We love pop culture.
Why wouldn’t we? It is, by definition, popular. And, even if it’s popular the way high-school kids are popular (which is to say, strangely unpopular, re: dislike) it still is the standard that everything else stands in approval or opposition to.
As such, some of the messages weaved in pop culture can leak into your lives.
Here are seven of those lies, explained and unraveled here:
1. Following Your Dream Will Make You Successful
Success is tricky as-is, and usually it comes with a drawback, like long hours or a difficult, specialized job. It’s not a given, and it’s not an automatic reward or finale for your life, and least of all for your dream.
And that’s okay.
Your dream isn’t your dream because you want success. It’s your dream because you love it. And even without success, it will make you happy and fulfilled.
Focus on that and savor the realistic joys ahead.
2. Reckless Ambition Is Your Friend
No it isn’t!
Reckless ambition doesn’t correlate to success. It does often correlate to megalomania and serious anxiety.
Find personal peace; make that and ambition. Don’t let yourself be consumed by the fires that heat you.
3. Everyone Is Having Sex All The Time And Is Also Sexier Than You.
4. College Is Nothing But Wild Alcohol Parties!
This is one of the rare lies that works in your favor. Because college is even better than pop culture lets on.
That’s because pop culture is obsessed with the parties(!!!) and fixates on the lamer sort of extremes of chugging, kegs, and all the other recognizable shorthand. But what about awesome classes that you enjoy? Debates that stretch late over video games? Learning how to cook or at least bake with pals? Smoking and having a beer on an aimless Tuesday night that’s made special, like every night before it, by the people you’re meeting?
More importantly, college is about choice.
Don’t feel pressured to have a specific college experience, because as long as you grow and learn through it all, you’re going to have a good time. You’re going to find good people, good times, good classes and grow into yourself in a special village full of like-minded people suddenly empowered.
It’s basically Hogwarts.
5. Sexual Health Is A Scary, Shameful Boogieman!
It isn’t and living in fear of something so human and normal and, frankly, fixable, does you a disservice.
Two simple things I wish were better known is that the human body has a wide range of normal, or normal-ish behaviors. If you have a red dot on your upper inner thigh, calm down. That’s the gym, or an ingrown hair, or whatever.
Pop culture and media leans towards the intense, and that can color your imagination. Try not to let it, and remember the universal truth: in the case of extremes, things are rarely as bad as you fear or as good as you hope.
The second is that the more common things thrown around in the sort of nervous punchlines you hear are curable and not insane or permanent. There’s a poor job done in distinguishing likelihoods and severities, but for the most part, the more common things are the curable, calmer things. The bad news is that they’re real and you should, of course, be careful.
The good news is worshipful fear isn’t helpful or needed.
6. You Need To Get Your Shit Together!
Good news: if you’re the sort of anxious planner who needs a plan, you’re the sort of person that’s bound to be successful. You’ll figure something out because that’s who you are and what you want.
Exhale and trust your future self.
7. Follow This List!
Pop culture lies and sells you on improvements.
You can have these lashes! You can have this body- and also, these arms. Wear these clothes! Man-buns are a thing now, right? Here’s fifty of them!
Pop culture, especially internet culture, quantifies trends and quietly asks you to stack up to them.
Don’t. Even here, even now, even with me. Be you; take what works and leave the rest.
Lists invite you to follow, and they want to beckon you to agree, but you don’t have to. You’re not beholden to do XYZ before you die, or to look that good or eat that food porn.
You just have to be you.