Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

Why is our culture today so obsessively focused on unrealistic positive expectations? To be healthier, be happier, be the best, better than the rest. No one can be perfect and amazing, have a wonderful fulfilling job, spending our days doing incredible meaningful work. Isn’t this a set up for failure? What’s wrong with folks? 


Realistic and Satisfied

Dear Realistic and Satisfied,

There is a subtle art about not caring. Learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively-pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter. This is incredibly difficult and takes a lifetime of practice and discipline to achieve. And you will regularly fail. 

Everyone and TV commercials will tell you the key to a good life is more, more, more, buy more, own more, make more! 

The problem is that caring too much is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction – ideas that are unrealistic. 

You learn about the best ways to make money because you feel you don’thave enough money already. You may stand in front of the mirror and repeat affirmations saying that “you’re beautiful” because you feel as though you’re notbeautiful already. You may try visualization exercises about success because you feel as though you aren’tsuccessful already. 

There is something called the “backward law.” The philosopher Alan Watts says the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. An example: The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. 

Do you ever notice that sometimes when you care less about something, you do it better? My drum playing on stage was much easier when I didn’t worry or care about how perfect I could be. My guitar player would say to me, “Just relax and have fun.” It works to not care sometimes!

A confident man doesn’t feel a need to prove that he’s confident. A rich woman doesn’t feel a need to convince anybody that she’s rich. Either you are, or you are not. If you are dreaming of something all the time, then you’re reinforcing the same unconscious reality over and over that you are not

If pursuing the positive is a negative, then pursuing the negative generates the positive. The “pain” you pursue in the gym or through activities results in better all-around health and energy. The “failures” in business are what lead to a better understanding of what’s necessary to be successful. Being open with our insecurities paradoxically makes us more confident and charismatic around others. 

Pain is a complex thread in the fabric of life. Everything worthwhile in life is won by associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of struggle is more struggle.

Self-confidence and how you view yourself really is the key! I always say, “Chasing happiness is like chasing the wind,” that sense of satisfaction comes when you already believe you have arrived and smile thru your day regardless of your circumstances. 

Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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