Why ‘perfect life’ narratives can make you feel like poo


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I found myself muttering at my i-Pad this weekend when one of those “perfect life” narratives popped into my Facebook feed. You know, the kind where somebody shows you their perfect life and then suggests that you too can have the same “pinch me” life if you just buy their $2,000 program by midnight tonight.

I actually said out loud, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Of course, people can have wonderful lives and genuinely want to share what they’ve learned. That’s beautiful! Personal storytelling is powerful medicine.

What’s made me mad is when the overly tidy narrative makes real life feel like poo. A sort of implication that if everything isn’t ever improving in endless abundance, blissful connection and glorious radiance, there is something wrong and you better buy something to fix it.

Life isn’t a tidy upward achievement narrative. It’s a moment-by-moment choice to love more and stay awake a millisecond longer.

And to watch Gilmore Girls reruns when you can’t bear it, which is what I did last weekend – here’s to the abundance of Netflix.

Which may make you think, “Jen’s all tetchy because she was feeling down and then she checked Facebook and somebody was all ‘Life is bliss’ and she got her panties in a bundle.” But I also saw plenty of other happy posts that didn’t make me want to pinch somebody. Is it the intention? The profit motive?

I think I’m hungry for less personal glorification, especially in the pursuit of profit. Less pushing an ideal and more pushing for a just world.

I know it’s tricky to share personal stories while selling stuff. I try to walk that line all the time. I probably get it wrong sometimes. If so, please know I am always striving to be honest and helpful, while never pretending to be something I’m not.

Here’s what I hope – that we can share our full lives, as it feels appropriate, not just the highlight reel. And that we can remember it’s not all about us.

Thanks for listening,


P.S. My web designer, the wonderful Paul Jarvis, wrote a smart post about this in the business realm. That lives here.

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Susan Kuhn - October 29, 2014

i WANT TO HUG YOU FOR THIS! So, so true.

My shtick is that we learn to navigate this high-tech world as human beings…not obeying the technology but using it to create a better life for all, driven by human values. What you describe here is the same mistake we make when we let our FitBit determine whether we are healthy; the belief that what we seek resides outside of us.

We must disabuse ourselves of the illusion that the “shiny outside” is what we should be seeking. When we can start to take what lies inside of us — and inside of every single human being — as the place to start, we think differently. We can use technology to allow the flowering of our being and the betterment of our society and economy.

Honestly — so much turns on that change in orientation from outward to inward. This is a theme that you come back to constantly and I deeply value you for that reminder.

    jenlouden - October 29, 2014

    I hear you darling and I agree. It’s a powerful shift, and one I’m always reminding myself to make! Better life for all, driven my human values – oh yes please!!!

    Angela Wilson - October 29, 2014

    ooo love what you are saying Susan –

Susannah Conway - October 29, 2014

Thank you for this, lovely Jen, I’m right there with you – all on levels (Charmed is my TV soothing of choice 🙂 xx

Angela Wilson - October 29, 2014

Oh Jen – yahoo for you – perfection is so feckin exhausting – and it ain’t real. Real is nourishing and rich and roll aroundable in. There is no soul in slick. Pride and Prejudice (the one with Matthew Mcfaddyen) is my soul balm xx

Debra Eve - October 29, 2014

So needed to hear this right now, dear Jen, when my life is in complete chaos. Most of those perfect life narratives come from personal development bloggers and writers, and have you noticed?

THEY’RE ALL LIVING THE SAME PERFECT LIFE. You might see a few variations, like juicing vs. green smoothies (that crucial decision), but it’s the same life. I recently did a mass unfollowing — I’ll take my messy uniqueness, thank you. And thank YOU! You’re one of the reasons why I now accept that part of myself.

    jenlouden - October 29, 2014

    oh my god, that made me almost pee my pants. green juice or smoothies? HA! Love you darling, sorry it’s so hard right now.

megrinaldi - October 29, 2014

the whole intent of the **usual* marketing is: “you are not ok”. period. it drives a whole culture to the brink of insantiy…dis-satisfaction is the name of the game. the stuff you’re talking about feels like poo b/c we all know, it’s not true…shoobedoobedoo

Kylie Bellard - October 30, 2014

Oh, gosh, YOU. It’s like you’re say everything that I’ve been thinking, in the most compassionate and gentle way. Cheers to sharing all of our full lives.

Meg Ward - November 3, 2014

Well said!! “Perfect LIfe” narratives kept me stuck for years because I couldn’t possibly see a way to get it all at once! Sounds crazy now, but every time I had to say no to something it felt like a failure before I even started.
Here’s to big, messy, everyday life.
Thanks Jen

    jenlouden - November 3, 2014

    thanks Meg. Love that no is yours to own now!

Chel - November 18, 2014

this this thisthisthisthis. “Small business” and/or “creative business” has become almost another hobby, like DIY or training for a marathon- something to pin, something to blog, something to tweet, something to be EXCELLENT at, something to fill life with. Something to buy into. I have enough hobbies. I want to put down my paintbrush at the end of the day and say “wow, I made that” and not “will it be okay as a print?” This post REALLY resonated with me. Thank you.

    jenlouden - December 23, 2014

    belated thank you for commenting Chel. Wishing you a wonderful holiday creative season!

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