooted in fear. There are many cliché stories about people that wanted to do something but didn’t because they didn’t think it was going to work out for them or they tried and it didn’t work out for them. Over and over again, you hear that. People that move to Los Angeles and then give up and leave.
It’s not going to work out for everybody, at least in the form that the majority wants. That’s part of this too. It’s not to say that because you want something or you have a purpose, that it’s going to be an easy road and that you’re going to get it in the same form or timeline as somebody else. This idea of forcing it, manipulating, cheating or things that we talked about a lot, a lot of people have found ways to make it work for them. My perspective and this could be rooted in my belief system so it could be confirmation bias. I have witnessed enough people that have cheated or manipulated things in some way to get what they wanted but it didn’t last and they didn’t necessarily seem any happier. They’re chasing constantly.
You get stuck in that cycle of constantly having to fake it because we have that mentality of, “Fake it until you make it.” If there’s no foundation behind what you’ve made, it’s not like the faking ever ends. It’s not until. It’s like you’re faking it and making it but I don’t think it’s like, “Once I’ve made it, I can stop.” I don’t think it’s that easy. It goes back to beauty culture. One of the big reasons that I’m fascinated by beauty culture is I know and I’ve known most of my life that I don’t like doing myself up. I don’t like all the maintenance that women and people who identify as women go through. Some people enjoy it. Some people find deep joy in doing their makeup and their hair, buying clothes, their nails and working out. All of this maintenance doesn’t resonate with me. In fact, it’s been too stressful.The only thing that art asks of you is to do it. Click To Tweet
This might seem like a weird comparison. I don’t mean it to be offensive but I was watching Elliot Page’s interview with Oprah talking about his transition and how free he felt as a man. He got breast surgery and he was so excited to not have to wear a shirt and how incredibly overwhelming it was for him to dress up as a woman and feed into all of that. Even though I do identify as a woman and that’s how I was born, too, I also identify with that feeling suffocated by all the beauty pressure in my whole life. That was me trying to force myself into a box. I don’t want to wear makeup but I would wear makeup to try to fit in and please others.
Now, I feel freer not wearing makeup most times. I’ll wear it sometimes and I wear it when I feel I want to wear it. I’m not anti-makeup but I still feel uncomfortable not wearing makeup because it’s the norm. Also, doing my hair or wearing certain clothes. Maybe this is even why I have so much social anxiety of like, “What if I’m not even introverted or if I’ve had all this anxiety about being in public because I don’t feel like I fit in in the way that I want to be?” That’s something for me to examine once things start to shift and open up again. I have to observe what it’s like to socialize. Is it because I feel like I have to put on a mask that I don’t want to wear?
There’s a fear of being seen. When we talk about age, we’re talking a lot about the career side of it but the physical side of it is so huge. That’s where I feel my pressure. I don’t feel a ton of career-related pressure. I feel a little biological pressure. I feel undecided and unsure about having children. There’s only so long that I can contemplate it but I also am not going to let that biological thing force me to do something. If I never feel ready to have kids, I probably won’t have kids. I don’t think I’ll make the decision to have a child because I’m afraid that I want to in the future. That to me doesn’t feel right, at least not right now.
Speaking to children, as a side note, one thing I think so much about is having a child almost feels selfish. You’re doing it as an adult because either you feel the pressure or you feel like it’s going to bring you joy or satisfaction but you’re bringing another human being into the world. It’s a weird concept for me. This might seem extreme but this is something I think about sometimes. I’m like, “Why would I have a child because I feel pressure from other people? Having a child is raising another human being which is supposed to be selfless but if I’m making that decision because either I feel pressured to or I’m trying to do that to feel satisfied in life that seems so strange because it’s not about the child.”
Parenting is fascinating to me psychologically but that’s a whole other story. I have a lot to dig through with that. Going back, I don’t know if I feel a lot of career or financial pressure that you’re describing. We’re different people in different stages with different situations but I feel a lot of the ages I’m in being a woman. I feel the overall pressure to try to form myself into something and how do I show up. Another observation on TikTok on May 24, 2021, there’s a lot of people posting that Lady Gaga went into West Hollywood in the Los Angeles area. She celebrated the ten-year anniversary of one of her albums. We’re coming up on Pride Month and there was the combined celebration. People were commenting on how she didn’t look like herself and she wasn’t acting like herself. I noticed it, too but I also thought, “She’s probably not the same person that you remember her being. We went through a pandemic. This is the first big public event that she’s done of that type. Who knows what’s going on with her?”
