stud and his car (bfa nyc)Dear Michael:

I am a really shallow person and I enjoy it.  I like to spend my time focusing on fashion and movies and music and going out to clubs, going dancing and getting laid.  

Most of my friends are this way too and we have a blast together.  Is there something wrong with this? Should I change if I’m happy?  What’s wrong with shallow anyway?

Shallow and loving it in LaJolla

Dear Shallow:

Far be it from me to tell anyone how to be happy.  Yet, if you are writing to me, perhaps there is something not quite so perfect in Shallowville.  Maybe I’m wrong, but could you be looking for something more?  Do you feel something missing in your life?  If so, instead of feeling like you SHOULD change, why not EXPAND your life instead?  Keep on doing what you are doing – as long as you enjoy it and are not hurting yourself or anyone else – and simply add new things into the mix.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing your life on fashion, movies, music, getting laid, dancing, etc.  You don’t say your age, but I have observed that many of my clients focus their lives on this kind of stuff when they are in their 20’s and early 30’s.  This is an ideal time to explore different ways of living and to try many, many different ideas, philosophies, ways of dating, having sex, going to parties, getting to know different types of people and discovering who we are at any given point in time.  This experimentation can be a helluva lot of fun and we can learn a lot about what we like/don’t like and who we want to be/don’t want to be.

And let’s not get stuck with words:  one person’s definition of shallow may be another’s definition of deep.  Go easy on yourself; you don’t need to read Proust in French (or English) to be considered a person of depth.  If you are a loyal friend, kind to others, give what you can (time, energy, money) to people, animals and mother earth, and are as honest and respectful as you can be – then, I’d say you are FAR from shallow.

And who says fashion and music and that other stuff you mention can’t be enjoyed by people “of substance”?  (cue music from “Downton Abbey”)  The most interesting people around have the most diverse lives, with a wide variety of interests, friends, hobbies, activities, etc.

If you feel “shallow” and there’s some unhappiness there, consider expanding your repertoire of interests, activities and people.  Add something new, something unexpected.  Try doing the opposite of what you usually do on a Saturday night and see what happens.  Go to the ballet instead of the bar, or vice-versa.  Sit alone at a coffeehouse and watch people instead of going to a restaurant with a bunch of friends (or vice versa).  Go to a museum instead of the gym.  You get the picture…

In closing, I refer back to your email: why change if you’re happy?  Most of us change to stop being unhappy or to become happier on deeper levels.  If you’re feeling just fine as you are, don’t let other people pressure you into changing because they think you’re “shallow” or lacking in something.  You could also stop  labeling yourself as “shallow”, which is very self-deprecating.  Why not try “happy” or “lively” or “fun-loving” instead?

I don’t know anyone who is totally shallow or totally deep, completely happy or completely miserable, always kind to others or always an asshole.  The vast majority of us have a wide range of pleasures, desires and preferences.  Why not enjoy a variety of tastes, interests, and lifestyles.  Vive la difference!