We have been told all our lives to strive to become better, but what exactly is “better”? Is it something definite, measurable and attainable? We have been brought up to think of it as a goal, as an end point that we need to somehow achieve to be of any worth. And when we feel like we’re failing to do so, that’s when shame comes in big time. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen tackle this uncomfortable topic in this extremely vulnerable conversation and tie it up with their ongoing discussion of America’s capitalistic hustle culture that misleadingly celebrates hard work as the way to success. They wrap up the episode by going back to the importance of gratitude, of knowing that you are already enough for who you are and what you have. Join in and take part in this uncomfortable, but necessary conversation.
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Measuring “Better”: Does Practice Make Perfect?
I had an experience that I found interesting. It was mainly interesting to me because I noticed it in an interesting way. It certainly is something I’ve experienced before. It felt very familiar but what felt new was how I responded to this experience. To get specific, there’s no need for me to share the full details. Not that I am hiding anything, I just don’t feel like the details matter fully. I’ll begin a little bit more vague and maybe dig into it because this is something a lot of people can relate to, whether you’ve realized it or not. It is the experience of feeling a physical reaction to an emotional experience. What I mean by that is for me, perhaps it’s a feeling of shame or embarrassment, disappointment, and tougher emotions. I can feel them vividly in my body.
In this instance that I’m referring to, I had this experience of disappointment and yet it felt there was more to it. This is where my awareness started to kick in. I believe that I started learning how to identify these types of emotions, whether that’s shame, embarrassment, anger, sadness, disappointment, those tough emotions. I became a little bit more aware about those after reading Brené Brown’s work. In one of her books or maybe in multiple books, she talks about how there are differences between emotions shame, embarrassment and all of that. She talks about the physical sensation of it, but I’ve seen this in a variety of different resources that I’ve studied over the years. It’s fascinating to me because I don’t think it’s talked about that much.
I requested something of somebody else. They didn’t say no to me, but they didn’t say yes in the way I wanted them to say yes. It was one of those in-between experiences. This is not with somebody I know. This is a stranger. It’s a customer service experience that I had. The details don’t matter. I remember feeling this experience or the sensation of uncomfortable feeling flush across my body. I was examining it like, “Why am I feeling this way? This isn’t that big of a deal. It’s a black and white situation. Sure, I feel disappointed but why does this feel so physically uncomfortable?” That’s what felt fascinating about that experience for me. I started to reflect on the fact that I probably have that physical discomfort, that physical reaction to an emotional experience, more often than I’ve ever noticed before.
I wondered like, “Maybe this isn’t a good thing that I’m noticing this. Who wants to become more aware of feeling uncomfortable? That’s the whole theme of this show. That being uncomfortable is not necessarily a bad thing. Being uncomfortable is not something that we should necessarily strive to avoid. It helps us to become aware of these things that we might be experiencing all the time but maybe haven’t noticed because we’ve become so used to them. We numb them down so much that our sensitivity to them, our awareness to them is not heightened. I’m curious, Jason, if you can relate to this? If you’re not sure about the sensation I’m referring to, feel free to ask because I can elaborate more on what it feels like.
I’ll begin with what it feels like in here, if you can relate to this at all. Part of what makes us interesting is that everybody has different reactions. We can’t assume that the way that we feel physically, mentally, emotionally is similar at all to what somebody else is feeling. Certainly, this changes from experience to experience. When I feel shame, disappointment and embarrassment, all three of those emotions feel similar to me. They sit in my body in a weird way. Another example of when I feel this intense physical sensation, which generally feels hot or warm in my body. Since I’m not feeling that now, it’s hard to describe. I feel warm like uncomfortable warm, not a pleasant warm feeling like tingly.
It’s interesting even trying to verbalize this and I’m curious to hear if you can verbalize it, Jason. For the reader as well, reflecting on, can you even verbalize these types of physical sensations that are connected to our emotions? Another example of when I would feel this is thinking back to something embarrassing or shameful I did in the past. Every once in a while, I’m sure this happens to most people. I’ll remember something that was emotionally uncomfortable for me that happened long ago and wasn’t that big of a deal but because I felt shame, embarrassment, disappointment, one of those types of emotions, it stuck with me. It’s lingered in my body. The memory of that experience brings up this physical sensation. Is this something that you experienced, Jason, or that you’re aware of experiencing? If so, what does that feel like to you?
For me, I had a reaction to what I perceived as being judged by someone else or the idea that I wasn’t doing enough in a particular regard of my life. I got triggered by it. It’s a little bit outside of the shame or embarrassment aspects you’re bringing up and how our bodies respond to those emotions and emotional triggers. It was this idea of I’m doing the best I can do given the circumstances in my life. If someone perceives that I’m not doing as good as I can do or doing well enough, I remember the feeling in my body was hot. There was heat. There was pressure in my head. There was a feeling of constriction in my chest. My heart was almost like retracting or trying to protect itself. These are similar emotions to what you’re describing. It’s in a similar vein for me in the sense that it’s almost like there’s a thought that triggers a belief system about something. If the thought is out of alignment with that belief system, then there’s almost a panic signal or a danger signal that gets sent to the brain.
The physical attributes of the thought, you believing the thought, and then the meaning you associate with believing that thought. In my case, this person perceives that I’m not doing my best or I’m not trying hard enough for this particular thing. My trigger is, “You don’t see me. You don’t see the efforts that I’m making. You don’t understand the challenge of what I’m going through. Now I’m angry at you because you don’t acknowledge me for what I have done. You perceive I’m not doing enough.” My body starts to constrict and get hot and I feel anger. There’s something in me that feels the need to defend myself. It’s almost like this red alert of you have to set the record straight and make this person see clearly, because they’re clearly not seeing you, but what’s that about?
So what? There’s a ton of people on the planet that don’t know who I am, don’t see me clearly, have assumptions about me or who don’t know me. If it’s a particular person in my life that maybe there’s a deeper level of intimacy. It’s almost the opposite ends of the spectrum. Yours is customer service. This person clearly doesn’t know you. In this case, it was this person that I know in my life. There’s always that possibility that we are not seeing reality clearly. If our belief systems, our unhealed trauma or someone says or does is confirming something we believe our ourselves. Here’s the interesting thing about my particular situation. There is a part of me that beats myself up for “not doing enough” or not doing my best.