All this commentary, people didn’t think it was her. They thought it was her stunt double. They thought it was someone dressing up to pretend to be her. There are so many weird comments around it. We don’t have any context for why she looks or is behaving the way that she was like but so many people want to comment on that stuff. It ties into this, too. There’s so much pressure to be who people think you should be or who people think you are and that messaging is perpetuated. This goes back to what I said in the beginning. We have to shift into more awareness about this because by commenting that way, we reinforce it.
That’s one of the biggest opportunities that Gen Z has. I’ve noticed they’re commenting on other people about the same thing that they’re personally verbalizing that they’re struggling with. They talk about body acceptance but so many Gen Z people online comment about other people’s bodies poorly and their appearances. It might not be the exact same people but I’m saying culturally, there’s this weird thing that I noticed and certainly, other generations do this, too. I noticed that so much on platforms like TikTok. This is supposed to be a woke, radically empowered generation who are done with the BS, being more accepting and less judgmental.
You’re commenting on a celebrity because she doesn’t look the way that you think she’s supposed to look. You’re making fun of people constantly. You’re canceling people left and right. There are still so many contradictions that I see online coming from mostly people in that age range. They’re not aware enough to even recognize the conflict that’s happening there. It’s because it takes so much work to recognize these things, wake up from them, and make a shift. If you and I are struggling as more biologically mature people with more experience historically, of course, the younger generations are going to struggle with it because they can feel this, too, and they feel conflicted by all of this. That’s why I’m saying it’s a big identity crisis.
You spoke to one of the things that I have experienced a lot and also one of the things that I’m potentially concerned about in going to events, gatherings and things like that. What you said was, “You don’t seem like yourself. You’re not acting like yourself.” These kinds of comments. First of all, there’s no room for a person’s evolution or personal transformation or growth when you think they ought to be a certain way. This is a difficult thing, especially for public-facing people, public figures, celebrities, etc.Art, creativity and ideas don’t care about age. Click To Tweet
I’ve even experienced this many times in my life when I would be at a public event and someone’s like, “Are you okay? Is everything cool? Are you good?” I’m like, “Why would you ask that?” The phrase would be like, “You’re normally so energetic, bright, bubbly and funny.” By my own doing through videos, speaking appearances and you know this, I created this persona of like, “Jason’s the wacky guy and he’s the funny guy. He’s the guy who’s going to be zany on stage, tell jokes and entertain everyone.” If I’m not in that mood, people have commented many times over the years like, “Is everything okay? Is something wrong?” It’s like, “I don’t feel like being the funny entertaining guy right now. Maybe I’m tired, or mourning something.” You don’t know.
It’s a subtle thing and then sometimes not so subtle in terms of Lady Gaga where it’s like, “She’s not herself.” Why do you expect a person to be one-note the whole time? “You’re supposed to be upbeat, fun, and energized. We came here and you’re supposed to entertain us.” No. How boring would life be if it’s like, “We’re going to play like a C the whole time.” “We love when you play that song with one chord.” “I don’t want to play the song with one chord. I know you like it and I’m glad you like it but I’m not one chord.”
In my own way, that drives me bananas. I’m a little concerned. There are all these events now. Expo East is purportedly happening in September 2021. I got an email that the Seed Food and Wine Festival that I’ve spoken at four times is coming back in November 2021. It gives me this anxiety and part of the anxiety is what you said. I might not be cheerful, happy, bubbly and excited. I might be freaked out to be around that many people. If I go to any of these things or none of them, my aim is to be as real as I can be. At some point, I’m going to be around large groups of people again. If people are like, “You’re not the Jason we remember.” I’m like, “I’m not because I’ve been through what I’ve been through. I’m probably not going to be Mr. Entertainment or whatever you think I’m going to be.”
My whole point is I want to show up as I am and people will judge or evaluate how they evaluate and that’s not under my control. It also brings up what you were talking about with the beauty culture standards and the things you’ve been facing and looking at inside of yourself. When I do think about business meetings, trade shows, what’s wrong if I show up in my twenty-year-old tank top and my board shorts? My inner dialogue is like, “You’re not professional enough and no one’s going to want to do business with you if you show up with your hair messed up and your tank top and your board shorts. You’re supposed to show up to these shows to make connections and impress people. They’re going to look at your badge.”
We know because when we go to these kinds of business events, people will look you up and down. You can see their eyes scanning you. I’m at the point where it’s like, “I’m going to show up how I show up and if you don’t want to do business with me, you don’t want to do business with me.” It’s a difficult thing because we’ve been conditioned of like, “Whitney, wear the right clothes and the right makeup. Show up and be polished. Have your elevator pitch ready.” There’s a part of me that I don’t want to do that thing anymore. It’s going against all these years of conditioning of, “When you’re in a professional setting, you need to show up this way.”
