I used to think, “My role models don’t have the same problems that I have.”
I used to think, “Look at this person! Just look at her! She’s got it all figured out. Everything she touches turns to gold.”
I used to think, “Once I attain the same level of success, influence, power, fill-in-the-blank that she has, I won’t struggle anymore.”
I don’t think any of that anymore.
But not everyone talks about it.
We’re constantly bombarded with curated, airbrushed, seemingly perfect portrayals of deeply imperfect people.
The internet has made things worse by reducing the distance between us and our role models. Social media allows us to track their every movement, constantly reminding ourselves of how we fall short—and how we struggle and they don’t.
As shocking as this may sound, their social media feed is different from their actual life. No one spends that much time looking at impressionist sunsets or sunbathing with models.
I’ve now been in plenty of rooms with people I previously put on a pedestal, and I can tell you this: What you see online is only part of the story.
The best-selling low-carb diet book author regularly shoves his face with foods that make your cheat meals look healthy. (I’ve seen this firsthand numerous times.) The meditation guru spends a mindless hour every day scrolling through social media. The influencer who claims to “crush” his mornings by doing yoga, meditating, running several miles, and doing a cold plunge—all before 9 am—instead sleeps in most days.
This doesn’t mean their advice is wrong. It means they’re human. It also means you take what they say with a grain of salt and remember the African proverb: “Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
I find perfect people profoundly uninteresting. People who pretend to be perfect are good for about 10 minutes of conversation. If I want to spend time with airbrushed humans, I can do that on Instagram.
Tell me how you fail to follow your own advice. (As I write this, there’s a voice inside my head telling me, “This article is no good. Scrap it and write something else instead.” Yeah, I’m struggling with perfectionism as I write a post on perfectionism. So meta.).
Tell me how you failed this year. (Awaken Your Genius debuted at # 3 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, but it didn’t make the New York Times bestseller list. I was disappointed, even though it didn’t affect the two metrics that actually matter—how many people bought and loved the book).
Tell me what you’re still struggling with. (Self-compassion when I screw up. I’m the worst boss I’ve ever had).
Give me your mistakes, your imperfections, your beautifully messy existence.
That’s the good stuff.
Because when you conceal what makes you human, you also conceal what makes you interesting.