Becoming “That Girl” has been trending on various social media such as TikTok and Youtube. That girl wakes up at 5.a.m. to work out and start the day. She makes herself an avocado toast and lime water for breakfast. She writes journals with encouraging notes that inspire her day. Above all: She participates in self-care.
The trend of making the best version of yourself did not stop there. The word “Godsaeng,” which means living a productive life by focusing on self-improvement, has also been trending in Korea. I am not saying that this trend is completely toxic. I myself have tried participating in this trend, and it did help me achieve my goals. But I do have one question: Where did this trend start from and what is the reason behind it?
Nowadays, it is not difficult to see students successfully balancing their studies, work, and personal life. And the shocking part is, through the windows of social media, they seem to manage it effortlessly. Taking into consideration the advent of social media where people share their happiest moments, it is more than natural for people to upload their accomplishments without the trial and errors they went through. This, in turn, influences how we see ourselves.
While we all have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others, unrealistic comparisons happen on social media. The fact that social media shows people in their best light and people from all over the world who we might never meet in real life amplifies such comparisons. By comparing ourselves to others constantly, we go through negative emotions such as lower-self esteem and higher social anxiety.
Social comparisons therefore can be one reason for people to start pushing themselves harder and try to be their best versions. Nonetheless, the question regarding the start of such behavior lies beneath the surface of the socioeconomic status of the 2030 generation these days. Unlike the past, the Korean economy is at its decline, reaching a -0.96 percent GDP growth rate in 2020, according to the World Bank. This low economic growth leads to high unemployment rates, negatively affecting the young generation.
Due to the extremely difficult economic situation, the 2030 generation are having a hard time achieving their economic independence. These days, even if people save their salary for a lifetime except for living expenses, buying a house is a challenge. Naturally, they end up abandoning significant necessities in life such as starting one’s own family. This depressing reality leads to the young not being able to afford such things other than money and success.
Additionally, unlike the past when sincerity and diligence was the single most important factor when it comes to succeeding in life, there are newly emerging ways to earn money: investing in stocks and virtual money. People are not given a certain guideline to succeed. While this might actually seem advantageous, it actually makes people insecure about what to do for a living.
These social phenomenons I analyzed above all lead to one conclusion for the youth: feeling as if everybody else is better than me. During this chaos, the most important thing is to set the direction of life. While money seems like the utmost important value in today’s society, it is not true that people who make lots of money are all happy and satisfied with their lives. Many other values of life exist and it is crucial to find your own values and work towards them.
Living a productive life is beneficial but meaningless comparisons without your own goals is toxic. While it is very difficult to stop comparing yourself to others in this competitive world, just take a deep breath and focus on your own life. We need to learn to compete with ourselves instead of others