Aspirational living

My television is telling me that I need to improve my life. I’m just not sure if it can provide the answers.

If you switch on your television, sooner or later you will come across someone telling you that you are not good enough. You are too fat, too lazy. The choice of décor in your lounge is not conducive to successful living. Your clothes are wrong for your body shape, you’re basically not very good at this living lark, and Jamie Oliver is trying to take away your smiley faces. Fair enough, we could be better people; healthier, more successful. But there’s a point where this message morphs from good intention to a perpetual whiney disapproval.

It can be hard to adapt to frantic advances in technology, and if you don’t keep up with new trends, you can be left feeling a tad impotent. Facebook constantly reminds us of our friend’s successes, and information travels fast. It can feel alienating and impossible to compete as objects of desire come at you from every conceivable angle. The suggestion is that your life is not complete without an upgrade of some sort. We expect things to be immediate, but this initial excitement fades alarmingly fast. Looking back to simpler times may be nostalgic, but not so long ago, things were very different. Amazing things are now in abundance; we are living in an incredible age, but this has become the norm, brilliance is expected. The opportunity to be disappointed is greater than ever before. We constantly raise the bar, and compare, and complain.

Television relies heavily on identifying and exploiting the aspirations of the viewer. Both as escapism and voyeurism with glossy productions and far fetched storylines. But there is a more direct way in which TV plays with these desires, by simply pointing out that we’re unfulfilled, and probably a little unhappy. We want to be better, and we want to know how to achieve that. We need to empathise, but we also enjoy watching others fail. Identifying and absorbing their weaknesses is far easier than attempting self improvement.

But of course, once we’ve finished gawping at Big Brother contestants, laughing at the x factor rejects and snorting at the inadequacies of the apprentice candidates, we are simply left with ourselves. Shows concentrate on the dissection of other people’s lives and one can only extract so much personal relevance from them. Some have genuine intention, but most are chiefly for entertainment. If we want change in our lives, we need to do it ourselves. If we want success, we need to look at the specific ways in which we can achieve this. There are certain rules and ideologies we can adopt, but the way in which we go about improving our lives is as individual as we are.

But it’s hard to turn the other way; perhaps I do want lots of shiny new things, who wouldn’t? Maybe my stuff isn’t as good as other peoples stuff. Sometimes I buy ready meals for one, but thanks to Jamie Oliver, time constraints are no longer a valid excuse for cutting corners. I don’t want to realise that life has passed me by because I’ve been viewing it through a lens. Sitting around gawping at celebrities, seething at reality shows. But I do want to be better, and I think it would be a shame if my motives were based on jealousy, or a lingering sense of inadequacy.


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