The Deception of Our Aspiring Minds

11 Dec, 2017

In the race to the bottom, the mind has taken first place from the body. Taking the crown from heart-attacks, diabetes, obesity, and other illnesses, depression is now the number one illness in the world.  Remarkably, this is the first time a mental condition is more common than a physical condition. Don’t get your hopes up, because physical conditions are at an all-time high as well. Yet, the fragmented mind is still more common as it’s physical brother. In short, we are a miserable bunch. Sadly, this also applies to the younger generation. Strange, when you realize we’re living in an era where you can become anything you want.

There is a correlation between the two (the body is the mind), but let’s focus on the mental part for now. The other relationship that is more important for this article is the one between the mind and the consumption of information, in which the interwebs play a vital part.

When what we do and consume into the body leads to an illness of the body, it’s safe to say that what we consume for the mind can do the same. Technology is taking over in ways we can’t grasp, and this creates abundance in many ways, which can be a great development if treated with cause and a sane mind. If the mind is not so sane or common sense is not so common, problems can arise that contribute to depression being the reigning champ. Garbage in, garbage out. Eat shit, feel like shit, consume shit information, well, you get the point.

Now you can become anything you want

In the old days, the distance between superstars and ‘normal’ folks was astronomical. We knew it was near impossible to become the next Marilyn Monroe or the new Elvis, and that was fine. The idea that you could become anything you want was laughable. But this has changed. Content creation was only for the big studios with big budgets and good connections. This also changed. One of the most fruitful marketing strategies for superstars nowadays is direct contact with their fanbase, which creates many opportunities. This form of communication is closing the gap between superstars and their fans. Biebs is literally a tweet away.

This is great news. Everybody can build their brand/company/fanbase independently without a big budget. This is also bad news because anybody can create content without any medium filtering out unethical and misleading information. The way for the charlatan on the internet is a way to make money on an enormous scale, leaving a trail of disaster.

Only the big wins

Of course, not everyone is a charlatan, but we tend only to show the big wins and the cool stuff. We all do it. Social media is full of fun content. The awesome picture from the bachelor’s party, the wedding photos, the promotion. You hardly see a photo of someone going through a depression or admitting they are completely lost in life and don’t have a clue what to do next. According to social media posts, happiness is at an all-time high, yet depression is killing it at the moment.

We live in a world now where everyone can become the new Marilyn or Elvis on a shoestring budget. The gap is gone; you can be anything you want. We can all be superstars. Social media has a way of showing everyone like they are a rockstar. And for the ones that can’t see through the mist, this can be hard to deal with. It can create harm in a way that was never intended. If everyone is a rockstar, and I’m not, then what am I?

The untold chapters

We only see the big wins, never the journey towards it. We see the billion-dollar entrepreneur giving a motivational speech, telling you that you can become anything you want. And we see the videos in the fancy gyms with the supermodels in the background where PR’s (personal records) are broken with ease. We see the ripped fitness competitors taking the stage and we aspire to be that way. Little did we know that when they step on stage, they feel miserable and are probably as unhealthy as they will ever be. They are a fat percentage that is dangerously low, depleted from water, and feeling dizzy, high on supplements while showing off a physique that is out of this world. This is a physique that only lasts for a couple of days.

These are the people that have put in the work and deserve what they achieved. I applaud them. They try to motivate us to become better, with the best intentions they have. Maybe they try to sell their supplements or online programs, which is perfectly fine, but it’s not the full story. We don’t see the twenty years of misfortune, rejection, and being broke building up to that motivational speech. We don’t see the ten years in the gym, failing over and over again.

It’s not easy

It would suit them if they would also show the hardship, the insecurity, the failures and depressions, and most of all, the years of sweat, and trial and error, to get where they are. They make it look easy, and so we believe it is. This is why motivation doesn’t work. It gets us going, but when the going gets tough, we quit. Over and over again.

We are confused because it’s supposed to be simple, but it’s not. We become impatient, start self-doubting, and never get through the hard part. Becoming anything you want should be easy, so why isn’t it working?

You can be anything you want is bullshit

When the actual winners don’t show the heartache and pain of what they went through, that’s fine. I get it, they are trying to build their brand, and the rawness isn’t attractive for the majority of their audience.

