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In this episode, Chelsea gives her honest thoughts on the terrible, social media-inspired advice for "making the most" of quarantine that's been going around the internet.

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Hey, guys. It's Chelsea, from The Financial Diet. And today I am here to give you one of my home cooked from scratch made to order artisanal bespoke one of a kind custom rants. We've been doing a lot of advice dispensing here on TFD in light of all of the things going on around us. And I'm filming this video somewhat far ahead. I'm filming it maybe like two weeks ahead. So, Lord only knows what the world will look like in two weeks. But for those of us here in New York, by the time this airs a lot is going to be pretty much the same. Most of us are going to be on some form of lock-down, COVID is still going to be a pretty big part of our lives. Even for those of us who may be going back to our day to days, it's certainly not going to be what it was before. And many of us are probably still going to be living with a lot of uncertainty around things like our jobs, our income, our future plans, et cetera.

As you guys probably know already, I've also been kind of thrown for a loop in my personal life, like many of you have. In my case, I happen to be separated from my husband throughout this. But for you, you might be in a situation where you unexpectedly lost a job, or were put on unpaid leave, or had to delay a very important life plan, or had something really big fall through. Just on my calendar alone, multiple weddings, baby showers, and other big life events have been canceled. And even though I'm sure we will all get together at some time in the future, it's impossible to overstate how disappointing and disruptive all of this change can feel. And I find that in this time, while we definitely here at TFD want to be in the business of giving you guys some helpful tips and arming you with the right knowledge that you need to navigate these times, I think it's also really important to acknowledge the limits of advice, especially in a time like this.

 So many people right now are looking to provide answers of how to deal with something that feels completely unprecedented, and which frankly, no one really knows how to deal with the quote, unquote, "right way." And I've been pretty annoyed with some of the advice that I've seen on the internet, and even in my own life from people around me, which seems to be maybe well-intentioned, but often either extremely tone deaf or sometimes counterintuitive entirely. One of the worst pieces of advice that I read throughout this whole thing-- and I'm pretty sure I saw it on like some fitness Instagrammers caption, which is like no surprise that it's terrible advice-- but the quote was, "the way you do anything is the way you do everything." And this quote was used in the context of having the correct form, and doing your workout correctly, and really giving it your all, and making sure that it was the highest possible quality that you could give even when you're working out at home and no one is looking and you might not be leaving the house for a long time, so who cares. The theory behind this, of course, is that the level of attention or the level of effort that you give to anything in your life, even the smaller things or the things that you might be doing when no one is looking, is indicative of how you approach life in general and what you have to offer for everything you do. And listen, I don't even remember who said this, so I'm not even really afraid of offending him or her personally. But whoever created this, like, wrong. Clearly how you do everything is not how you do any individual task in your life. But I think that this advice is simply a very typical kind of emblematic example of the very easy convenient life advice that people try to dispense about situations like this. Because the alternative is the messiness and possible disappointment of saying things like, well you just have to get through it. Or it's going to be different for everyone. Or sometimes it's not going to all work out OK. I find similarly exhausting all of the advice that centers around making sure that you are making the absolute most of the time that you're spending, for example, in your home, or without a job, or in a transitional period of life-- which we're basically all in against our will right now.

I think something that often gets lost in this kind of guru-esque advice in these times is the idea that for most of us just getting by is fine. Good enough is going to have to replace good for a while. And it can often feel when you look around at others who seem to be accomplishing so much in a time that is so difficult for you that there must be something inherently wrong with you, that you're doing a global pandemic wrong, so to speak. But even outside of times like this, this advice that puts such enormous pressure on yourself to be so intrinsically motivated all the time to do the right thing, and to do things perfectly, and to make the biggest use of your time, and to not waste a minute, and you have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce and all of that craziness misses the fact that A, we're all working with way different levels of privilege and comfort and access. And B, mental health is a real thing. And sometimes even just getting out of bed in the morning can feel in and of itself like a struggle. That fitness Instagram advice made me feel really badly about myself, because quite frankly, over the last month or so, there's a lot of stuff that I'm doing really badly. Even stuff that in normal times I do really well. And in many ways, I've kind of lowered the bar for myself.