There was this other edge of the sword that a person was communicating something to me an observation they had, that I interpreted perhaps incorrectly of they don’t think I’m doing my best. They didn’t specifically say that. That’s how my brain interpreted the information, which is a confirmation bias of someone is pointing out something that you believe about yourself. That’s why it’s triggering you. In the recesses of my mind, it’s this thing of you’re not doing enough. It’s the whole not enoughness conversation that I still struggle with. It’s interesting that our private conversations or perceptions about ourselves are one thing. When a person points out something we believe about ourselves or we’re ashamed of believing about ourselves, in my instance, there’s a sense of shame that I still beat myself up sometimes. There’s a sense of shame that I’m still so punitive and cruel to myself sometimes. When someone points that out or they piggyback on a belief I already have about myself, that’s when the emotions come up, that’s when the fire and the anger comes up. I could be pissed off at them for pointing it out. The reality is I’m more angry at myself for still believing that I’m not enough, for still beating myself up in those ways.
Part of this awareness process is realizing what these feelings mean, what they reveal about ourselves. Sometimes it’s simply that we feel uncomfortable acknowledging some of these deeper things within us that are being triggered in that moment. In that customer service experience, I was expecting one thing and got another. Number one, a lot of the times that I’m uncomfortable are when my expectations aren’t met. In that specific scenario, I was blaming myself. First of all, I was like, “I shouldn’t have had expectations. That’s bad to have expectations.” I was judging myself for having an expectation in the first place. Number two was the reason that your expectations weren’t met is because of something that you did, meaning myself. That’s my self-talk. You messed up and now you’re paying the consequences.
That to me is a huge trigger. Whenever I feel I’m being punished or I have to deal with a consequence of my actions, I feel intense shame. It’s always interesting to examine the differences between shame. Brené Brown says that shame is a painful feeling of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Something we’ve experienced, done or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. That unworthiness comes up for me in these moments like customer service where I feel like because of what I did, I’m not worthy of getting something. In that case, it’s like, “I did this, that’s why I’m facing this consequence.” That feels like shame to me versus looking at the situation and being like, “It is what it is. This is the outcome.” I get into this place of feeling regret and feeling like, “I messed up. I need to deal with it now. That makes me a bad person. That means that I’m not good enough.”
It’s interesting how we use situations to backup, amplify or give weight to things that we’re already struggling with. A comment on expectations. As much as we know on some level that expectations, making assumptions or projecting things onto people or situations are illusions. They’re not real. Expectations aren’t real. They’re not concrete, tangible, present reality. It’s something that we want to happen, hope to have happened or pining to have happened. In some cases, for a lot of people, manipulating circumstances in life or manipulating people to get an outcome they want. This is typical unconscious human behavior. Your reaction to it in feeling this shame or beating yourself up for having expectations is something that I still struggle with too.
I’m sure a lot of people do in the sense that we may notice in life that when we have concrete expectations. There’s a lot of emotional weight that we attach to expecting certain things. I want my partner to show up and love me a certain way, or I’m expecting that if I put a certain amount of hard work in at my job, I’ll get a promotion. I’ll be acknowledged by my superiors. There are a trillion examples we could give in human existence. The one side of it is we get hurt because we want so desperately to have a certain thing happen and it doesn’t. We add other layers of hurt on top of what is because we’re beating ourselves up for having expectations. I relate to that.
There are the what-ifs of reality. We wanted something and we didn’t get it. It’s very clear. It’s like, “Why did I want it? Every time I expect things to happen and every time I have a desire and it’s not met, I ended up being in pain and I’m hurting. Fuck me. Why did I do that?” We add so much pain and suffering on top of the what-ifs of a situation. We do that all the time. There’s a lot of power. We hear about taking the story away from situations in life. There’s the reality of the what-ifs of a situation, but all the layers of meaning, shame, guilt and story. What does this say about me? What does it mean about my place in the world? Does this mean I’m not lovable? Does this mean I’m not worthy?
We add a lot of madness to reality because we try and add many layers of trying to understand why things happen the way they happen. It almost goes back to the episode we did with Kate Faust, the conversation we had with her, where we’re addicted to finding meaning to things. In some cases, what you’re describing, the meaning is almost like, “I feel a sense of shame now for having these expectations,” or “What does this say about me that I’ve done so much work on myself and yet I’m still a fragile, vulnerable human who wants things?” That’s something that I deal with. It’s like, “You’ve done meditation and therapy and many courses and studied with many people. Why do you still get caught in these illusions? Why do you still have expectations?”
It’s because we’re fucking human, we’re fallible, we’re not avatars, we’re not ascended masters. Could we be these things and transcend expectation, illusion, assumption and projection? Sure. I don’t know any human being in my life who’s been able to transcend those things completely, but maybe we get better at it. Hopefully, we go through life and get better at dealing with those things. Maybe we don’t eliminate them completely and transcend that aspect of our existence, but maybe we get better at it. Do you feel that way? Do you feel like you’re better at dealing with these situations than you used to be?The sense of shame becomes more powerful when someone piggybacks on a belief that you already have about yourself. Click To Tweet
When it comes to the word better, that might not be appropriate for this scenario. I know what you mean by it, but it’s simply putting that mindset that we can constantly improve. Part of what’s going on here and to your point about meditation, I’m doing all this meditation, I should be better. I have a podcast about the subject matter. I should know these things. It’s easy for us that study and have completely centered our lives around topics like this, to think that means we will constantly improve as if there’s an endpoint. I suppose getting better makes sense as long as you don’t see it as getting to the top. This idea of I’m getting closer to my goal. I’ve even become sensitive to that word goal over time.
First of all, it’s overused. As we’ve talked about capitalism, hustle culture, our addiction and our obsessions with improvement, that can be damaging to our psyche because then if we don’t feel we’re getting better, we can feel shame. If we don’t feel we’re improving, we can feel shame. It reminds me a lot around weight. We can get into this mindset of, “I’m going to lose weight. I finally lost weight. I reached my weight goal,” but if we don’t keep that weight off, if we don’t stay at that weight, then we’ll feel shame. Our bodies are constantly fluctuating. I’ve experienced this firsthand. My body has been all different shapes and sizes.
