Compare Yourself to Yourself

Today’s post is a friendly reminder that social media does not tell the whole story.

Are you going to post the selfie you accidentally took in the dark when trying to take a picture of something else, or are you going to post the selfie with the good lighting that you spent 30 minutes posing for?

Just because John and Susie are getting married, Bob is buying a house, and Janet is partying like there’s no tomorrow, that is not proof that you failed. It doesn’t mean that any of these people are more happy or more successful than you.

How are you supposed to gauge your success without comparing herself to others? It’s not easy, but by comparing yourself to yourself.

When looking at a successful life, all that matters is that you’ve made progress from yesterday, and if you haven’t, then it matters that you’ve got the mindset to do it and are making plans and working toward something.

Success looks different to everyone. Scrolling through social media staring at millions of smiling faces when you’re having a bad day is enough to drive anyone insane – you just need to remember that people only post what they want you to see.

Everyone is struggling with something. Most people don’t talk about it. I think we should talk about it so we can start figuring out ways to help each other. But in the meantime, cut back on the time you spend looking at others’ lives and use that time to look at your own.

Don’t look at your life in a critical way – it’s self-destructive and unhelpful to say “wow I’m x years old and have only accomplished xyz.” You want to look at your life and say, “I have so many years left, what am I going to do with them?”

What do you want? What does success look like to you? Ask yourself these questions, and then make checkpoints that work for you.

For example, if you want to learn to cook, find a simple recipe and plan maybe 3 different days to cook it and try to improve each time. Maybe improvement to you is cutting down on the time it takes to make the meal. Maybe it’s enhancing the flavor. Maybe it’s in the presentation, or having all components of the meal ready at the same time. Whichever component you choose to focus on, maintain that focus. It’s not going to matter if your neighbor makes the same meal and they make it quickly and it’s delicous and beautiful. You don’t know what their process was, and their process shouldn’t change your process.

We come into this world alone, and we leave it alone. Of course I think we should make connections and socialize while we’re here, but at the end of the day, nobody can tell you if you succeeded but you.

I understand that jobs have standards and requirements. You’re going to be compared to others around you – and it is good to know where you rank among those doing the same job. However, don’t let this knowledge affect how you see yourself.

Perhaps you know that Bob is consistently closing more deals than you, but this does not mean that Bob is better than you or more successfull. Maybe Bob consistently closes 10 deals in the time it takes you to close 8, but maybe 8 is up from the 5 you closed last month. You can use Bob’s numbers as motivation to increase the number of sales you complete, but not as a comparison of success, because again, you and Bob are going to measure success differently.

Compare yourself to yourself. You’re exactly where you need to be.

Keep Asking Questions

The hardest thing about depression for me is the lack of comprehension of those around me. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them what I’m going through, they just can’t understand because they haven’t personally struggled with it.

Everything is so simple to them – you don’t like your job? Get a new one. (Because finding a job is easy!) You want to move out? Get your own place. (Because we all have a bunch of rent money lying around.) You want to be happy? Decide to be happy and do it! (Because that’s how it works.)

I just want to scream – don’t bother trying to cheer me up or suggest things because you only make it worse!

They think everything I say is ridiculous and makes no sense because they don’t see the world the way I do.

For example, I don’t like that money makes the world go round. I don’t want money be the center of my life – I want my life to center around joy and excitement – not where can I get my next dollar for food, rent, etc.

I say this to people and they look at me like I have 2 heads, and tell me it’s stupid and ridiculous for me to not put whatever job I can get at the top of my list because I have to live and living requires money.

Well, of course, to those who have no problem conforming to the society around them, it would sound ridiculous when someone brings up the idea of doing something different.

This is why we have books like The Hunger Games and Divergent – stories where someone dares to be different and changes the framework of the entire society.

It’s okay if you’re a person who questions things – it’s good. People won’t understand, and that’s the toughest part. They won’t have answers to your questions so they’ll tell you to stop asking. They’re scared of what will happen if people consider your point of view, so they’ll tell you to stop asking – but I’m telling you to keep asking.