For example, in my daily journal that I keep where I track things like what I eat and how I'm sleeping and working out, my bar for giving myself a star for working out is extremely low. If I go for a pretty minimal walk around my neighborhood with my dog, I give myself a star that day and count it as a day that I exercised. Would I normally count that is like a workout day? No. But I also know that the feeling of seeing more days than not in my journal where I have the star for getting exercise makes me feel more confident and more like I can do it another day. But if I weren't capable of quote, unquote, "lowering the bar for myself" to just accept what is doable for me right now, I would constantly feel like a disappointment. Because yes, the way I'm currently working out some days is extremely shitty. But that's not the way I'm condemned to do everything. And just because I'm not at my most productive right now-- and I am extremely not-- the fact that I can get all of my work done and still manage to accomplish a few non-work essential tasks during the week is really impressive for me. And when it comes to those stupid quotes, like you have the same number of hours in a day as Beyonce-- do you also have billions of dollars and like an army of servants to help you do every task in your life? Probably not. And if you did have those things, you probably would have similar outcomes to someone like a Beyonce. Granted you would not have her talent-- no one is taking that away. But comparing yourself to people who have way more privilege than you do is always going to be a losing game. And Beyonce is an extreme example, but think about other people on your social media.

Times like these are very revealing of the people around you who may have hidden pockets of privilege that you didn't even know they had. People going home to their parents' huge homes in the suburbs. People who lose their job but have no worries about paying their bills because someone can step in and help them. People who had massive savings to fall back on. Or even just the difference between people who have the luxury of keeping their job from home and the people who don't. And it's not to say that anyone is wrong for having access to these privileges, but you also should remember to stop comparing yourself against those people if you don't have those same privileges.

 In many ways, I feel like the era of COVID has been the one that shows the limits of self-help the most. Because there are things that we can do to change our day to day lives. There are things that we can do to help instill the habits in ourselves that we like. But there are also enormous limits on what is available to us, and so many external factors outside of our control that can have massive impacts. You can spend years doing the right thing, scraping, putting aside money and managing to save up that emergency fund, only to see it wiped out in three months because you lost a job for reasons totally out of your control.

TFD happens to be doing pretty well right now because we happened to have a lot of money in the bank when all of this really kicked off. If this had happened at the same time last year, I frankly don't know if TFD would have survived. It's important to take in the advice that will help you make tangible steps toward the goals that you have in mind, and will help make the most of your current situation. But it's also important to remember that a lot of the advice being given is so centered on the self and what you choose to do and how you perceive things that it completely discounts all of the other factors that arguably have a way bigger impact on the outcomes of your life.

My husband and I, for example, did everything quote, unquote, "right" when it came to his immigration process. But we happen to have an administration that is very, very anti-immigration, and has made it exceedingly difficult for many people going through the visa and green card processes. Anyone giving us advice as to how we could have approached things better would be pretty much useless in the face of entrenched powers that have the ability to snap a finger and make everything radically more difficult for us. And at the end of the day, I'm susceptible to it too. Because we all want the easy answers. We all want to feel like it is within our control to make the most of our time. And we all are tempted by that idea of coming out of quarantine shredded, and speaking a new language, and having six lucrative passive streams of income. But it is likely that most of us will just come out kind of dazed and needing a haircut and depressed clinically. But just making it out is OK enough. Just getting by, by whatever means you need to in this time, is good enough. And learning to tune out the advice that may be well-intentioned, but ultimately makes you feel worse about yourself, like that stupid quote did to me, is so important for staying on track and doing what is right for you.

The only piece of more general life advice that I think could really apply to all of us in this time is to be as honest as you possibly can with yourself about what is and isn't in your control. And to only give yourself grief or focus on the things that are within your control. Some of us, frankly, aren't always super honest about what we could or couldn't have an impact on. But once you are, and once you've realized, hey, this is something I could make better, and this is something I'll just have to wait and see on, then you can start to decide where to direct your energy. And the answer will never be everything. You can't have control over every element of your life. But chances are there are always going to be a few places where you do, and those are the areas to direct it.

If you have to go on a bit of an unfollowing spree in this time, or really narrow down your areas of focus to only getting through the next couple of days, that is totally healthy and fine. And remember above all that in this time nobody is an expert on the best way to live through this. Everyone is figuring it out. Everyone is muddling through. And no matter how perfect someone may look on social media, I guarantee you that things are a lot messier behind the scenes, just maybe in a different way than they're messy for you.

 I hope all of you are doing as well out there as you possibly can. And I hope that this summer will be as good as it possibly can given the circumstances. I'm aiming really low, but if I get in like one or two picnics, even if we're all wearing masks and having to like, you know, put carrot sticks and blocks of cheese under the mask and slip it in and eat it, that's going to be a success. Whoever can invent a straw that can go into a mask so you can sip your beverage while wearing a mask, that person is going to make a million dollars.

I hope you guys are doing good. I'm doing pretty good over here. And I'll see you guys next Tuesday. As always, though, thank you for watching. Do not forget to hit the Subscribe button, and to come back every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for new and awesome videos.