Why the toxic individualism of the American Dream isn’t working anymore.

In this episode, I sit down with writer and activist Mia Birdsong, who recently authored the revelatory book How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friends, and Community. We talk about why the American dream isn’t working anymore — even for the people who are “succeeding” at it, to say nothing of the folks who have always been left out. We dig into how the ideals of individualism and independence are keeping us lonely, isolated, and disconnected from our communities and from feeling truly known to one another. And we discuss new models for imagining our way into a future that feels supportive, interconnected, and rich with possibility.

* This episode was originally recorded in front of a live Zoom audience on August 18, 2021.

Key takeaways from this conversation:

  • How buying into the American Dream cuts us off from connection and community
  • Why the nuclear family limits our options for love, intimacy, and role modeling
  • How being known in the way we long for is the antidote to shame
  • What investing in “care” within a community looks like — focusing on mutuality rather than reciprocity
  • Why we should spend more time thinking about consent
  • How to get better at asking for, and offering, help

Favorite Quotes

“The American dream is about individualism and independence. It’s also a kind of performance, right? It is a performance of invincibility and having your shit together. And if we’re performing that, and our sense of self, our sense of being a successful person, is dependent on other people believing that we have all our shit together. Then we can’t be known to each other.”

“The people who I’ve met, who are succeeding at the American dream are often incredibly lonely or just feel a sense that there’s something that they’re supposed to be feeling that they’re not. There’s some satisfaction that they’re supposed to have that they haven’t reached, and they don’t know why.”

“There is so much joy, satisfaction, and pleasure to be found when we can be brave and courageous and just jump in and allow people into our inner lives and show them our messy-ass selves.”


The articles and ideas that we mention in this epi:

Call to Action

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