We all have moments where we feel as though we aren’t as far along or as successful as our peers. Social media profiles show manicured highlight-reels of other’s lives and it’s never been easier to spend all day comparing yourself to strangers til you fall over in a heap of self-hatred. Here are some things to keep in mind when these feelings creep up (and it happens to us all). 🙂
Life isn’t linear. It’s not some grand one size fits all plot that always follows the school-job-car-marriage-babies-death theme. Some people will zig while the others zag, some people have plot lines that snake off in unknown directions, others shoot straight ahead. Not every choice or culturally dictated “milestone” is for everyone! And that’s okay! If everyone followed the exact same path life would be like a terrible 1950’s sitcom (*shudder*). Variety is what develops culture! For example when some people choose to focus on creative pursuits or scientific ones instead of other “milestones” we get advancements in those fields, but that doesn’t make the other choices less valid or worth more. The world needs creators, leaders, followers, mothers, brothers, etc etc.
There is no point system for life’s decisions, sorry.
Setbacks are redirectors. This is going to sound super new-agey but I think most setbacks we experience are simply “life” changing our direction, honing us in on where we should be. I have certainly experienced my share of setbacks, some were enormous life altering ones (that felt like they’d kill me) and others are the mundane everyday species (example: weird scrape on my left knee right now). What going through those horrible experiences shows us is that we’re strong enough to persevere, and knowing that strength will stay with you even when the pain is barely a memory. Setbacks shift the focus, or tear you away from comfortable things that keep you from expanding your life. You aren’t falling “behind” in life when these happen because life isn’t a race.
Milestones are kind of bullshit. We have this cultural idea that there are “achievements” in life, like some scoreboard we’re all trying to tick off. As if we are somehow more ahead if we do this or that. We see news articles of kids starting companies at age 10 and wonder why we wasted our childhoods collecting bugs. All these milestones do is provide a way to measure and compare ourselves to others, and most of the time that is harmful. Everyone’s life is different, everyone faces different challenges and mishaps and has different priorities and privileges. What these stories don’t tell are the years of struggle before success or the parents of said Wunderkind who steered them. Life is not a competition, life is not a race- you don’t “win” by ticking off some cultural list of milestones the fastest. You win by being happy as yourself and experiencing life as fully as you can every day.
You don’t have to be everything. The whole idea that we have to be simultaneously talented, attractive, financially successful, romantically involved, etc is ridiculous to me. Social media is terrible for this as everyone looks wonderful in their delicately filtered self portraits and snaps of their glamorous moments, it can sometimes reinforce the idea that if your real life doesn’t resemble their filtered one that you’re somehow less worthy. The thing is not even those people are all of those things at once! And you don’t owe anyone any of that stuff either. You don’t have to be any of those things unless you want to be. This is your life, not anyone else’s.
So go do something exciting this weekend! 🙂 Make yourself happy first.