Sure, you won’t always get answers, most of the time you’ll just get more questions, but that’s still progress, to get people thinking about it and talking about it.

Remember when people thought being gay was a disease? When the color of your skin determined which bathroom you could use? When teachers were allowed to discipline students in the classroom by swatting them with rulers?

These things changed because they didn’t sit right with someone. They started asking questions, and people realized they were right to question the way things were.

If you are sad because you feel like you don’t belong where you are and nobody understands – that makes perfect sense. It’s human nature to be social, and you can’t be social if you can’t find anyone to connect with. If you’re feeling like you don’t belong because you know what you want but don’t know how to get there, or because you have no idea what you want, or because you’re trying to conform to something you’re not – I would be shocked if you told me you weren’t sad.

This world is tough. Sure, it’s beautiful, but it’s tough. People tell you to go to school and get a job and make a life for yourself, but what if school isn’t for you? What if you can’t find a job that you’re passionate about? They don’t tell you what to do then. They want you to suck it up and shut up – but I’m telling you to make noise.

Because someone somewhere feels exactly the way that you do – they don’t belong, they’re hurting, and they need you to speak up so that they have the courage to do the same.

Keep asking questions.

You’re exactly where you need to be.

Qualifying the No

In yesterday’s Daily Meditation on the Calm App, the topic was the word “no.” The guided meditation talked about how “no” is one of the first words that we learn, and we associate it with safety. “No” saves us from danger, “no” keeps us from failure, and we carry this with us into adulthood.

It’s an interesting perspective how something that is helpful in childhood can be harmful in adulthood.

We don’t take chances because we want to be safe, we want to be good, we don’t want to fail.

While I don’t think we should take “no” out of our vocabularies entirely, I think it would be helpful to learn to qualify it.

For example, turn “there’s no way I’m climbing that mountain, that’s dangerous” to “there’s no way I’m climbing that mountain without proper training and safety gear.”

If you’re feeling discouraged, it may help to talk to those around you that discourage you. It has been said many times that people will be quick to tear you down and you have to learn to keep going and build yourself back up – this may be true, but I don’t believe that is has to be true always, and sometimes your loved ones don’t know that they’re discouraging.

For example, I have these cyclical discussions with my parents where I’ll try to explain to them where my depression comes from, how I don’t feel that I fit in this world, working a 9-5 job in an office feels suffocating to me, and I want to make music and act. They understand this part, and are supportive of it, but then we get into the details of how I should move back to California, which I have chosen not to do (at this current time in life) because I am making a great deal more money here than I was there, and unfortunately we have to work to eat and live, etc.

At this point in the conversation, my parents become very frustrated and say things like “if you can’t/won’t do it, it’s off the table. Don’t even bring up acting or singing because it’s not an option.”

I understand why they say this – they’re my parents and they love me. It hurts them to see me hurting, and they  don’t want to discuss things they can’t help with. If I’m not going to take their advice, they don’t want to have the discussion. If they can’t help me, they don’t want to have the discussion.

So we settle on what I’m doing now… which is living at home and working a 9-5 office job and being very unhappy, hoping it will pay off in the long run and one day a better opportunity will come along for me. When we hit this point, I can’t tell if they’re satisfied or feel that they helped, but I’m even more sad than I was when the conversation began.

A helpful, qualified approach to “take it off the table” is “okay, you want to act and make music. You’re not moving back to California right now, so how can you do that here?”

For starters, I can try to get back into writing music. I stopped a while ago because I’m not crazy about the songs I’ve written, and I would like to have a songwriting partner to collaborate with. I don’t know how to find one of those, so in the meantime while I’m all I’ve got, I could start listening to different genres of music and practicing the guitar and piano more often to see if I can come up with something I’m proud of and have better material.

There is a saying that God never says “no,” but only “yes, not yet, or I have something better.”

This is one of those saying I’m sure someone came up with to feel better because “I have something better” is clearly the same as “no” – but I like the idea behind this.

Instead of telling yourself no, say “no, but…” and finish that with a piece of something you can say “yes” to.

