Why Life Will Always Be Aspirational (And Why, Perhaps, It Shouldn't Be)
Two days ago, I read the New York Times Magazine article about Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle and wellness brand, Goop's, rise to fame. It's a success that the author argues happened despite and because of extreme backlash from communities spread across many areas of interest and concern.
There's a line from the article that I fixated on, becoming interested in its analysis of the brand's success. The author, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, writes, "[Gwyneth Paltrow's] business depended on no one ever being able to be her. Though I guess it also depended on their ability to think they might."
This assertion stuck out, holding a truth in its brazen summary of luxury brands' goals of which I had always had some abstract understanding, but never grasped so clearly as I did from the words above.
But it's more than that, with the idea of aspiration holding more power over us than as a simple marketing ploy. People, women especially, seem to move through life with this hope that whatever comes next will be better than what was before.
I've applied this to my body, to my relationships, and to my work. I've brought it to things as little as my commute, trying to make it to work two minutes faster than I did the day before. I've brought it to dinner parties that I've hosted, hoping that the food will be more exciting, that the decor more beautiful, and the conversation more lively, than any other social engagement I've held before.
More intimately, I've brought this to my self, to the Isa I've never really known and have struggled to love. I take stake of where I am each day, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And it's because of this message that where I am isn't good enough, not for those around me, nor for myself, that I have to keep improving. My only work is to make myself better, to make myself feel better and look better for the world.
But in living through a lifetime of this pressure, I've realized that there's no fixed point of both of happiness and perfection that's attainable. It's funny, I always envisioned myself on a life trajectory where I'd experience an apex of satisfaction with myself.
Strangely though, I never considered what would come after that climax. It took someone I love, someone whose view I respect and believe in, to ask me that question, and to make me realize that I no longer wanted to see my life as a bell curve. But with that, I also didn't want this line measuring improvement over time to always be going up.
I want to experience the shifts of life. I want to ride through the jagged drops and rises of who I am, of who I am always becoming. I don't want to manipulate this in any single direction. Life, in its details and individual moments, isn't always beautiful, and it isn't always moving toward something more beautiful than right now. Knowing that has taught me what acceptance looks like.
Self-improvement is fine, sure, but I think it needs to be boiled down to one thing: We can always give more love. We can give it to others, and perhaps more importantly, we can always give more love to ourselves.