I don’t know. I wonder what it’s going to be like. Dealing with the pressure of like, “Wear the right shirt and wear the right connections. Have the right thing on your badge.” I’m curious because I know you are planning on going to Expo East. I’m on the fence. How do you think you want to show up for things like this specifically? Do you think you’re going to be like, “Here I am. No makeup. I’m showing up exactly as I want to?” Do you feel pressure to show up a certain way because we haven’t seen these people we know and our connections and our colleagues in so long? How are you feeling about doing public-facing events given everything we’ve talked about?
I don’t fully know yet. I’m going to deal with it when it comes. It doesn’t serve me to figure it out yet. I’m supposed to go to an event in LA, a small one with one of my clients and that’ll be interesting. The next one is an event that I’m supposed to speak at in July 2020. The next one will be the event you’re talking about Fancy Food Show, and Natural Products Expo. I get excited. Just saying those words excite me. Part of me is like, “Maybe it’ll be nice because it’ll be more acceptable to be distant and introverted.” I’m not quite sure. I wonder what the rules will be like. Will you have to wear a mask to those events? I’m not quite sure if you will. I’ll be fully vaccinated. Although the news on what that will mean changes so often.
You can’t even know anything with COVID because the rules are changing, sometimes by the day or by the week. I have no idea what those situations will feel like. I’m comfortable online not wearing makeup. We’ll see if I want to wear it to these events if it’ll cause me to feel more confident. I was looking at my shoes and I’ve been going through stuff and deciding what to keep and what to let go of, clothes and all that stuff. I was like, “I wonder when I’ll wear these high heels again or anything with heels.” I don’t go out that much but I’ll wear sneakers or flip-flops everywhere. I haven’t worn any of my heels in so long and certain clothes, I wonder about. I’ve kept certain things that I know I’ll feel good in my event clothes. I’m not sure and that’s okay.
The good news is that we’re all figuring this stuff out. Most of our challenges are based on judgments. This goes back to what I was saying about what I’ve observed in the comments from Gen Z users. It’s odd because they will verbalize what they’re struggling with and yet, collectively tear people up for the same things that they verbalize they’re struggling with. That’s an important thing to take note of. We tend to notice things in other people that we don’t like about ourselves. If we keep that in mind that is comforting.
Most importantly, know that most of these things are human constructs. Unless it’s illegal to do something or not to do something, do it however you want to do it. No one’s saying that you have to be a certain age to achieve something. When I say no one, I’m saying maybe executives won’t hire you but that doesn’t mean another company wouldn’t. That doesn’t mean that you can’t create it yourself. That’s the other reason why we see so many people wanting to be content creators. People want to be able to make their content. They want to sing, perform, make videos and act. You can do that all on your own.
That’s why we see more and more podcasters. Podcasting is satisfying. It’s like having your own radio talk show. We get to do this mostly on our own. We do have some team members that support us. My point being is we’re fortunate that we live in a time where we can rebel against some of these standards and we can always mentally rebel against them. For example, the gray hair stuff. I don’t think about that much because I don’t look in the mirror and I don’t do much with my hair. My hair is almost always up in a bun these days.
I’m sure when I start going to events again, it’ll be interesting when I’m paying more close attention. I’m going to notice my gray hair again. I don’t have that much of it. You can see it on YouTube. I don’t think anyone can tell but I can tell when I have the gray hairs which are mixed in. I might feel insecure about it but then I have to remind myself that there is absolutely no real reason to feel insecure about it. If somebody else chooses to dye their hair, more power to them but if I choose not to dye my hair, more power to me. Part of the reason that I’m pushing myself not to dye my hair is because I want to be a role model for other people that deep down doesn’t want to dye their hair either.
I feel that way about makeup. There aren’t enough women that proudly go through the world without makeup. I would like to be that person or one of those people to exemplify that. If I’m going to go into a meeting and someone thinks less of me because of the color of my hair or the lack of makeup or whatever I’m wearing, that’s not somebody that’s ultimately going to align with me. If I don’t need them, then there’s no reason to abide by their standards or let their viewpoints on me shift how I feel about myself.
Certainly, there will be times when it will be more important to abide by their standards and we each have to weigh that out. We have to figure out where we feel comfortable and confident at this time even if we want to be different. It’s a fluid thing and that’s what I’m recognizing, too. If you see me wearing makeup, it’s not like, “Whitney has gone back to wearing makeup permanently.” No. I felt like wearing makeup that day for that occurrence. Sometimes, I feel better wearing it. That’s what’s going on in that time and I won’t know that until I’m put back in those situations.
