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How Searching For Instant Gratification F*cks You Over Long-Term

It's no surprise that in our modern day and age, we're all slightly obsessed with fulfillment delivered at a moment's notice… and on a silver platter, no less. But, could this reliance on immediate gratification work against us in the long run?

From cutting-edge technology to the praise of a good deed to greasy, late-night take-out, to colorless and dissatisfying sex with inappropriate partners, it's almost as if, both individually and collectively, we've lost sight of what matters most.

In the era of instant, where the world in which we live sheds barriers like leaves in autumn, has our relentless fixation on the now eclipsed our ability to work toward and fully appreciate the lives we've always dreamt to have? Psychology says maybe.

Travel back in time to 1970, light years before the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Tinder, when a little psychological study about the temptation of marshmallows conveyed a lot about human nature and all the tragic flaws that encompass it.

By testing and analyzing the level of self-control displayed in children, it was found that we can accurately gauge one's present abilities to exhibit willpower and future success.

As the story goes, if you can muster the inner strength to delay this trying gratification (although personally, marshmallows are simply nothing without hot cocoa), you can expect a greater reward in the end. Yet, once again, this notion goes against that of human nature.

Speaking as someone who frequently finds herself guilty of seeking out unnecessary people (that douchey jock from high school) and things (Domino's Cinna Stix, anyone?) when my self-esteem goes into disarray, I can't help but wonder, is an extra marshmallow worth the wait?

We've certainly come a long way since 1970, but still, the concept of willpower doesn't exactly reign superior. How could it?

We live in a time of convenience and accessibility; a time when it doesn't make a difference if the guy you like texts back because you have three other potential suitors on standby; a time when the number of “friends” who pretend to like tidbits of your life equate to face value and relevance within society.

Enough is never enough if you could have more. Better isn't better if it isn't the best. Contentment is an illusion of your mind unless reinforced with a big, blue thumbs up.

We're more efficient, refined and confident in our desire for a bite of the world… but, are we happier?

The more aggressively I seek out a quick fix to bandage my bloodied ego, the more tragically volatile I become. My desire for validation as a worthy individual engulfs me and leads me to become a version of myself I don't particularly like: insecure, needy and ultimately, insatiable.

Customarily coupled with tequila and an uninspired townie bar, I can literally feel myself slipping deeper and deeper to dangerously unhealthy levels of being.

And, in that moment, you're willing to risk almost anything for the positive feedback that you are, in fact, valuable in someone else's mind. So, naturally, we settle — even if only for a moment. We settle for the guy who doesn't appreciate our senses of humor and the f*ck buddy who never bothers to ensure we get off first.

We settle because in the currents of our rapidly shifting environments, we'd rather eat now than potentially starve later.

So, how does it happen? How is it we're so quick to put all our hopes and fears about ourselves in the perceptions of others? Because, without a stable foundation of our own internal security systems, we're exceedingly vulnerable to outside elements or triggers, which will, in turn, challenge our self-worth.

The answer, ironically, poses more questions than solutions. In an attempt to placate ourselves momentarily, we defy the groundwork of who we are, what we want and what we're willing to sacrifice in order to get it.

It's as complicated as it is simplistic. Want a significant other (keyword here being significant)? Stop texting your ex when you're feeling emotionally hollow and accept falling asleep alone, without an ego boost.

Desperately longing to finally upload that beach pic that makes you feel great? Get your ass to Zumba and steer clear of your grandmother and the Italian pastries section.

We are only as strong as our thoughts allow, and while the human mind is still largely a complete and utter mystery, it can either be your paradise or your own personal prison.

The choice is yours.

Citations: What You Need to Know about Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control (American Psychological Association)

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Melanie Lindsay

Contributor

Melanie is an out of place New Yorker living in the city of Los Angeles.
Melanie is an out of place New Yorker living in the city of Los Angeles.

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