The weight is going up and down probably every minute of the day. Every time I’ve weighed myself, which is very rare right now, it’s different and it’s different based on what I eat and the exercises I do and how well I sleep and all these other factors. If I were to simply view my body whether it was getting better, staying the same or getting worse, that’s so detrimental to my mental state. The same thing is true of experiences like this. Yes, awareness does give us the sense of getting better.
That goes back to a question for you, Jason, because you struggle with depression and a lot of similar emotion. You can get into this mindset of am I getting better? Am I getting worse? Sometimes I feel I’ve got a hold of this. Sometimes I don’t. I’ve noticed that with you too. I’ve had my moments, admittedly, where I felt perplexed like, “Why isn’t Jason getting better? He meditates every day. Shouldn’t he be getting better? He’s going to therapy. He’s changing his diet. I’ve had those questions in my head. Now with my current awareness, he’s just fluctuating. It is human for us to fluctuate. That’s why this idea of better can be detrimental when it comes to these elements of our psyche.
It’s important, the distinction you pointed out between this word better. It’s qualitative language but it’s also quantitative in the sense that how does one even measure better? In the context of talking about perhaps our level of awareness, our level of being able to respond to situations rather than react from our programming or our triggers, what is the measurement of this? It’s great that you brought up the potential deleterious nature of using a word like better in these situations of how we react or respond to things. Why do we even need to measure those things? Is there a usefulness in even trying to measure it? Are they measurable? I’m sure you could hook up electrical nodes or ways to track brainwave activity or what parts of the brain are lighting up when we react to something versus respond calmly. Ultimately, it’s a practice. We get a lot of situations in life where we are able to practice.
This loops into the idea of finite and concrete metrics that we use to judge our worthiness, our success, our desirability, our level of status in the world. What it comes down to is something where you talked about the goal and how that word is a little bit tricky. I personally don’t like using that word anymore. I would like to strike it certainly from the vocabulary you and I are using with Wellevatr when we talk about our Consistency Code program, Wellness Warrior Training. I want to go through and change the word goal unless it’s appropriate to the word aim. An aim suggests something that’s not this finite measurable thing we’re going for.
Let’s use yoga as a random example. A goal would be, “By the end of the year, I want to be able to do scorpion pose.” For some people, this is one of the most challenging poses. I’ve never been able to do it. That seems to be one of those poses that if people are goal-oriented yogis, they’re like, “I want to do scorpion.” An aim would be, “I want to use my yoga practice to love my body more, become more self-aware of my movement and my breath, and how I’m carrying my body through the world.” There’s no finite destination that’s measurable with that. I’m going to use yoga to become more self-aware and be more in touch with my body. Rather than, “In twelve months, I’m going to be in scorpion pose.” I’m not throwing goals under the bus but goals are very fixed. There is an endpoint. In many cases, goals are very much about our status in the world, and going back to this capitalist measurement system of, “How much money I made at the end of the year. Aren’t I great? Look at how much weight I lost at the end of the year? Aren’t I great?” Maybe aims are more sustainable because there’s no endpoint. Maybe rather than, “I’m going to make $500,000 this year,” maybe an aim would, “I want to increase my level of wealth and abundance.”
Maybe that’s financial, maybe there are other ways I can feel more abundant and wealthy in my life other than the number of digits in my bank account. In some ways, I want to eliminate goals from my vocabulary and my focus in life. I’d rather focus on aims because there’s no fixed endpoint. It’s something that we can strive to feel more abundant, to be more abundant. We can strive to have more self-awareness and body awareness and more in touch with our desires in our heart. I’m wondering how this idea of aims versus goals lands for you, and how that discussion resonates for you moving forward.
It does feel a lot better and there is a difference. Certainly, you can use the word aim and goal interchangeably and I believe I have. These are just words and we’re still figuring out how to phrase things differently. We did this episode about marketing and it’s going to take a while for us to go through all of our marketing, our websites, our language and our social media. There’s so much to unravel when it comes to changing your language and the energy behind it. When it comes to specifics, whether you say aim or goal, better or improved, or whatever else you want to say, I want to start with the fact that it’s not that there’s anything wrong with these words. It is what those words mean to you. As we’ve talked about in our episodes about cultural appropriation, sometimes we mean one thing and somebody interprets it differently than us.
Going back to this minute relatively customer service experience I had where I was experiencing the discomfort of either embarrassment, shame, disappointment, all of those different emotions that can get entangled. Whereas the customer service person might not have felt anything. It feels matter of fact to them, but they’re the exact same words being felt completely differently by different people. Going to this word aim, the way you’re describing it certainly does feel better to me. Maybe it does to other people. It’s taking the pressure off. What’s interesting about all of this is because they are words, they do shift over time. They do mean things to different people based on their experiences. That’s part of what has become very complex for us or noticeably complex.
As we grow our awareness as human beings, we become more mindful, raise our consciousness, tap into deeper understandings of our mental and emotional wellbeing. We realize that we’re very sensitive as human beings. We might have felt these emotions and physical sensations throughout our lives but if we weren’t sensitive or aware of them, we wouldn’t even know that we’re having those experiences. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t been uncomfortable. It’s just that we weren’t as attuned into identifying what was uncomfortable, identifying why the word goal or better might not feel good to us. One of the reasons that this conversation is important is that you and I are sharing that we experienced these things and hopefully, reminding people that just because we are so immersed in this world of wellbeing, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have those emotions.
We need more people to share these things to show that we’re not alone. This is a big experience for me. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on the show, but I certainly have on YouTube. I realized as I was studying shame that I feel ashamed to feel shame. I felt ashamed of how I’ve responded to shame. To explain what I mean by that, I’ve experienced so much shame in my life mostly through Brené Brown and a few other authors that talk about that subject matter. They taught me what shame even was. I didn’t know what shame was until maybe a few years ago. It was a relatively new understanding for me. Once I understood it, once it was defined for me and explained in-depth, it was like, “This helps me understand why not only I feel the way I feel, but why I’ve made choices and actions.”
