There was a time when we had little choice and more of a prepared guided trail that we had to follow. School, College and then, marriage. With this new wave of empowerment comes choice and some, like myself, don’t quite know what to do with it. There’s this abundance of choice that I feel so lucky to experience that I don’t want to mess it up. I want to submerge myself in greatness to express the gratitude I feel for my freedom. Living the simple life seems archaic to a feminist such as myself. Then, I decided to look at what a simple life actually is…
At the core of it, people living a content and happy life are living their version of The Simple Life. When you take away the labels of gender, race and social standing, we’re all still very different. We don’t all want or need the same things to be satisfied. Think about your previous and current sexual partners; did they all reach climax in the same fashion? There might’ve been some similarities but there are stark differences as well. We don’t all fit the same mold, so can we stop acting as we do?
Realizing what you want
This isn’t an easy answer to find because we have so many external stimuli trying to TELL us what we want. Advertising and marketing campaigns are centered around trying to manipulate the consumer on creating urgency for a product that wasn’t there before. It’s OK to admit that you’ve been manipulated into wanting something that you wouldn’t have wanted on your own.
I love doing yoga more than anything and I love doing it in my underwear. The online world continues to tell me that I need to buy $100 yoga tights in order to practice ‘proper yoga’.
I love going barefaced without any makeup but the media continues to shout at me; imploring that I can’t leave the house without these 24 products on my face.
There is no need to copy when you can create something that you know will make you happier. I put this blog post together to show you how I used this checklist of sorts to figure out what I want in my immediate future. Breaking down each step should give you a little insight into the possible thought process when walking through your own ‘journey’.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Anyone who has taken any class with a glimpse of psychology has come across this pyramid of human needs. It’s pretty accurate even for being imagined into life way back in 1945.
Step 1: Physiological
This includes your basics like food, water, sleep, shelter and anything required to help you stay alive. Just go ahead and check this box, because you need this shit in your life. For me, a freshness of air falls in here to live a happy life and that could mean crossing out capital cities and a bulk of China.
Step 2: Safety Needs
This is personal security, financial security, health insurance/security and anything that will add to your comfort. Personal security boils down to feeling safe in your own home and as a South African, this is not something I’ve felt growing up. As a woman, it’s not something I’ve felt throughout much of my adult life. This has caused me unnecessary stress and, in all honesty, hindered my life. I’ve realized that I consider my safety in both financial and personal aspects to be VERY important to me.
This step has really shaped my decisions over the last few years because I’ve withdrawn from trips that I feel could lead to my safety being compromised. Some people can look past this and think it’s OK to be in a country or city that isn’t safe, but to me, it’s a deal-breaker. And yes, I understand that no place on earth is crime-free but some are far safer than others.
Looking at my financial security, being a digital nomad made me realize that I could always make money online with my set of skills. That has put me in a position of complete privilege that has allowed me to explore something I’ve always wanted to do – teach. Teachers are paid horrendous salaries in South Africa and for that reason, I have always been put off by the profession. Realizing my financial freedom has allowed me to explore new work opportunities that involved adorable children!
Step 3: Social Belonging
Real talk – I’ve never felt like I’m ‘part of the group’. Ever. I’m almost 30 and I can honestly say that I’ve never felt comfortable in any sort of group I’ve been in. I seem very social but if you had to ask me what my ideal situation would be; it would be living in a cottage in the woods with my dog and cat. No humans and just completely surround nature, books and some drawing supplies. My yoga mat can stay too. There are studies that prove this step sometimes screams so urgently that it can put Steps 1&2 in jeopardy.
Social Belonging also covers family inclusion and how people feel connected to one’s family. I love my family but we’re not very vocal or affectionate; we don’t pry into each other’s lives. That also accelerated my ‘lone wolf’ status that I’ve come to enjoy. I don’t look at my lone wolf status as something sad; it’s actually where I feel true happiness.
In tying this up with life decisions; I’ve realized that I need to pick my situations based on being independent in the country of my choice. I need to be able to secure my own space and be able to afford to live comfortably. Again, this forced me to erase more choices from my list because having the above luxury is not always readily available.
Step 4: Esteem
Hello, Ego. In the last few years, I’ve had a lot of ‘real talks’ with myself about my ego. Shying from it hasn’t ended well and if I relish in it; the same outcome happens. I’ve had to keep my ego in check by celebrating certain aspects of it.
- I need to be in shape and feel proud of my body. Feeling a level of strength gives me a lot of self-confidence and I feel proud from the inside out.
- A level of personal success in my current job is very important to me. It’s rare that I’ll do anything without care or passion; I need to do a good job and no task is too menial. If I don’t feel good in the work I’m producing; it really knocks my self-esteem right down.
- My personal appearance needs to meet my standards. I’m not one for heavy makeup anymore and I don’t style my hair, but I need to know that I look good for me and to my standards. When I ‘let myself go’ it affects my self-esteem and I don’t want to put myself out into the world.
- In looking for affirmation from others, it’s been a rocky road of jealous bosses and inadequate employers. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy receiving respect from those I respect; the other opinions don’t matter to me anymore.
Step 5: Self-actualization
I live in this step; I’ve set up camp and I literally bang my head against self-actualization. I feel this need to perfect whatever it is I want to do and being content is about as foreign as they come. I’ve never felt content or even come close to it. There is this desire to try everything and get ‘good’ at everything. It’s exhausting and it’s something I don’t like about myself but I have to accept it.
With living this way; I’ve learned to accommodate my quirks with various courses, web seminars, new job opportunities and exploring new skill-sets. This requires money and I need to be financially secure in order to let this part of myself flourish. I need to always have a job that allows me to have the time to explore other things too – or I will go insane.
Figuring out what you want is sometimes the easy part, the struggle is often admitting it to yourself and making the necessary changes. I’ve made some unpopular choices in the past but they’ve all led me here and I feel like ‘here’ is the closest I’ve come to living a life that’s tailored to my needs.
By checking off your needs from physiological all the way up, you have a starting point and a clear-ish vision begins to make itself known. Don’t shy away from the direction and try exploring it. This is a personal journey and it shouldn’t be shared with the masses if you’re worried people will play Devils Advocate and try to sway your thought process. Protect yourself.
Try the Maslow Test to figure out what you want and let me know if it helped you out as much as it helped me!