A couple posts back, I wrote about being vulnerable and strong.
Exposing your heart, while still maintaining healthy boundaries.
It’s the only way to grow…
And to have the kind of relationships that are actually worth having.
But there’s another side of that equation that isn’t so obvious…
It’s the role that freedom and options play in our lives.
We usually think of freedom as being a good thing…
And it is!
But there’s a downside to it too…
And if you don’t recognize it, it can keep you forever stranded in the shallow end of the pool.
But in order to understand why, let’s take a quick detour into two unlikely topics…
Math and the Dating Apocalypse!
I recently stumbled onto an old article from Vanity Fair called Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse.
It’s about twenty-something hookup culture in Manhattan.
And how people use online apps to find easy sex and disposable relationships, without “catching feelings” for another person.
Now, if you’re single and dating, you’ve already got your own front row seat to the Apocalypse!
And you already know what the article’s about.
But even if you aren’t dating, there’s an interesting angle to the problem that applies to every aspect of life…
In the case of Tinder and the Dating Apocalypse, the title pretty well gives it away—the author places the blame on newfangled technology.
But the ways people meet, and the ways relationships look, are always changing…
And thinking that they’ll stay the same just leads to perennial phrases like, “kids these days…”
And, “get off my lawn!”
But setting aside the technology, and the expectations of what a relationship should or shouldn’t look like…
There’s another perspective tucked away in the article that I found a lot more insightful…
One that named a more subtle and compelling culprit:
The basic idea is that whenever we are presented with a surplus of options—or a perceived surplus of options—we don’t treat any one option as being particularly precious.
In the context of dating apps, it’s the impression that there are countless potential relationships that are only a swipe away.
So there’s not much reason to take any particular relationship too seriously…
Because there are a million more where that one came from.
And since “there’s always a better option,” relationships naturally get shorter and more shallow.
(I can’t speak to the twenty-something Manhattanites, but my personal experience with the Dating Apocalypse is that people use the surplus of options to chase the charge of a new connection: In hard when the charge is on—out fast when it wanes.)
All because of math.
It’s a fascinating insight…
Apps like Tinder may facilitate the number of options in the Apocalypse.
But the number of options are to blame…
The Shallow Side of Freedom
Life without freedom isn’t worth much.
Freedom is what lets you explore the world—and your Self.
It gives you options…
To choose your friends, and choose your mates.
To choose your path, and your career.
Where you live, and where you play.
Who to be.
And how your relationships should look.
In a sense, freedom is everything.
And yet… having too many options is what summoned the Apocalypse!
And made life shallower than ever before.
It’s not a paradox.
But it does require some discernment…
Too few options, and we start to compromise who we really are.
We endure abuse. And shrink our lives.
And stay too long in the places we don’t belong.
Our boundaries erode.
Because if there’s no better option—we don’t want to lose the little that we’ve got!
On the flip side…
Too many options, and we become fickle.
We play safe. And turn shallow and selfish.
And never stick through a challenging situation.
We calcify our hearts.
Because if there’s always a better option—then why endure discomfort?
Shallow and fickle, or diminished and oppressed.
Too many options, or too few…
The deep spot’s in the middle.
Growth doesn’t happen without discomfort.
And authenticity doesn’t come without options.
So how do you go deep, without giving up your freedom?
How do you keep your options open, without succumbing to the Apocalypse…?
There’s no exact science, and no prescripted answer…
But vulnerability is a pretty damn good indicator of where you’re living your life.
Are you gliding from one situation to the next, without risking emotional evisceration?
Too many options.
Are you getting crushed in a situation where you can’t maintain healthy boundaries?
You have to ride the edge.
Take the emotional risks—remember who you are.
If you aren’t struggling to be vulnerable, challenge yourself to go deeper.
If you can’t maintain your boundaries, challenge yourself to move.
Vulnerability is what lets us live a life on the edge.
A life where the options we have actually mean something.
Where we get to have strong boundaries, and be who we really are.
And have deeper relationships, that change us and challenge us.
…even when those relationships look a bit unconventional.
Where we can use technology to connect and meet new people.
And explore options we never would have found otherwise.
…even as we stare down the shallow maw of the Apocalypse.
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In any case, thanks so much for stopping by! – \m/ – Z
About Zach Herbert
I teach people to do cool things with their consciousness, and break their brains with beautiful ideas.
Professional heretic. Unlikely mystic. Host to rebels, misfits and independent thinkers.
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