A whole different story is the frauds we see. Being a fraud nowadays is easy because social media happened. Apart from marketing yourself, it takes no skill. Some Instagrammers make millions with bullshitting people. They look the part and tell the story, which appeals to the audience. Instagrammers rent private airplanes for a couple of hours, which are at the airport in between flights, to do a photo shoot. They take place into the leather seats in their designer outfits and sit behind their Macbooks, pretending they are working.

Fitness ‘gurus’ do photoshoots and let photo editors work their magic before the photo goes online. What we see is a fitness model with a physique that’s too good to be true. Big breasts, a tiny waist, a thick ass, and all that accomplished in just a year. You can do this too!

Shortcuts and magic pills

Lucky for us, they sell a “Become an Instagram Millionaire in Six Weeks” or a “Get Ripped with Just 10 Minutes a Day” online course for only $249,-.  They show results that just aren’t real and sell programs to gullible people and make a fortune of it. This is all bullshit, and people buy it by the dozen because people like easy. We don’t want the hard work. We want the shortcut, the life hack, the magic pill.

Shortcuts, lifehacks, and magic pills are around every corner on the interwebs, and this type of content performs very well because we want to believe it is real. It’s the magic pill we are chasing for. “This is it! I can be fit/famous/rich within six months!” Deep down, we know it’s bullshit, but we want to believe it so bad. We want the reassuring lie and not the inconvenient truth. It’s like the woman staying with her husband who cheated for the fifth time and promised it was the last time. Why should it be the last time? What changed? Nothing, you just want to believe it has.

We don’t want to read the book; we want the 12 step infographic. We don’t want to invest in proper education; we want a five-minute how-to video. And we want the shortcut, the lifehack. The frauds, the charlatans, the snake oil salesmen, they exist and thrive because they feed off our lazy minds.

You can’t be anything you want

Since the internet is literally everywhere and we consume non-stop, the mind is becoming a bit confused. We keep seeing the fantastic lives of others and realize our lives aren’t all that cracked up to be. Since we want to believe in the magic pills, we don’t see that 99% of what we see is just half the story or even a completely false story.

Maybe you have bought a couple of online courses, and the results didn’t add up. You buy a couple of other courses that explain why method X isn’t working and why you have to try this course. Again you start, and again you end up with no result. No matter how you feel, the internet will keep flooding your timeline and inboxes with how you can be awesome because everyone else is already there. Seriously, you can become anything you want, so what are you waiting for?

You feel utterly alone, with your fragmented mind, and slowly depression starts to sink in. You are a fucking loser. Since you lack the energy to do something else, you keep feeding the mind with misleading content on the internet. Enter the vicious cycle. The newly formed neural pathway of depression in your mind becomes deeper like trenches from a battle zone, and the cycle becomes harder to escape.

It’s not you

But you’re not a fucking loser. And you damn sure ain’t alone. While you feel alone like a depressed little loser, the majority of humanity feels the same way. Humanity has been deceived by, well, by humanity itself. This is the ultimate price we have to pay for only wanting happy, shiny things and not the dark blood and guts. We don’t want to share the difficult times because we fear we are alone and weird, and just the thought of losing credibility stings in our heart. The fragmented mind is the price for trying to be comfortable all the time.

We want Tell Sell happiness. We want to be happy without being sad. Want to be masculine, while neglecting the feminine. Want to be successful without the hard work. And want to be ripped, without touching the raw weights. And because this appeals to us, and the majority feels this way, the internet is filled with content that answers to this. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: I want the easy way -> the internet delivers -> it doesn’t work -> it supposedly works for others -> therefore, I must be a loser.

The dark, dirty work

One of the best bodybuilders ever is Dorian Yates. Six times Mr. Olympia winner from 1992 – 1997. While the competition was training on Venice Beach, doing photoshoots, and enjoying the good life, Dorian was at home in England. No fancy gyms, no supermodels, no fast cars, nothing. Just a hardcore gym with him and his training partner putting in hardcore work. His nickname was The Shadow. You would only see him during Mr. Olympia to crush the competitors, and then he would leave. Back to England, to his gym, putting in the work.