If you want to travel, but can’t afford it right now and can’t take any time off from work, make a savings plan. Figure out how far into the future you have to get before you can use some vacation days. Write this down. Count down the days. It always helps to have something to look forward to. As you get closer, start planning little pieces of your trip.

Maybe you want to go to college but can’t afford it right now. What is it that you want to learn? Is there a single class somewhere in your community that is similar to the subject? You can learn just about anything on YouTube these days. Baby steps.

“No” does keep us safe and from failure, but remember that the great ones failed many times before they succeeded.

You can’t get rid of “no” – you’re going to say it, you’re going to hear it, and you’re going to feel it. You will feel defeated and discouraged. You will think that there is no way out. But there is – there always is. You won’t always be able to see it, but your first step is to find your qualifier.

“No, but…”

Always keep fighting. There are people who will not understand and won’t be able to help, but there are people who will. Everything takes time – and unfortunately that time may be a lot longer than we want or think we can handle – but it will get better.

Take baby steps. Make plans. Put them into action as slowly as necessary. Don’t allow yourself to give up on the things you can’t go a day without thinking about – the things you need to stay sane.

You’re exactly where you need to be.

It Starts with You

I’ve fall off on a lot of the resolutions I made for this year, but so far I have kept track on reading the Bible.

As a child, I believed in God because my parents told me He existed and I had to reason to doubt them. I knew about biblical stories because they were taught to me in Sunday School.

As a teenager, I believed in God because I was happy. I was never tempted by sex, drugs, or alcohol. My friends and I spent our weekends at football games and track meets, sleepovers and movies, and the hardest substance we consumed was an energy drink. I wasn’t worried about anything – I had amazing friends, I was in love, I knew exactly where my life was headed – and I credited this easy life to my foundation in Christianity.

As a college student, I questioned God because I was depressed. Still not into drugs and alcohol, but I no longer had friends. I couldn’t see where my life was going. I didn’t enjoy anything that I did. I wasn’t doing must of anything besides writing music and searching for clubs to join, but I was unhappy, and couldn’t figure out why. I credited this to either not having a strong enough foundation in Christianity, or in Christianity being completely worthless.

As an adult, I believe in God because I choose to. I know the biblical stories because I am actively reading them every day.

There is much in the Bible that I don’t understand – and my parents would say this is where a bible study would be helpful, or a church home, somewhere where I could speak with a religious scholar who has studied the Hebrew texts and could explain them to me.

I agree that we should not always lean on our own understanding, and we often need to go elsewhere to gain understanding.

That being said, where do we find sources we trust to teach us?

Over the years in school, I’ve had countless teachers that I did not agree with. Sometimes I would write my paper taking the position I stood against, just to get an A. Sometimes I would take a stand and let my grade take a hit.

Some things are black and white. Sometimes there is a clear right and wrong. But other things are grey. Sometimes we will seek answers, only to find more questions.

We may encounter people who are hailed to be experts on a certain subject, and maybe they studied it for years and truly believe that they are experts, but how can we be certain that what they were taught is correct?

This is why I have chosen to read the Bible, fully, in it’s entirety, every single page, on my own. I pray that God will reveal to me all the things he wants me to know and gain from it in my year of reading, so that I can create my own position, awareness, and sentiment regarding Christianity without the influence of others. Once I am solidified in my thinking and feeling, I plan to find a church and a Bible study. To ask questions. To have my position strengthened or challenged.

Maybe I will change my position, and maybe I won’t… but I will not be blindly following someone else without first taking a stance on my own.

I share this story because I think it can be applied to other aspects of life… why do you have the job that you do, and why do you continue to do that job each day? Do you like it? Do you feel you don’t have any other options?

If you could drastically change your life, would you? What would you change?

Don’t go to school because you’re told to – do it because you want to, and value education. Everybody needs money – I get that – but there are so many jobs on this Earth – find one that you like.

There will always be people who will be more than happy to tell you what to do, what to say, and how to act.

If you like this direction, if you need it, if it gives you purpose, then great. Go for it.

But if you’re unhappy, if you seek something different, go after it. Ask your questions. Demand change.