Sometimes I catch myself. I’m like, “I’m not doing that thing,” because I feel shame. I have this layer of like, “You should be ashamed for not doing that thing. You should be ashamed for letting shame play such a big role in your life.” An easier way to describe this is let’s say that you love to sing, but you’re too embarrassed to go out on stage to sing, so you don’t sing. Now you’re embarrassed that you were embarrassed and didn’t sing.
It becomes a feedback loop. It’s like uroboros. It’s the snake eating its tail. You feel bad for feeling bad, so you feel worse. What you’re describing is this reticulating negative feedback loop mentally that can go on and on ad infinitum.
That’s a fascinating thing to notice as well. That’s what part of what makes shame complex, and also what makes me feel sad is that there is still or maybe even more so, I don’t know if it’s been continuous or it’s getting worse in some ways. There is a lot of judgment online. There is a lot of judgment in the media that we’re seeing. We addressed this in our episode with Ben Decker where we talked a lot about politics. I feel like my awareness around shame has become so heightened that I notice it all the time within other people. There’s a lot of shame in the media. There’s a lot of shame in politics. There’s a ton of shame online. That’s deeply affected me. It affects a lot more people than they then even realize it’s affecting them. That’s why it’s so important to talk about these things.
We need to not only recognize when it’s happening, but we have to start to get ourselves out of this cycle that you’re talking about, Jason. That’s part of where I was grateful to experience that discomfort I described in this seemingly small customer service incident. It’s like, “I’m identifying what this physical sensation I have is.” Once I’ve identified it, I can start to step back and analyze it, understand it better and process it. Through that act of bringing it to the surface, maybe it will dissipate. It doesn’t mean that it will ever fully go away. This is coming back to this word better. My goal is not to get rid of all my unpleasant emotions and discomfort. It’s not to heal myself so I never feel discomfort again. That’s impossible, honestly.
It’s simply that the more that I can identify it, I can let it dissipate so it doesn’t feel as intense. I don’t store it in my body. I don’t walk around with this unpleasant emotion all the time. That leads me to something else. This is great timing as we are nearing the end of 2020 and getting close to the beginning of a brand-new year when people tend to reflect a lot and set resolutions. That word goal is thrown a lot around this time of year, talking about improving and getting better, all those phrases come up. They sound good to us in theory, but come mid-January or early February, if you haven’t reached those goals, if you have been stuck with your habits, if you don’t feel you’re getting better, shame can come into play.It is human nature to fluctuate. The idea of “better” can actually be very detrimental to our psyche. Click To Tweet
I’m going to make a note for us to record an episode so we can address shame again. I feel a lot of people are going to need some support in the end of January. What I have been reflecting on is this emotional weight of feeling like there’s so much to do all the time. This ties back into our ongoing conversations about hustle culture and productivity. I’ve been working on my strategies, my calendar, my to-do list and trying to refine it, trying to tune into what makes me feel good, trying to say no more often, being better about setting boundaries. I’ve been doing that for years. Yet, I still feel the emotional weight and sometimes the physical discomfort of overwhelm, which I know you do, Jason.
It’s that sense where literally sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m like, “I have so much to do tomorrow.” That is such a common human emotion. I was thinking about this and wondering like, “Why am I living this way? Why am I choosing this?” When I say choosing, I’m not saying, “Whitney, it’s your fault that you feel overwhelmed,” or “Whitney, you’re the one that’s put all this stuff on your plate. Now you have to deal with it.” My brain can certainly go to that place. When I’m saying, why am I choosing this? I’m literally putting things on my calendar and on my to-do list. I’m choosing to do most of those things. Why do I keep choosing to add more and more? Why do I keep choosing to do projects that take up a ton of time and energy? How can I shift out of that? It’s not an easy fix. That’s the other thing I’ve realized.
I’m curious, Jason, to hear where you’re at with that. This happened to me. I was trying to fall asleep. I was feeling overwhelmed. I was thinking about everything I needed to do the next day. I had to get up and look at my to-do list. I was like, “I need to fix this right now.” I felt almost this panic sensation of, “I’ve got to go do something. I’ve got to take things off my to-do list. I’ve got to move things around,” because that overwhelm makes me feel panicked. I have to also realize that as I can’t fix it right away, I can’t immediately remove that overwhelm sensation because it’s been building up in my body and my mind for years. That’s part of this conversation too. That shame and addiction to productivity and self-improvement and getting better, that’s been ingrained in us for most if not all of our lives. Losing weight is a slow process. Unraveling from all of these overwhelmed emotions, to put it in a category, it takes a long time. It could take us years. We can’t snap our fingers and magically release all of that tension.
When you use the word overwhelm, what does that even mean to you in the sense of not just body sensations or what’s coming up for you on a physical level? I mean more of the psychological connotations of what you’re perceiving. Let me be clearer because I’m curious what you mean when you say you feel overwhelmed. Is it that if I don’t get the things done I’ve agreed to do, something bad will happen? Someone may perceive me in a negative way. I might perceive myself in a negative way. I may let someone down. I might let myself down. What is the conclusion on the other side of overwhelm that leads to the emotions that are entangled in overwhelm? On the other side of overwhelm, if you “fail” or don’t do the things on the to-do list, what do you think is going to happen?
Is it a rhetorical question? Is it a question for both of us? I want to hear your answer too.
Yes and I also want to hear what illusory outcomes because the outcome doesn’t exist yet. On the other side of overwhelm, you don’t know what’s going to happen. My curiosity is, are you afraid of something? Are you concerned about an outcome that hasn’t happened? Is there something punitive or a consequence on the other side of the overwhelm? I’ll definitely answer it but I want to put the ball back in your court, Whitney, because that word overwhelm feels loaded to me. I’m curious for you, why does it feel loaded and how exactly is it loaded?
