One of the big differences between US culture and cultures around the world (especially Mediterranean and Latin cultures) is that we are focused on DOING lots of things. We are so busy doing, doing, doing that we don’t have time for being.
There is constant pressure to do something about our diet and to do more exercise and to do more self-care (and of course there are people ready to sell you meal plans and gym memberships and spa products to help you do those things!). There is constant pressure to do self-improvement or to do budgeting or to do more travel (with language courses and travel packages and budgeting software to help!).
The focus is on DOING stuff. Too often is the underlying implicit message is that you need to be FIXING yourself or making yourself BETTER because you’re not as good as you could be or as you should be. To which I have often wondered, “As good as I could be or should be in whose eyes and in whose opinion?”
Now, it’s obviously great if there’s something new you’ve been wanting to do. But maybe check in with yourself to figure out if your motivation has been coming from an external place or if it has been coming from an internal one. For example, are you changing your diet to meet some societal standard of beauty or because you want to be healthy for yourself? Are you exercising to meet some societal standard of fitness or because it leaves you feeling good? Are you taking trips to get likes for your photos on social media or because you’re interested in experiencing different ways of life?
Some Cultures Are More Accepting Of Who You Are
The US culture’s focus is on DOING things to IMPROVE yourself and on improving yourself in ways that OTHERS will notice and appreciate. Not all cultures are like that. Some are more accepting of who you already are – the un-improved version – and they don’t try to mold you into who they think you should be. And here’s an example…
The last day I lived in Argentina – and the next day I was moving to Hong Kong – I wandered out of my apartment and meandered down the street, drinking it all in because I knew I would miss that place so much! It had been my home for seven years, and I learned and grew tremendously in my time there.
As I walked down the street, I saw three teenagers dressed in sports gear and putting things in their car. They were obviously getting ready to go play a soccer game somewhere. And I saw their other friend running up the street – obviously running late – without his shoes on, disheveled, his stuff falling out of his bag. His friends were taunting and yelling, “Dude, come on, let’s go let’s go!” But as soon as he got to them, instead of shoving him in the car and driving off mad that they were late, they all stopped and greeted and hugged each other, chatted for a few moments, and then piled into the car.
I loved this interaction because it reminded me that nobody was riding him for being late. No one told him he needed to work on time management. No one was ticked off at him. They were all like, “Oh he’s always late.” And they were just glad he was there because he was their friend and they were going to have a fun day. They were more excited about being together and accepting each other than playing soccer and winning a game.
Embrace More “Being” and “Accepting”
In the US, the messages are that you need to be better, be “more” in the eyes of others, and be “more” than the next person. Let’s be honest. That’s exhausting and not particularly healthy.
So perhaps a good exercise would be to think through the motivation for what you’re putting on your list of things to do. If you find that a lot of it has to do with fixing yourself so that others will approve, maybe shift your energies towards accepting yourself – warts and all – instead. (I’ve been there. I know it’s not easy. It’s humbling. And it’s important.)
Finally, maybe consider letting go of DOING and IMPROVING, and go for BEING and ACCEPTING instead.