Grandiosity is overrated. Who wants to be a celebrity – stalked by the paparazzi, judged for everything you wear? Not this 20-something. I would much rather live small. I’d like to have my own little house someday, have a garden so I don’t have to battle it out at the grocery store with the exhausted masses, and have a job that doesn’t take all of my emotional and physical energy.
It wasn’t always this way. I was ambitious once. I had enough ambition to conquer a township. I volunteered for all the extracurricular in school, played in musical ensembles, went to all the art shows, and climbed my way up to the highest-paid positions at work. In my early 20s I was sure to take every opportunity to network and attend guest lectures in the hopes that maybe someone would acknowledge me, take me under their wing, and usher me into the world of writerly muckety-mucks.
But there it is. I just wanted to be acknowledged.
Once I realized that my drive was all coming from outside myself, the desire to impress and climb the ladder just melted away. I felt like a defiant teenager – finally seeing my messed-up family dynamic (in this case, society) for what it was, and rebelling against it with every fiber of my being. When I stripped away all the things I did to please other people, to look impressive in their eyes, well I found that the woman beneath all of that was someone I liked even better.
What Does it Mean to Live Small?
While small is a diminutive word, living small is anything but. It’s all about defining your world – community, interests, values – and living as dynamically as possible within that frame.
Build Strong Relationships
In the social media era, the concept of “friendship” has developed into two very separate ideas. There are your close friends – the ones you see or talk to on a regular basis – and there are your social media friends. They have strikingly different roles. In early 2016, Oxford University Professor Robin Dunbar published a study that supported the idea that social media friends don’t really provide the emotional dependability that offline friendships provide. Of users who had about 150 friends, 4.1 were dependable and 13.6 shared sympathies during a crisis.
Can you imagine standing in a room of 150 of your closest friends after you’ve experienced a major life trauma and only 13 of them acknowledging it? That seems pretty cold. But it’s the nature of the social media beast. When people have more friends than they can handle, relationships get tossed to the wayside.
It’s important not to rely on social media for meaningful relationships. Have you ever had friends who air their marriage quibbles over social media? It’s weird. And more often than not, it seems a difficult divorce is in their future. Social media is a tool. It’s good for networking and sharing pithy articles, but it’s not a replacement for human interaction.
Be Conscious of What You Put in (or on) Your Body
When we start to live small, the repercussions of our actions become strikingly clear. If you and your neighbors throw trash into the gutters in front of your houses, it will get pulled into the river down the street and suddenly the river will be dirty and lifeless. It’s all about being aware of the negative and positive effects of your choices.
This concept directly applies to the chemicals we use in food and body products. If we use and consume nasty chemicals, they will negatively impact our bodies. Sunscreen is an example of one particularly troublesome body product that almost every North American family carries in their beach bag in the summer. The last few years have shed light on the numerous ways that chemical sunscreens can be harmful to skin. It’s a frightening idea, that the substance we’ve been using to protect ourselves might be doing more harm than good. But there’s more to the topic than fear mongering. See, the fear aspect takes over when the conversation happens on the grand national scale. But zero-in on the problem and it’s easy to find a solution. Go chemical-free. The only ingredient you need for excellent broad-spectrum protection is zinc oxide. It’s that simple. And all natural.
When it comes to food, paying attention to ingredients is key. Read the labels. If it’s loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup, just steer clear. GMOs are scary. In an effort to avoid GMOs, I’ve become a fan of organic food – and I’ve been noticing lately that organic is losing its hoity-toity stigma. Grocers are making it more affordable than ever.
Whether we’re talking food, clothing, or knick-knacks, buying local is a surefire way to live small and better your community. Know the people from whom you buy your meat and veggies – farmer’s market hi-five – by supporting businesses that employ your friends and neighbors.
We’ve all heard why it’s so important to shop local: it strengthens the local economy, lowers taxes, builds relationships, and creates jobs. On top of all that, it’s just more empowering to shop local. If the corner store doesn’t have an item you’d like, instead of being out of luck you can simply talk to the buyer and ask if they can get the item in stock. Fancy that.
Taking control of your own personal power is a tricky business. We all have our different methods. For most of us the process starts with stripping away external expectations and cultivating a life and purpose we are proud of. Starting small is the way to go. We don’t all have to be celebrities. Instead of directing all of our passion and energy into the vast expanse of global fame and fortune, why not work on better our own lives first. The rest will come with time.