This is a complex unraveling. I’m using overwhelm as a catch-all word because I don’t think that overwhelm is the only or necessarily the best word to describe this experience, but it’s a familiar word. The sensation of I have more that I’ve chosen to do and take on than I feel I can either do energetically or do time-wise, or more importantly, more than what I want to do. That third part of it is a huge factor. It reminds me of that Instagram post I sent you about I haven’t done any work and I’m not making any money. It’s the way that I interpreted that. It was from this account @SkyBanyes. This is a wonderful Instagram account that I came across. This post made me laugh. It said, “How to do no work and make no money.” It was an image of a book. I laughed at that because sometimes I don’t feel like doing work, and so sometimes that means I won’t make money.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t make money. Sometimes you make money from previous work. There’s not a direct correlation between how much we work and how much money we make for sure. That’s made me laugh because I thought sometimes I’m in a stage where I would rather not make money because I don’t want to be working as much. We talk about hustle culture a lot, the addiction to productivity and efficiency. Where we’re at as a society is we are truly addicted to the grind and most of us have been programmed. It depends on your age range, but the general consensus through social media and conversations and anything online is that a lot of people want to grind.
A lot of people associate hard work with good money. Certainly we can dig into the psychology of money but we’re not going to do that in this episode per se. This feeling of overwhelm though, Jason, is something I usually associate with lots of work. It’s having a lot of things on my to-do list. Sometimes looking at my to-do list causes me to feel overwhelmed. That’s why one night, I got out of bed. I went to my to-do list and I checked it first of all, because part of the emotion that I was experiencing was paranoia. Did I forget to do something? To answer one of your questions, Jason, I’m terrified of forgetting to do something. That’s a deep fear of mine. I have ongoing or repetitive nightmares or bad dreams of not doing something and having a major consequence.
I have frequent dreams about losing things. To get morbid, I have dreams of animals dying. That’s a reoccurring dream for me because I didn’t take care of an animal that died. It’s odd. There’s this dream of I forgot to do something and there’s a major consequence to it. Sometimes I can’t even fall asleep because that emotion is there. It’s like, did I forget to answer this email and now I missed out on this business opportunity? Did I forget to answer this email and now I’m going to have something taken away from me? Whether it’s a job opportunity, money or somebody is upset with me. I have a lot of tension. This is like a therapy session but hopefully, it’s helpful to other people reading. I have fears of losing friendships over not responding or forgetting something. It’s all of this forgetfulness and the fear around it.
It gets maximized by this feeling of having so much to do that something is going to get lost. I have such a long to-do list that ultimately something is going to be forgotten or something is not going to get the attention it deserves. That’s what I’m talking about here. I need to choose to take on less because if I take on less, it’s easier for me to focus on the important things. It lessens my chance of forgetting something and thus part of that fear is taken away.
I appreciate you explaining things so eloquently. It’s an interesting thing, this idea of taking on too much or taking on more than we want, more than we desire. If I examine where the moments in my life where I’ve been overwhelmed or “taken on too much,” the seed of it is pretty deep. If we examine the roots of our hustle culture, our overwork culture and a lot of the tentacles of a toxic capitalist system that we’re in that encourages people to burn themselves out, and grind themselves into the ground often at the benefit and the wealth of other people. Let’s be honest about that. The federal minimum wage has not increased past $7.25. That has not been raised in at least over a decade. If we have this idea that “hard work” makes you wealthy or hard work gets you success, it’s fucking bullshit because there are people who are working their asses off for minimum wage in this world.
Consequently, the people they “serve” are the ones generally making millions or billions of dollars. We don’t need to get into the mechanics of how fucked our system is. In my opinion, it’s fucked because a whole lot of people are working their asses off, which are clearly not generating wealth for themselves. Very few people at the top of the pyramid are benefiting from all the hard work of people making $7.25 an hour. I don’t want to get into that portion of the macroeconomics and how destructive our system is. What I want to focus on is the mentality behind it. There is this very deep-seated, puritanical based sense of he or she who works the hardest wins God’s favor.
There is a deep, lineage-based generational mentality that the harder you work, the more God loves you. It’s a deep-seated subconscious thing in the sense that if you toil, you’ll be rewarded for it. That’s not necessarily true in our culture and the way things have been set up. If you toil, you survive, not necessarily rewarded in the sense. I still think that’s a thing that motivates a lot of people. It is this idea that if I’m the one who works the hardest and I take on the most and I suffer for what I get, then I’m the one who’s won the suffering Olympics because God will favor me. If we dig into the more toxic aspects of our culture, it’s this idea of superiority of hard work.
Unfortunately, the corporate system and the capitalist system uses this subconscious mentality to their advantage. Working hard doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get a raise, increase your wealth, or you’re going to move up to a different class or income bracket. It guarantees nothing, but we phrase hard work and we frame hustle and grind in this pseudo mentality of, “You’ll be rewarded and you’ll win God’s favor. Congratulations.” None of it is true. If we look under the hood of this belief system, none of it is true.
When all of the madness of the post-election stuff was going down, during COVID and during all of the challenges that we’ve had in our system and our society in 2020, would it be appropriate for our president to go and play as much golf as he has? That’s up for debate. When you’re in the middle of an economic crisis and the worst economic conditions since The Great Depression in 100 years and you’re going to play golf, this goes back to this idea of hard work. My point is we need to deconstruct all of this mentally to ourselves. Are many jobs in our society just in service of generating wealth for other people? Let’s look at that for a second. How many jobs are in service of making millions or billions for other people at the top of the pyramid? If we get real about it, it’s horrifying to think about.
This is one of the reasons why I continue to reference the book, Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee. Speaking of books, we switched over to a wonderful platform called Bookshop, which is all about raising money for local bookstores. Jason and I have been looking for alternatives to Amazon, which ties into this discussion. We do still link to Amazon sometimes. We’re not Amazon-free. I order on Amazon every once in a while. I’m trying to slowly dissolve my relationship with them. I don’t know if I’ll ever entirely let go of it. The reason being is Jeff Bezos. There’s a huge gap between how much money he makes, and how much money his employees make, and how his business has affected small businesses.There is a ton of shame online and it affects people a lot more than they even realize. Click To Tweet
We would love to support small businesses and local shops as frequently as possible. It’s Bookshop.org/shop/wellevatr. I don’t know if you can search for our shop on their website but we have been building up our recommendations on there and Do Nothing has been one of our top recommendations. She gets deep into the subject matter that you’re bringing up, Jason. You would absolutely love that book because she gets into the whole history of it. There’s a big section about the religious sides of our addiction to productivity. I have some of the quotes from that book.
