Harvard Business Review recently published an article, “How Self-Care Became So Much Work“, by Charlotte Lieberman.
Lieberman notes that while Americans have focused on self-improvement for decades, today our focus is shifting away from the actual self — our bodies, minds, and spirits — and toward data about the self. With iEverythings around us at all times, we expect our steps to be enumerated, our REM cycles to be recorded, and our breathing patterns to be measured. It’s not enough to just feel better — we need our devices to affirm that we are doing the work. We are approaching the pursuit of work-life balance with the same obsessive (and oppressive) energy as we do our careers.
I’m certainly guilty of such behavior. In a previous post I talked about how while we were in London, I became obsessed with getting 10,000 steps in each day. Twice that meant walking around the apartment at 11:30 at night just to get the last few hundred steps in. I also wear a heart rate monitor every time I do a cardio workout, and just stare at the screen of whatever piece of equipment I am on the entire workout. Multiple times throughout the day I check my heart rate on my Apple Watch. We own a smart scale, and I check the app on my phone to look at the trend of my weight over the past two years (and it’s not a good trend). I check my Planet Fitness app to see how many workouts I’ve gotten in each month.
So yes, I am the type of person Lieberman is talking about. She poses the question, “Are we genuinely interested in feeling healthier and happier?” For type-A overachievers in particular, self-improvement bears a closer resemblance to work than to leisure. She tells the story of one woman who wanted to start a meditation routine to relieve her stress, but the routine turned into a chore, something to be checked off And if she missed a day, she felt guilty. Eventually she stopped meditating because it was causing more stress than it was alleviating.
A UK study analyzed the effects of wearing a Fitbit on a group of 200 women. The women said the devices made them feel guilty whenever they fell short of their goals: 79% felt pressured to reach their daily targets, 59% went so far as to say they felt “controlled” by their devices, and nearly 30% referred to their Fitbits as “an enemy.” I guess it’s good to know that I’m not alone.
As I thought about this obsession with quantifying what we are doing, I realized I am doing the same thing with this blog. I just wrote a couple of days ago about how I was going to revamp my web site, with the goal of getting more followers, more comments, more likes, and more views.
I need to remind myself that such metrics are not the goal of why I post something every day, just like my fitness metrics are not the ultimate goal of exercise.
That being said, it would still be nice to get some likes and comments…
And by the way, in case you were curious, this post has 513 words…
image from Denver Catholic