My reflection on this is I’m so used to being physically comfortable in a certain way. I’m wearing comfortable shorts and tank tops. I’ve worn pants a total of four times in a couple of months. It’s going to be interesting to gauge people’s level of caring about their appearance and their presentation as the world opens back up. It’s an interesting value metric because, in some ways, we still have this deep attachment to how people perceive us. It goes back to the beginning of this conversation. Whether it’s artwork, fashion or makeup, it’s how we’re presenting in the world. We’re doing it in ways of wanting to be accepted.
There’s radical self-expression and then there’s also like, “On a subtle level, whether we’re conscious of it or not, I’m going to dress, be, act, do and present in a way because that’s what’s acceptable.” I say that because I went through my entire wardrobe. I’m donating 30% to 40% of my wardrobe because it’s not comfortable anymore. I realized I was wearing stuff because I was like, “This is fashionable. This says something about me. This is presenting my personality in a certain way.” I wear this stuff and tried on my entire wardrobe and I was thinking, “This thing is not comfortable. This does not feel good on my body.”
Moving forward, I might show up to these trade shows in a kimono and say, “I’m wearing a kimono in public. I don’t care.” I’m being honest. I want to prioritize comfort in my life. That also makes me “feel” old because I remember older people in my family being a kid and judging them for their shoes. Being like, “Why are you wearing those gray dumpy New Balance?” Being like, “Because they’re comfortable.” Now I’m like, “I get it.” Ironically, we host this podcast, This Might Get Uncomfortable, but I’m realizing that with my fashion choices, I want to be comfy. It’s probably because I’ve spent a couple of months mostly in tank tops and shorts. I am not mad about it.
That being said, I have a product shout-out that I want to talk about, which is a bit funny because we’re talking about beauty standards, appearance and I have made it no secret. I’ve made it an open discussion about my concern about my hair loss and aging. I’ve talked about this in previous episodes. I was researching and talking to my hairstylist, Brandon. By the way, shout out to Brandon Balderrama at Liberated Salon in LA, an eco-conscious and totally vegan salon. You introduced me to Brandon years ago. I’ve been seeing him for more than a decade. Anyway, he’s like, “You got to take biotin.” I was like, “What’s biotin?”
He turned me on to this supplement and I wanted to talk about it. It’s from a company called Bluebonnet. This is something I’ve been taking. This is their Hair, Skin and Nails Formula. It’s got vitamin A, vitamin C, biotin and zinc. It’s vegan. These are plant-based collagen peptides. Also, MSM, keratin, glutathione, resveratrol and CoQ10. Apparently, this blend of collagen peptides, keratin and biotin form the building blocks to protect, grow and nourish your hair, skin and nails. I gifted this to my mom for Mother’s Day, too, and she’s digging it.
After three months of taking it, I have noticed that my hair has gotten thicker. Not psychotically and not crazy but it’s not as thin as it was. I’m taking two of these a day religiously and have been pleased with the results so far in terms of the volume and thickness of my hair coming back around my crown. Props to Bluebonnet. Thanks for the great products. I feel like it’s ironic that we’re talking about, “Screw beauty standards,” and here’s Jason taking a supplement to regrow his hair. I’m not an avatar. I still like my hair. I want it to look good. I’d like to keep it as long as possible.
There’s part of me that’s like, “You’re still subjugating yourself to the standards of masculinity and sexiness.” I’m like, “Yes, I am. I’m not a perfect person because I’m still beholden to ideas of what looking good means and there’s still a part of me that feels like having hair makes me better looking than not having hair. That’s a self-judgment that I need.” The reality is I might still lose it. Despite all my efforts of eating clean, eating a highly mineralized diet, using these great shampoos and taking the biotins, I still might lose the whole thing. I acknowledge that I’m still attached to having hair. Henceforth, while I’m doing what I’m doing, realizing that at some point, I could lose all of it and will have to learn to love and accept myself without hair. That being said, do you have a shout-out you want to share for this episode?
First, I, too, have taken a variety of different supplements for hair and nails. I was sponsored by Country Life at the end of 2020 and they have an awesome line called Maxi–Hair. I don’t remember what the other one was called for nails￼. I liked the formulation of that, but I didn’t notice a ton of a difference. It might have been me because I’ve taken stuff like this before and didn’t notice it. Supplements are fascinating in that sense. I believe in supplements, but they tend to have subtle effects. Who knows why? They had a delicious lavender spray. Their whole line is called MAXI Beauty. The lavender spray is a biotin spray and it was so delicious to take. I love the taste of lavender. They had one that’s a non-lavender flavor.