I want to interject quickly in terms of my cosmology around all this. It’s not just the aspect of being raised in a Catholic family, and this idea of toil and sweat from the brow and hard work will be favored and rewarded by God. There’s also the aspect of growing up in Detroit where one of the big catchphrases of that city is Detroit hustles harder. All these t-shirts that came out years ago. An old acquaintance of mine called it the Detroit inferiority complex. There’s always the sense that if you’re from Detroit, you have to outwork everyone in the room to be acknowledged. Whether you’re in a band or you’re in a business, it’s like Detroit’s been pissed on and shit on and fucked with for so long. There’s this mentality that you do have to hustle harder if you’re from Detroit. You do have to work harder to get the acknowledgment and the recognition because of where you’re from.
For me, it’s definitely been a shit sandwich in the sense of needing to decode, demystify and deprogram myself of, “You’ve got to outwork everyone in the room because you’re from Detroit. Also, God will love you more if you outwork everyone.” It’s fucked up in many ways in the sense that on the other side of it, if I think back to the moments in my career that I worked myself to exhaustion of I don’t feel good. I’ve worked myself into sickness. Did God love me more? Did I get rewarded for some sense of working myself into sickness, working myself in some ways into deeper depression?
It’s a dangerous game we’re playing when we think about it. The subconscious motives of people thinking that they will be more holy, more revered, more celebrated, but on the other side of it, was I happier as a result? No. Did I feel more loved by God, my mom or my friends? You guys will love me more. Look how hard I’ve worked. Not really. What is this bullshit illusion and these lies that we’re buying into that we will somehow be holier, more revered, happier, more fulfilled at the other side of grinding ourselves into the ground? From my personal experiences, I found none of that. I found none of those things waiting on the other side of the “finish line” for me.
That’s incredibly important to discuss that. It’s bringing to light some of these myths that we’ve heard throughout our lives and our parents heard throughout their lives. I found the section in that book Do Nothing that talks about this. The author, Celeste said that, “The Catholic church taught believers to believe that they had to perform good works in order to attain heaven. That sloth, which is the reluctance to work, is one of the seven deadly sins.” We began to feel good and faithful people are recognized through the hard work that they do and their efficient labor. If you’re sitting around, you’re not just lazy, you’re also wasting money. There are quotes like, “There is nothing good, great or desirable that does not come by some kind of labor.” I didn’t take a note on who said that, but there’s so much of this mentality.
We believe that people are unsuccessful because they’re not working hard enough. We started to idolize rich, self-made men like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. We’ve heard all these rags to riches tales in which a young person achieve success through their own good character and hard work. Americans especially have believed for at least 100 years that we can rise to riches through honest labor. That fuels our willingness to work so much. Even when we’re not reaping the profits of our own labor, we will continue to drown ourselves in work. I can relate to that as well. This is a few little parts from this book, Do Nothing that is one of the best books I’ve read in 2020. I can’t say enough about it. In fact, I’m trying to get the author on our show at some point.
That’s another reason to subscribe for you, the reader, if you have not yet because you’ll be notified otherwise. Even listening to podcasts can be overwhelming and we don’t expect you to listen to every episode, but peruse them or listen to segments of them and see if they sound good to you. We know that the show is long but we’re always here to give you some a-ha moments and help you think about things differently and reflect on your own experiences. Hopefully, this conversation is bringing to light something within you, or perhaps even you’re noticing behaviors within other people and understanding them better. That’s a huge part of our aim.
It’s interesting too this idea that if you pay people a minimum living wage, we’ve heard about these concepts of a universal basic income. There’s a book that I started reading called Give People Money, which is the foundational elements of UBI, Universal Basic Income, where every citizen in a nation gets a certain minimum amount like what we’ve been seeing a little bit with the CARES Act in 2020, and who knows what’s going to come next in 2021. This idea that all citizens of a nation will get a minimum amount of money every single month to live on. It’s not something lavish where they’re going to be going to Bali every month but basic care and needs subsidized by the government to have food, shelter and housing and utilities, things like that. It reminds me about a few years ago, there was a CEO. He was in Seattle. His name is Dan Price. You may have heard this. He instituted this policy to pay all of his 120 employees.
He was at a card payment company up there. Every single employee was going to get at least $70,000 that he took a pay cut of $1 million. This was 2015. Five years later, he says that the gamble he made paid off, that everybody in the company is making $70,000. Gravity Payments was his company. He noticed that people’s quality of life, their productivity, their happiness and the culture at the company has been drastically changed. People were able to buy houses. People were able to pay off debt. More than 10% of the company has been able to buy their own homes in Seattle, which was one of the most expensive housing markets in the US. It goes on and on. I say this because it’s a choice that Dan Price made that he didn’t need to be earning $1 million a year. He’s like, “I’m going to make the same amount of money. I’m going to make $70,000, the same as every employee in the company.
I bring this up because you brought up Jeff Bezos. I don’t want to use Jeff Bezos as the pincushion for toxic capitalism, but it is interesting to note that statistically there was something that came out online that said that Jeff Bezos could pay every single employee at Amazon. I want to emphasize this point and contrast it with Dan Price. Apparently, there are 876,000 permanent employees. With temporary hires, there’s upwards of 1.2 million. Jeff Bezos could pay every single one of those people $150,000 and he would still have more wealth than he had prior to the pandemic. Take that in for a second. He could pay every single person $150,000 and still be wealthier than before March of 2020.
To put it into perspective, I saw a video on TikTok that blew my mind. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at any of this before, Jason, but in this video, this person was talking about the difference between $1 million and $1 billion. A lot of us think of $1 billion as not that much money. There are people like Jeff Bezos who makes $186 billion. That’s his net worth. Bill Gates, $119 billion. Elon Musk, $132 billion. We have a lot of billionaires. Don’t you remember growing up, Jason, when being a millionaire was an amazing thing? In our lifetimes alone, it has become not that big of a deal to see billionaires. In our brains, we think, “$1 billion, that’s not that much money.”
