Discovering That You Are Not Broken

Published on May 6th, 2017
Photographer taking a selfie through a distorted reflection.

Several years ago, WebMD got called out for creating a controversial online test. The issue? No matter what answers were provided to each question, the results came back with a serious warning: “You may be at risk for major depression.” Given that WebMD proclaims itself as “the leading source for trustworthy and timely health and medical news and information,” a person might not question the results of this test and believe they have a legitimate mental health disorder.

This is but one example of a larger issue. Whether it’s done accidentally, unintentionally, or maliciously, companies and organizations have a lot to gain if their potential customers adopt a poor self-image of themselves that can only be corrected by buying their product. The beauty industry benefits from the fact that many of us don’t feel attractive enough without their clothes and cosmetics. Big Pharma makes a lot of money from hypochondria and parents that believe their kids are so hyper that they can’t function without meds to calm them down. Universities benefit from the widely held belief that it’s harder (if not impossible) to get a job without a college degree. And so on and so on.

To be clear, this is not an indictment against the very real need to leverage branding, advertising, and marketing to convey the value of a product and sell it to businesses and consumers. There are many genuinely valuable products and reputable companies out there. What I'm against is the overarching narrative that is sometimes used to pressure and deceive customers into purchasing things they don’t want or need, notably “you’re broken, but we just happen to sell a product that will fix you.” Just like the bogus WebMD test, they hold a distorted mirror up to you in order to convince that you have a malformity that isn’t really there!

The key to realizing that you are not broken is to break the hypnotic spells that led you to accept this lie as the truth in the first place. This takes a bit of discipline and self-awareness. When you find yourself starting to go down the road of being self-deprecating, self-loathing, or self-conscious, ask yourself: “Am I actually broken? Or am I just looking at myself through a distorted mirror?” If you allow yourself to explore this question and look at yourself with kind eyes, you’ll likely discover an opportunity to replace a deceptive lie with a more empowering belief about yourself.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.