You’re exactly where you need to be, yes. Everything you’re going through is preparing you for something else in your future. Maybe you don’t know what that is. Maybe not knowing is driving you insane. Maybe you’re afraid of it and don’t want to know.

Whatever you’re thinking and feeling, embrace it. Listen to yourself.

They say you have to know and love yourself before you can get to know and give love to another – this is a frequent quote I see in articles helping people cope with the fact they’re still single.

Well, what I’m talking about is similar – you can’t argue a point without first taking a stance. You can’t go after what you want without first deciding what you want.

Don’t let someone else tell you want to believe, where to work, who to love, how to live, etc.

These are your decisions. People won’t always support you. That’s okay. It’s not their job to support you. It’s your job to support you.

It starts with you.

Learn from Every Experience

This week’s inspirational quote in my Passion Planner is from Oscar Wilde: “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”

One of the most difficult emotions to experience, I believe, is regret. Whether it’s feeling like you’ve wasted time, didn’t try hard enough, weren’t good enough, etc… regret is a hard thing to shake, and it feeds anxiety.

Say you work for a promotion, don’t get it, and regret not choosing different tactics that may have gotten you there. This will feed into your anxiety surrounding a promotion next time the opportunity arises.

So how do we get rid of regret?

We can’t – but we can learn to recognize what makes us feel it, and find healthy coping mechanisms.

The things that you tell yourself play a big part in your emotions. If you slip and fall, and internally say, “Damn, you’re so clumsy,” you are negatively impacting yourself. If you slip and fall, and internally say, “Shit happens, get back up,” you’re acknowledging the fall, but not placing blame on yourself or emitting any negative energy.

If you feel like you’ve wasted time in your life, try to focus on a different aspect of the experience. For example, I often feel that joining a sorority in college was a waste of time and money, because I didn’t make any deep or lasting friendships from being a part of it. I did however, receive my current job through a sorority sister. We may not be close, but she is the reason that I have been employed with the company I currently work for since last April – a company that graciously allowed me to leave for 4 months to do the Disney College Program and then come right back and work full time.

Even though I don’t like my job and am beyond grateful to have found a new one that I’ll be starting in a week, I am grateful to have had the steady paycheck for these past few months, and have worked in a positive office environment with wonderful people. I may not have had this experience had I not endured three years of trying and failing to enjoy college make connections in my sorority.

It’s also important to remember that you have to take care of yourself. So what if you spent more time watching tv last night than working on a project for school? Did you enjoy the tv show or movie? Were you relaxed? Did it make you feel better after a stressful day? So long as your project still gets done on time, it’s okay to take time for yourself and do something that you enjoy – you should plan time to do something you love every day. I think this is just as important if not more important than work.

This is not to imply that finding your blessings in disguise is going to be easy – sometimes you won’t be able to identify something good that came out of a negative experience until years after the fact. But maybe knowing this can help – no matter how tiny the help seems.

I love to tell stories. I’ve had a lot of heartbreak from both friendships and romantic relationships and from what I consider to be an overall terrible college experience, but I have a lot of stories, and I usually enjoy telling them.

Whenever I’m sitting in my room crying at night about how I can’t figure things out and don’t like the way that my life is and wondering when am I going to find a job that I love and some friends that I really connect with, I tell myself that many, many years from now, this time is going to be another great story that I can tell.

Of course this doesn’t always work. I can’t see the story that’s unfolding. I’m hurting and angry and confused and want to know more than anything how and when things are going to change… but there are those easier days when I can envision myself in the future, talking to someone. Maybe it’s my mom, maybe it’s a husband, maybe it’s a friend, and maybe it’s a child… but I’m telling them a story, about something I overcame, and even if it’s just for a second, I feel hope that this dark time will pass as well.

You won’t always see the good in a bad situation. You won’t always feel hope. You won’t always be able to find the motivation to keep going. Sometimes you’re going to sit down and cry and want to give up – and that is perfectly okay.

Just remember that it isn’t going to last, because you are okay, and you’re exactly where you need to be.