If you’re a blogger that also follows a ton of other bloggers, then you’ve probably heard more than your fair share of mantras that have made you feel good about yourself:
You’re special. You’re unique. You’re meant to do great things. You’re worthy. You’re so special that you can follow your heart and make all of your dreams come true, no matter what stands in your way.
Most bloggers love preaching that being authentic and not worrying about pleasing others will make you happy, productive, successful, and rich enough to travel around the world, all the while posting glamorized versions of their lives through filtered photos and soothing words. While it is nice to see people taking charge of their own life paths instead of doing what’s expected of them in a competitive, scarcity-based socioeconomic system, it’s important to practice radical self-reflection, instead of just tell yourself platitudes that placate your aching heart when you’re feeling guilty, regretful, or simply terrible about yourself for not measuring up to others.
These bloggers like to say that you (along with everyone else) are special and worthy and capable of being like Steve Jobs (or some hugely successful entrepreneur with a popular success story), if only you could get up at 5 AM, show how authentic you are, tell people to stop worrying about pleasing others, and have the “right mindset.”
I’m sorry, but they are doing you a huge disservice.
This is why so many people on the Internet waste money on tons of blogging and marketing courses and learn nothing new (only things that are already on the Internet for free), while “successful” bloggers with millions of followers pocket that money and travel to Thailand or Bali and sip on pineapple coconut martinis (or whatever the hell they post photos of). They lure you in with emotionally-charged stories of suffering from their soul-sucking corporate jobs and claim that there is a way to escape and become a great person just like them, fulfilling their dreams of wanderlust and creating a legacy for others to remember. They preach creativity and authenticity but brag about the end results of their work, which involves nothing more than posting envy-inducing photos of exotic places to travel, a carefree lifestyle, luxurious food and clothes, and trite and empty words about how special they are — and how special you can be too. This is why these kind of bloggers with thousands of followers still make you feel bad while making you fall in love with the idea of who they are and their unattainable dream life.
They claim that you can be just like them on one condition: you need to pay for their courses, eBooks, or monthly coaching packages in order to unlock their secrets and create a lifestyle that they have, things like being able to make work fun at all times and being endlessly productive by churning out words that people want to hear.
This is why people recycle redundant content around the internet and emptily repeat, “You’re special, you’re unique, you’re authentic, you deserve to make your dreams come true, just follow your heart and everything will be alright…” in hopes that you’ll follow them, because apparently those words have magnetizing powers of flattery and offer you an escape from real-life struggles, which causes you to fall for them, along with millions of others.
But being unique isn’t enough. You cannot simply manifest abundance by posting advertisements and telling people that they’re destined to be like Steve Jobs, Oprah, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg. Not everyone can or should aspire to make their life a success story. The aspiration of being unique isn’t unique at all — it’s a common and vague fantasy that sells well to people who think these dreams will somehow make them happier.
There needs to be a balance between recognizing who you are and finding ways you can demonstrate the resilience to overcome adversity and grow in the process.
There needs to be a balance between writing something insightful and empowering, while being grounded by honesty, practicality, and a healthy dose of skepticism.
We can all be authentic, and we certainly are all different in our own ways, but we still have to put in the work. We cannot all lie on exotic beaches with our laptops and market things that millions of other people are already selling and profiting from. You are not entitled to a struggle-free life just because you think you’re unique, even if you’re no longer dependent on your 9–5 job, your parents, your friends, or really, anybody but yourself. That’s just what real life is about — facing real human problems that none of us can ever avoid or escape from.
And that’s okay. You can try to self-help the crap out of your life, but inner peace cannot be manifested simply by positive words of affirmation. You need to acknowledge that your dark side will still remain, no matter how much you run away from your problems or believe that having a significant number of followers and a successful blog will make you fulfilled. Because it won’t.
Authenticity is strengthened when you face adversity without completely falling apart or adopting a victim mentality, despite how oppressive it can be. Authenticity is cultivated only after you accept reality for what it is, while responding to unfavorable situations in a wise and responsible manner. Authenticity is only sustainable when you care about something so much that you aren’t even tempted by what others are selling because you know that your value isn’t defined by how much you market a certain lifestyle or pretend to have everything together. And you’ll find that when you do understand what real authenticity is, you can truly identify what sets you apart from the dreamers that like to think they’re unique when they jump onto the lifestyle guru bandwagon.
Uniqueness doesn’t excuse you from facing adversity. It doesn’t excuse you from taking responsibility for all of your failures or making tough choices that are best for you, even when they don’t necessarily sell well or look pretty. Because honestly, discovering who you are isn’t about being special, it’s about opening your eyes to what you have within you and how you handle your difficult circumstances. So much that you don’t even identify yourself as unique, which is a vague and clichéd label that doesn’t take into account the depths of your story and the way you fight to remain true to your values.
Originally published at thoughtcatalog.com on December 5, 2018.