If you put it into perspective, this is my favorite comparison. Maybe the word visual isn’t the best word here, but it’s something that makes it easy to think about. A million seconds adds up to twelve days. A billion seconds is 31 years. That makes you realize that Jeff Bezos has the equivalent of him having 5,766 years. When we think about how much time it takes to make that much money, somebody else was saying in that same video, they were talking about how long it would take to make $1 million. If you were making $5,000 a day, it would take you 200,000 days to get to $1 billion.
I’m no economist. Neither one of us are, but I have to imagine that there’s going to be some subversion of this. Apparently, as of June of 2020, they say that there are 46.8 million millionaires, which includes billionaires. There are 46.8 million people who have at least $1 million in the world. What percentage of that is the global population? That’s 0.9% who own over half of the global wealth in the world. That’s not even 1% of the global human population. That’s all societies, all denominations at over $361 trillion. The bottom half has less than that amount. What we’re talking about is something that is at a certain point has to be unsustainable.
Maybe I’m not an economist but I have to imagine if there is less than 1% of the human population who owns the majority of the wealth in the planet, we’re talking about a technocracy, oligarchies, dictatorships. We’re talking about a horrifically imbalanced sense of power on the planet. I’m not getting into doomsday shit here but, is it appropriate or ethical or even good for the state of humanity and our continued health, wellness, sustainability, when you have less than 1% of humans owning the majority of the wealth? I personally don’t think it is. We get into this idea of “earned it.” You and I have talked about this idea of people being self-made. It came up again with Jake Paul. He was on the undercard for the Mike Tyson fight and he beat Nate Robinson, who was a former NBA basketball player. One of the interviews I saw briefly was Jake Paul going on this whole rant about being self-made. This whole mythology and this whole idea of deifying people who are “self-made” and who “earned it,” these terminologies are extremely misleading.
What’s challenging about it is that it all ties into our collective addiction to productivity, success, hustle, etc., and ultimately how much that impacts our wellbeing. Clearly, that’s impacted me and Jason. It can lead to us feeling anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, unsatisfied, not good enough. All of these things are our themes. Money is a huge part of our self-esteem and how we perceive ourselves as being worthy. Even going back to the original inspiration for this conversation and looking at what I was experiencing, it wasn’t just that I was disappointed. It was also partially that I was afraid because this customer service experience made me think, “Am I going to have to spend more money than I initially thought I was going to have to spend? How hard is it for me to make that money? Do I have that money in my bank account? How soon will I have that money?”
All of these different things that come up that trigger our survival fears. It’s this constant need to make more money so that we can sustain and protect ourselves from unexpected things that happen and don’t go our way. There is so much stress within us when it comes to this. It can feel so overwhelming. A lot of us can’t even function. We’re trying to cope and make it through the day. If we don’t step back and reflect and all of these things, it can eat away at us. When we see people like Jeff Bezos and we recognize how much money that man has, which is truly mind-blowing.
It’s unbelievable when you break it down into seconds or how much money it would take to make that and recognizing that on one hand, it doesn’t seem that big of a deal to make $1 billion, but it is a huge deal. It is a huge deal that Jake Paul, Logan Paul, and all these other big influencers have made as much money as they’re making. It’s a big deal that they’ve achieved that. We need to give them credit because that’s not easy. To your point, Jason, is it self-made? That’s hard to say. Maybe it was relatively easy because of how young they are and how it seems they made some videos on Vine and YouTube and podcast episodes, and suddenly they’re multimillionaires on their way to billionaires and all of this.You don’t need to be the best of whatever. You are enough and you have enough. Click To Tweet
It’s like, “It’s so easy. Anybody can do it.” That feeds right back into everything we’re discussing. These people that make it seem so easy are adding to this capitalistic perspective and this hustle culture, because we believe that if we work as hard as that person, then we will get those same results. It’s right within our grasp. That is part of the American. I’m sure other countries experienced this as well, but this American mindset of everybody can do it. It’s within our reach. That can do us more harm than good and can lead to us feeling overwhelmed and not good enough. Certainly, this conversation we could go on and on about, but I’m ready to pause on this for now. I’m grateful to discuss this.
The reason this keeps coming up is this is a complex subject matter. It’s not easy. It’s something that we experience frequently. No matter how much we talk about it, we are still experiencing it, meaning me and Jason, and perhaps our readers as well. We want to remind you that you’re not alone. We want to remind you that we’re here processing it right alongside you. We do believe that there’s hope. Even if things don’t change drastically or “get better,” we can certainly lighten the load, as I have been working on. It’s not about completely getting rid of these tough experiences and never feeling overwhelmed again. It’s simply noticing it and trying to make more conscious choices and be more satisfied. There’s a reason why one of the biggest wellbeing tips is to reflect on what you’re grateful for at the beginning and/or the end of each day.
It is true. It’s a cliché thing. If you take a moment now to share what you’re grateful for with yourself, with other people, it will show you that you are enough and that you have enough. You don’t need to be a millionaire or a billionaire. You don’t need to be a huge influencer, to be famous, the top-performing person at your workplace or your school. You don’t need to be the best romantic partner or parent. It’s simply taking it day by day and lightening that emotional load so that you can feel good. That’s what it comes down to.
That was one of the most eloquent, potent and heartfelt closers you’ve ever shared. That was on the point. Thank you for that. That was wonderful.
I’m giving myself a little pat on the back because I like to be acknowledged. Thank you for acknowledging me, Jason.
As Whitney mentioned to you, dear reader, if you have any perspectives on all this, we always love to hear from you. Our direct email is [email protected]. We also have brand shout-outs. I almost forgot about that. I don’t know that I came prepared. I might have to go into the annals here and dig something up.
Here’s the funny thing. You and I experienced so much, Jason. We receive many products. This is something I’m grateful for. I think brand shout-outs are perfectly timed because the reason that we share these things is because we are grateful for them. We want to make sure that you, the reader, know about all the incredible things that exist in the world. Imagine, Jason, you must have received something or purchased something that you are grateful for. I reapplied some chapstick from Ladybug Jane, which I raved about in an episode. My new shout out is a bit of an oldie and that is Coconut Bliss. They sent me the sweetest care package. It was part of a selection of gluten-free products that I received because there’s a new or revamped gluten-free certification. It’s the Gluten Intolerance Group. They did a little sampling campaign. Were you part of that, Jason?
