Our culture bombards us with information. Articles, blog posts, books, Instagram pictures, Facebook posts—everywhere we look, we find an endless supply of knowledge. Much of this information tells us who we should or shouldn’t be, what we should do with our lives and our money, what we should value, what it means to be successful.
In many ways, this surfeit of information is great; we can find out so much about the world and the people that call it home. We can make friends that live a continent away, learn a new language, watch YouTube videos that teach us how to build treehouses for our backyards. We turn information into knowledge, and for that we can be thankful to live in such a connected world.
But when is all this information too much? What if this never-ending bombardment of information is causing us to lose touch with who we really are? Are we consuming so many opinions and ideas that we don’t know what we believe anymore?
“Our era,” says author Greg McKeown in a recent LinkedIn article on essentialism, “is distinguished not so much by information overload, but by opinion overload.” McKeown also says that “to ensure that our own voice is not lost in the noise around us, we need to know what we want. If we don’t get really clear about that, then other people will fill the void with their agendas.”
McKeown speaks in the context of the workplace, but I think that his words are true in many arenas of life. Without recognizing and claiming our own voice, we might get swept away in the opinions and ideas of others.
How might we determine what our own voice is when we’re inundated with everyone else’s opinions? Here are four suggestions for how minimalism can remind us of who we are even amidst the cultural noise:
1. Add more moments of reflection into your life.
We can take the quiet minutes here and there to sit down, contemplate where our lives are heading and whether that matches up with our inner voice.
I’ve been trying to do this more: Instead of unwinding after a long day of work by checking Facebook or scrolling through Instagram, I try to take time to sit down at my kitchen counter, look out the window at the trees in the front yard, and reflect upon my day.
I don’t want to constantly stare at a screen or rush from one household task to the next; I want to savor these quiet moments so that I can reflect upon my day, so that I can formulate my own opinions about how I see the world.
If I don’t spend time reflecting upon my life, how will I know if I’m becoming the person I want to be? We need to remember the importance of giving ourselves space to simply exist and reflect.
2. Open up to those closest to you.
As minimalists, we believe we should make more space in our lives for fostering relationships and community. When we’re struggling to find our own voices in the cultural noise, we should open up to others.
Talk with your friends and family about what you’re dealing with. Ask them for their advice. Whether you’re looking to downsize your stuff or hoping to learn more about who you are and what you believe, turning to people can open up your mind to new possibilities.
Be careful of taking their advice as the absolute truth—you must decide for yourself what works best for you—but start a conversation about what you value and whether or not your values are matching up with your priorities. They might offer insights that you’d hadn’t thought of previously.
3. Be intentional about what you consume.
When do I know I’ve consumed too much or when I’m getting distracted by ideas or cultural norms that don’t match my own values?
When I read too many mindless listicles or scroll endlessly on Facebook, I get overwhelmed and discouraged. I compare myself to others instead of focusing on being content with who I am and what I have.
What works best is when I strive to be purposeful about what I consume. When I am monitor what information I take in and what opinions I allow into my life, I am much happier. I’m more focused on finding my own version of contentment and on really thinking about what I believe.
Be mindful of what information you take in. Stay focused on what really matters to you, not on what culture tells you should be important.
4. Don’t be afraid to change your mind.
Sometimes when we take time to reflect on what we value, we find that our values have changed. We’re not the same person we were when we took up running or decided to buy that motorcycle.
When it’s time to make a change to align yourself more closely to your values, take it. Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to an old idea that doesn’t fit anymore. The beauty of minimalism is that, when we let go of things, we free up space and time for other dreams.
If you find that you’ve bought into cultural noise that doesn’t match with your own voice, make a change. Take a risk and pursue a dream that is in line with you who are and what makes you content.
Not only will we cut the cultural noise, but we’ll also get a better sense of who we are. We’ll find our own voice.