For over a decade, Dorian would take the bus from his small flat to the gym and back. Day in and day out, week in and week out. The contrast between a Dorian Yates training video and the videos you see nowadays couldn’t be bigger. Dorian was hardcore to the bones, going to the absolute limit, puking during training. Just him, his notebook and a vision, that’s it. But that was what it took to be the absolute best. That’s the full story. The story that puts things in perspective.

The Mr. Olympia wins are just a small portion of the story and don’t even matter in the grand scheme of things. The dark and dirty story puts respect on the table for the achievement and the realization for aspiring bodybuilders that it won’t be easy. And that it takes more than a year of work to get a ripped body.

This is the story that matters. The struggle is real, and we need to see this. We can close our eyes when it comes, but the struggle is real. We see the overnight success, but we have to pay attention to the ten years working up to that overnight success.

The responsibility

In the end, everything is our own responsibility, and this is great news. When things are our responsibility, we have the power to change something whenever we like to. But taking real responsibility is hard, and some people aren’t able to do so. We can, however, be aware and do a bit of research before we soak up everything we are fed.

We should treat our minds with a bit more cautiousness. You don’t put everything in your mouth, so why would you put everything in your mind? When we can see things for what they really are, which is attainable with a little common sense, we will see most things aren’t what they seem to be. When we realize even the best of the best have off days, deal with depression and anxiety, things start to change. We understand it’s just not us that are losers. And we will start to see we aren’t losers at all; this is just life. The only difference with the internet is everyone writes their own story. And for most that’s just showing the good stuff.

Only sharing the good stuff can come at a cost for ourselves, as well. Maybe we post a perfect picture from the awesome party last Saturday, but deep down we know the party wasn’t that awesome, the picture is just awesome. We run into someone we haven’t seen in years, and they say, “wow, you must be doing great! I see the stuff you post on Facebook, and it’s amazing. I wish my life were as cool as yours.” Nice to hear, but if you know that behind the perfected Facebook timeline lies a story of insecurity and loneliness, you can feel like a fraud.

Be kind to your mind

Too much information, misinformation, contradicting information, all add up to a fragmented mind in the end. We have to protect our minds to the volume of information it’s dealing with on a day to day basis. Because it’s just too much. There are some small things we can do to be gentle with the mind.

For starters, it’s great practice not to compare ourselves with others. People only show the good stuff, hide behind a mask, fake it till they make it. That’s all fine, we all do it, but comparing yourself with half a story just isn’t beneficial for you.

Consume mindfully. All the content we consume on a day to day basis is a lot to process. Maybe we don’t consume it consciously, but unconsciously we carry it around. Information often contradicts, and this can cause a short circuit in the mind. Stop following people mindlessly and cut down on what you follow. There’s only so much you can consume, and you should focus on what you really find interesting. There are no magic pills and shortcuts. Enjoy the content you consume, but keep in your mind that there is a process, the dark, dirty work that isn’t shown. Always keep this in mind.

Are you really interested in someone or a subject?  Do some research. Invest some time and see if they are legit and if what they portray is genuine. Read through the comment sections on Facebook or read some Reddit thread. If something seems to be good to be true, it is.

Ask yourself this

Ask yourself: Where is the downside of the story sold? Where is the misery, the hardship, the pain? Where are the blood, sweat, and tears? If there aren’t any, it probably stinks. Everything that comes online is probably edited and is miles away from the truth. What you see is not what you get.

Are you a content creator? Know you have a responsibility to your audience. Think about your legacy. Do you really want to gain your fame and fortune by scamming people? Even if you are trying to motivate your audience out of a positive mindset, show the real deal so that they know it isn’t as easy as it seems. Not to put people off, but to let them know what they are getting themselves into. A lot of content consumers are still young and are easily tricked.

The internet and social media are great tools. It allows us to be up to date with our loved ones and to be informed of what we want to be informed about. But just as in real life, digital life comes packed with dangers as well. A little awareness and trusting your gut can go a long way. It probably won’t kick depression off the first place, but it helps to keep your mind a little more in check.

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire