Think twice before you try to live your #bestlife

Search the hashtag 'bestlife' on Instagram and there is a good chance you'll see thousands of pictures of beautiful people doing inspiring things. Blogs, books and podcasts designed to help you live your best life abound. But to Vancouver's Rebecca Turnbull, the popular mantra needs scrutiny.

Inspiration in life isn't a bad thing.

And in recent years, the social media trend of living your #bestlife has grown in popularity. 

But to Vancouver's Rebecca Turnbull, the popular mantra needs careful scrutiny. 

I first noticed it in social media feeds and in conversation around yoga studios; then embedded within the "wellness" industry; and finally in travel blogs and smoothie bars run by ex-pats in Nicaragua and Indonesia. 

A growing trend of people claiming to be living their "best lives" and apparently compelling us to join them. 

The directives are familiar, "Live the life you love, love the life you live," or "Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life."  

The more I saw this, the stronger my reaction became.

The idea of living our best life is dangerous, and here's why:

First, this elusive 'best life' always seems to require lot of free time and financial privilege.

And it's also an obnoxious privilege — not a choice. 

Sure we can argue that "best life" is a frame of mind, but on everyone's favourite social media app, it's depicted as a day of $9 juice, a $25 yoga class, organic grocery delivery service, and leisure time.

Second, #bestlife moments don't represent anybody's real life. 

The presentation of self is inaccurate and unhealthy. 

Registered clinical counsellor Rebecca Turnbull argues the social media trend of living your #bestlife is a dangerous concept. (provided)

And comparing ourselves to unattainable lifestyles is not only troubling, but in a society where anxiety and depression are on the rise, this idea only breeds perfectionism.

I'll admit I used to delight in the feeds of local celebrity bloggers. 

You know the ones. But at some point the photos of almond mylk lattes in the trendiest coffee shops or yoga poses at sunset captioned with Thich Nhat Hanh quotes... 

They no longer gave me the feeling of inspiration that I once drew from social media.

The over-filtered photos, the constant stream of #humblebrags, and the lack of stimulating thoughts inevitably took their toll. 

I noticed myself becoming increasingly annoyed and even noticed a steady decrease in my self-esteem. 

I began questioning my career choice (which I thought I loved), and how I spent my free time (was I being adventurous enough? Seizing the days?). 

OMG , was I living my best life?

The funny thing is, I'm a counsellor. 

I tell my clients daily, to consider removing themselves from, or at the very least limiting their use of, social media. 

Especially those who experience anxiety and depression. 

I encourage them to be cautious of forums that only invite comparison, to be curious about what it is they hope to gain (or what they might lose), and to question whether it is a healthy way to spend their time. 

I point out that if I'm feeling deflated by these "motivational" photos, they surely might be too.

In fact, here's what I've noticed is typically involved in a day in the life of someone living their best life: get up before sunrise, (extra points if you catch the sunrise on a hike or a run), slurp back some green juice with your avocado toast, and then get to work in your minimalist home for the company you believe is making a difference. 

Rebecca Turnbull, holding her green juice in New York City. (provided)

Now to be fair, I enjoy a kale smoothie and French press coffee as much as the next gal.  

But I don't claim those things are leading me to live my best life.

Here's what we know really matters to people in the end: telling your loved ones what they mean to you, spending time with friends, and being honest about how you feel. 

So if you really want to live your best life maybe it's time to try one of those instead?  

Rebecca Turnbull is a registered clinical counsellor based in Vancouver. 


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