Shattering Illusions: Debunking 6 Pervasive Myths of Modern Society (From Fairness to Romantic Love)
Unveiling the false promises of a perfect life
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The Article in One Sentence
This issue debunks six pervasive myths in modern society, revealing life's often overlooked complexities and realities, from the fallacy of an easy life to the oversimplified notions of happiness, materialism, love, justice, and inherent greatness.
Modern society, rich and diverse, is shaped by many beliefs and values. However, it also harbors commonly held myths. Often perpetuated through education, media, and societal norms, these myths seldom reflect real life, hindering personal well-being.
While they shape our conscious collective, such myths set unrealistic expectations and perceptions about how things should be. Let’s look at a few of the most common.
Myth 1: A Smooth Life
For a long time, I was a classic “nice guy” obsessed with keeping my life smooth and uneventful. If I could avoid or eliminate life’s unpleasantries or transcend them altogether by “doing everything right” and following the “rules,” my life would be trouble-free. Unfortunately, this only magnified chaos while stifling my creative life energy.
Life is not smooth or easy. It never was. Human existence is, by nature, chaotic. To believe otherwise is to set oneself up for constant disappointment. Life is a series of struggles and triumphs, each shaping us fundamentally. It demands resilience, not the expectation of ease. In acknowledging this, there is a certain freedom—the freedom to face life head-on, as it is, not as we think it should be.
As we surrender the myth of a smooth life, we reclaim our power and can experience the world in all of its serendipitous beauty. Life won’t always be smooth, it may not always be pretty, but it will be an adventure not to be missed.
Myth 2: The 'Happily Ever After' Fallacy
Popular culture often promotes the idea of 'happily ever after’—a state of perpetual happiness and exuberance once certain conditions are met, like finding the perfect job or partner. I believed this and spent many years seeking a job or partner to keep me from being unhappy. However, this notion, a staple of stories and fairy tales, is misleading. Happiness is not a permanent state but an emotion, a fluctuating experience that ebbs and flows.
It's natural for emotions to fluctuate, and experiencing a range of feelings, including sadness, loneliness and disappointment, is a normal part of the human experience. More realistic and beneficial is to cultivate meaning and lasting contentment rather than chasing fleeting states like happiness.
Myth 3: Materialism and Image as a Panacea
I used to believe that material wealth, status, and outward appearance were the ultimate solutions to my problems. While financial stability and personal appearance contribute to my well-being, they are not panaceas. I’ve learned that true happiness stems from intangible factors like self-acceptance, living intentionally and making deep, meaningful connections.
Overemphasizing life’s material aspects tends to lead to a dry, shallow and unfulfilling life. In seeing the limitations in the material and appearance, we can focus on life’s fulfilling aspects, like finding purpose, serving others, saying no to things we’re not into, and saying yes to things that fill our hearts with joy.
Myth 4: Romantic Love is the Ultimate Fulfillment
Romantic love, often idealized in media and culture, is frequently portrayed as the ultimate source of happiness and fulfillment. I believed this, too, and prioritized partners above all else. While a healthy intimate relationship can be a source of joy and support, it must not be considered a satisfying life requirement.
Love is not a cure-all. It is complex, demanding, and often unglamorous. It is not the solution to all of life’s problems but a part of life with its highs and lows. To love is to accept this complexity, not to oversimplify it. Placing too much emphasis on romantic love can overshadow the importance of self-love, friendships, and meaningful personal projects. Fulfillment comes from various inner sources and outer relationships, not just romantic ones. In fact, the more I learn to accept and love myself and feel seen by friends, the less I feel the need to seek these qualities from a partner.
Myth 5: The Illusion of a Just World
The belief in an inherently just world, where good always triumphs over evil, can be comforting, but life is complex and not inherently fair. To believe otherwise is to live in false hope. Expecting the world to be fair and just is a belief that can lead to ongoing disappointment and a sense of helplessness.
The world is indifferent, and circumstances vary greatly for different individuals. Rather than expecting fairness, focusing on how we can contribute positively to the world and adapt to its realities is more productive. It is up to us to carve out a sense of justice to fight for what is right. This is not cynicism but a recognition of reality, which empowers us to make meaningful choices.
Myth 6: People Are Born Great
I used to believe that people were born great, that certain individuals were predestined for greatness due to inherent qualities or abilities they possessed from birth. However, this fixed mindset is overly simplistic, minimizing the role of hard work, circumstances, and collective contributions.
It also overlooks the role of continuous effort, learning, and adaptation in achieving excellence. I’ve since learned that greatness is not an innate trait but, more often, a result of consistent and deliberate effort over time. I know who learned to skateboard after the age of 30 and is now learning surfing and kiteboarding after 40, a real-life illustration of the growth mindset.
Though widely held, these myths are veils that cloud our view of life. When stripped of their allure, they reveal life’s true nature—raw and unadorned. Life is harsh, unyielding, and often unfair, but also beautiful and touching. We find our proper place in the world by embracing life’s chaos, messiness and uncertainty.
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