Tomorrow starts my tenth Natural Products Expo West show, and yesterday, as I was setting up my booth space I was overcome with both the sweet memories of the decade past and the recognition of the vast shift that has happened to this industry. I started out with many of the best-known national brands in their early stages. We had parties on rebuilt buses and caroused late into the night, sharing inspiring stories of product discoveries, marketing mistakes and miraculous sales opportunities. Brands then were individuals with a passion. Those days are mostly gone as venture capital and corporate takeovers have remolded the landscape and feel of the natural products space. Maybe it is because I am a late bloomer and am just now prepared to take the bold steps of capitalizing Good Clean Love that I am so keenly aware of this shift, or maybe it is the immensity of this expo circus that left me reeling. Whatever it was, I found myself in tears, lost to my sense of accomplishment and direction, coming up short to everything around me.
I know that I am not alone in the misperceptions of self that come from the constant comparisons to those around us. Our new cultural norms demand that we show and be seen in every direction, at every moment, is partly to blame. Social media, the new darling of corporate marketing, both invites and chastises us continuously in our personal lives as well. I have seen my teenage daughter go from happy to sad in seconds from just scanning her Instagram account where she learns instantly of all the moments she was excluded from. This urge to compare ourselves is built into our genetic code and is foundational to our negative human bias, which protected us as cavemen. Continuous comparative vigilance was tantamount to survival, as was feeling accepted in our tribe. But now that once protective habit, has become an easy social norm, and for many, a compulsion that does more damage than good for the important work of defining meaning and purpose in our lives.
When we are constantly focused outwards, more concerned about other people’s activities, look and judgments, something crucial to our sense of self and esteem withers.
Comparisons might have some value if we find ourselves adrift with no direction, but once on a course, they are less motivating than they are deflating. Learning how to turn off the messages that surround us and get quiet enough to hear the small voice inside that truly informs us about who we are is a foundational practice of learning to love oneself. Fundamentally, it is about believing that we deserve our own attention. This is easier said than done, and certainly I struggled today to find a way back into the truth of my own life work, but it is the only legitimate practice, this commitment to harnessing and turning our most precious attention inward.
I was lucky to be with my eldest daughter who has travelled with me many times over the years and who generously and gently guided me back towards balance again, suggesting a work out in the gym and a quick meditation. Later that night, my husband reminded me of where I was ten years ago, making products in our kitchen and my younger teenage daughter sent me texts to remind me of my own beauty, of the real truth of success. These are the actions of love, which remind us of our true selves, that holds us to our center. Rumi once wrote: “Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” When it comes to knowing who we are, or even how we are doing in the world, begin inside and focus your attention where it can do real good.