The brand I’m going to shout out, I’ve already used and I don’t think I saved the containers. I will save containers even when I finish them but I don’t have them. This was a line of organic tahini that was phenomenal. They have organic, non-organic and non-organic chocolate tahini, which was mind-blowing. I did not realize that tahini would taste good with chocolate in it. I thought that’d be a weird combination but it tasted almost exactly like Nutella. It’s from a company called Soom.
You gave me a small sample of that chocolate tahini. It’s shockingly good.
They’re playing tahini, which is a single-sourced origin. It’s so good that I’m craving some thinking about it. I don’t have their tahini right now but I do have another tahini downstairs and I want to make a salad. My favorite way of using tahini is in a salad. My favorite salad recipe is a scoop of tahini mixed with some water until it gets the consistency that I would like. I love to add in two things. One is nutritional yeast to give it a richer nutty, cheesy flavor. The other surprise ingredient is olive juice or olive brine. The water that olives are sitting in a jar, I pour that into my tahini and mix it up. It gives it a little bit of olive flavor, plus salt. It’s so good. I’ll chop up some of those olives. Usually, I do cucumbers, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and peppers.
Those tend to be my staples. I almost always have those ingredients in my fridge along with the tahini. It’s one of the most satisfying salads. I’ve been making that for years and I never get sick of it. Consistently almost every day of the week for a while, I was having that exact salad and then I would toss in things. I was into these Plantain Croutons that Trader Joe’s sells. I was on a kick with those for a while and they’re flavored with garlic which made them delicious. I swap over to roasted pumpkin seeds and I would buy organic raw pumpkin seeds, toast them myself and I sprinkle them on.
I love making salads but tahini as the base has been so satisfying for me. It’s wonderful because it’s full of calcium nutritionally. Soom Foods is a wonderful company. I have a little card from them, too and I did save the card. It was a sweet thank you card which always gives me a good feeling in my heart. I’m reading on their website. The tahini typically has a lot of calcium and iron. This one, in particular, is pressed from the best Ethiopian sesame seeds. It’s got a delicate but deep flavor for a richer, mildly bitter taste with a smooth texture. That’s the last thing I would say about Soom. Not all tahini has a great texture and theirs is perfectly creamy and easy to mix up. That’s why if you take a scoop of it and mix it into water. It’s a perfect consistency. If you buy the chocolate version, I would eat that by the spoonful. You could spread that on top of bread or put it on fruit if you want. It’s delicious.We still have this deep attachment to how people perceive us. Click To Tweet
Did you make chocolate sesame milk? My mind now wants to get some and take a little bit of water, sweetener and make chocolate. I don’t know why. An iced cold glass of chocolate sesame milk sounds so good. Soom, I’ve got to get my hands on some and make some chocolate sesame milk. That being said, we are at the conclusion of this episode, dear reader. If you have any ideas on anything we discussed, ageism and beauty standards. Also, how to liberate ourselves mentally and spiritually from a lot of the boxes, traps, and structures that are trying to make us conform, you can always email us. It’s [email protected] and that is our website￼. Anything that is here to support you on your mental health and emotional wellness journey as we like to discover and explore all the many tentacles of that journey here on the podcast.
You can also follow up with us on our great posts on social media. We have a great Facebook Group and we have an Instagram page. We are active on Twitter and our YouTube channel. If you have not seen us, you can see my old tank top from many years ago, my hair I don’t care about and us being courageous in not presenting. That’s one of my favorite aspects of this podcast is we show up as we are. I feel like that adds to a lot of the authenticity and spirit. Hopefully, you feel the same way, too, dear reader. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate your support, readership and shares. We’ll be back with another episode. Take care!
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- Kevin James Thornton
- TikTok – Some thoughts about the burden of others’ expectations by Kevin James Thornton
- A Life Without Should: Claim More Joy With the Life That You Want with Tricia Huffman – Previous episode
- Marquis Moon
- CL Polk
- Twitter – CL Polk’s tweet
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
- Natural Products Expo East
- Seed Food and Wine Festival
- YouTube – This Might Get Uncomfortable
- Liberated Salon Los Angeles
- Blue Bonnet Hair, Skin and Nails Formula
- Country Life Vitamins Maxi-Hair
- Soom Premium Tahini
- [email protected]
- Facebook Group – Wellevatr
- Instagram – Wellevatr
- Twitter – Wellevatr
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