Yes, but I haven’t posted anything yet.
Did you get the Coconut Bliss too?
No, I did not.
I hope I’m not rubbing it in, but I was grateful to get Coconut Bliss because they’re OG. Coconut Bliss is truly an OG, meaning original vegan ice cream brand. My history with Coconut Bliss goes back to 2008. I found an email that I sent to the amazing Co-opportunity, which is a great natural market and co-op in Santa Monica and now Culver City, California in the Los Angeles area. I sent an email to the Co-opportunity in August 2008, asking for them to have more flavors of Coconut Bliss. I have been enjoying this ice cream for over many years now. I found another email of me messaging Coconut Bliss and saying to them, “I tried Coconut Bliss for the first time. I was blown away. As a vegan. I’m always looking for good, non-dairy desserts but I prefer the simple and healthy options, so this is perfect for me.” That was sent on August 6, 2008. How cool that I documented trying it? No surprise because my whole career with veganism revolves around sampling products. Here I am years later talking about another brand that’s influenced me.
That nostalgia has served me when I got this wonderful care package and they sent me some of their incredible flavors of their ice creams. In fact, one of them is a gingerbread cookie caramel. I had it on my homemade gluten-free apple pie. Ginger Cookie and Caramel is the exact flavor. That’s not a flavor I would typically go for in an ice cream. I’m not into ginger flavor. Not in general, but in ice cream, I’m more of a chocolate flavor person. That was perfect on the apple pie I made for Thanksgiving. They also sent one of my favorite products of theirs was they’re Salted Caramel ice cream bars. It’s a vanilla ice cream with swirls of salted caramel dipped in chocolate. It’s orgasmic and there’s a ton of others. They sent me one of their amazing ice cream sandwiches, which are made with delicious chocolate chip gluten-free vegan cookies. Coconut Bliss has stood the test of time, which not every brand can say. Jason and I like to laugh and make jokes sometimes at the expense of people that have still been making the same exact products since 1995. It’s nice to see when a brand can evolve but also stay true to their roots because their roots were always fantastic.
My shout-out is not a food product. It’s a journal. I have an acquaintance/friend who I’ve guested on her podcast. Her name is Tricia Huffman. She is also known as Your Joyologist. Over the years, Trisha sent me a lot of her amazing products. She has some wonderful to-do lists that have these great affirmations on them. She sent me these great incredible high-quality coffee mugs that say like, “See the good.” Another one of my favorites is, “Fuck the shoulds, do the wants.” She sent me this gorgeous hardbound journal that she has, which is perfect timing as we get closer to the start of the New Year. It has thick paperweight, nicely bound, gorgeous black and gold trim.
It’s a beautiful and simple journal. I love everything that she does because the quality of their products are so high. They have great fun affirmations and black and gold is one of my favorite color combinations. I want to give a long-overdue shout-out. She would be a great person to have as a guest on the show. Shout out to Tricia and her brand, Your Joyologist. Check out her amazing mugs, her to-do lists, her journals. It’s high vibe, great quality. I love Tricia and everything she does.
I knew you would be able to think of something that you are grateful for, Jason. It doesn’t have to be a food product. We tend to shout-out food products because we receive a lot of them. I shout-out Ladybug Jane because I’m obsessed with them. We’re shouting out books all the time. We try to mix it up. There’s so much to share and sometimes, we need to write it all down and make sure we get to every one of them. That’s a goal of mine or an aim, I should say. It’s something that I want to accomplish in order to remove some weight. It’s to document all the brands and products that I have tried, especially a lot of brands that have sent me things to try in order to share my opinion and help spread the word. I want to make sure that I get to all of them and maybe I will never complete it.
Maybe it’s a never-ending list, a bottomless pit. Through the process of shouting out brands on this show, we can introduce people to a lot of incredible things that are out there. I bet you there are some people that have never heard of Coconut Bliss even though it’s been around since 2008. That’s the cool thing about our work is you can’t make assumptions about what people know about and what they don’t. That ties into this whole conversation we’ve had. We can’t assume that we know what people know or feel what people feel. Our job here is to raise our own awareness and help you raise awareness as our readers. We hope we accomplish that in this episode or at least one of our episodes that you’ve read all the time.
As we get closer to celebrating our anniversary of doing this show, we thank you for reading. We have so much in store for you as we go into 2021. We have giveaways and amazing guests that we’re inviting on and scheduling. We’re here to serve you in as many ways as we possibly can. Part of the best way for us to find out what you want, what you would like more of or even less of, what is resonating with you is to send us a message. Reach out to us through social media if that’s convenient to you. You can find this @Wellevatr. We’re on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok. We’re trying to do more on TikTok now and we have done a lot more on our Instagram.
If you haven’t checked it out in a while, please do. We’d love your feedback on it. If social media is not your jam, if you’re doing a social media detox, if you’ve stopped using social media altogether for your own mental wellbeing, we totally support you in that. You can reach out to us in the podcast section of our website. It has a comment section. You can share something there. You can also reach us through our email address, which is completely private. It’s [email protected]. Remember that sometimes we use your emails as inspiration. If there’s anything there that you don’t want us to share, please specify it. We will always keep what you write to us anonymous, but if you want to keep the entire email private, never shared or spoken out loud, we respect that. Let us know. That won’t become a part of an upcoming episode in full transparency. Sometimes it does. We are so grateful for you reading. If you want to subscribe to the show, that’s a great way to get notifications and find out what’s coming up down the pipeline. We will be back with another episode very soon. Until then, we’re wishing you all the best with your health and wellbeing journey.
*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.
- Kate Faust on Untethering from Whiteness and Honing Creativity – Previous episode
- The Consistency Code
- Wellness Warrior Training
- No Shame: Episode 1 – Whitney Lauritsen YouTube
- Sky Banyes – Instagram
- How to do no work and make no money – Instagram post by SkyBanyes
- Do Nothing
- Give People Money
- The Boss Who Put Everyone on 70k (Dan Price) – BBC article
- Ladybug Jane
- Coconut Bliss
- Gluten Intolerance Group
- Tricia Huffman – Instagram
- Your Joyologist
- [email protected]
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