Do you ever have those days when you just feel wasteful? Your accomplishments seem… inadequate. And I doubt this is an experience that I alone feel. The question then so obviously becomes: Why do we feel this way?
A PROBLEM OF VIEW?!
It’s as if the main struggle of life isn’t so much to progress, but rather to tolerate yourself long enough to make it to some illusive state of nirvana. I often wonder if we feel inadequate because of something that actually holds us back, or do we just desperately need redefining of what we call “success?” After all, we know we’ll never reach the unachievable mark of perfection. Yet, even still, it’s REALLY hard for me to accept it. I get on social media, and it really does seem like I am just not doing “enough.” I don’t smile enough. I don’t go on enough “adventures.” I don’t spend enough time working directly with the impoverished. I just don’t feel… enough. The internet the one space where we can live in fraudulent perfection. As we look through pictures of others reaching the golden end of metaphorical rainbows, we wonder why our lives don’t appear “all that exciting.” But our reaction to social media doesn’t explain the core of our feelings. So even though I’d love to believe that cutting all social media out of my life would solve all self-consciousness within me, somehow I doubt this is the case. So what is it?
Imagine that you are a pencil artist and you draw a portrait of yourself for a friend. You spend somewhere around 15 hours on this thing [Yes, sometimes it takes that long]. In fact, you stay up ALL night to finish it, and when your six o’clock alarm goes off, you enact finishing touches and collapse on your pillow, exhausted by even the notion of opening your eyes. The sun starts to rise. You look at your work again, and you can’t believe what you see. It’s… flawed… How could it be?! You spent so much time?! You cared! After skipping out on going dancing in town, blowing off your one chance of finding true love on the dance floor, you NEED this drawing to be perfect. But at this point all you can really do is deliver it and hope for the best! So, you drop off the drawing… As you hand it over you once again notice the smudge in the lower left hand corner of the page, the misplaced eyelash, and although you try not to look, you can’t help but once again look at the obvious eraser marks on the chin! Expecting the worst, you brace yourself… but much to your surprise, your friend LOVES it. She squeals with excitement, gives you a huge hug, and proceeds to take a selfy with the drawing to commemorate her emotion. She even decides to name her new baby after you!
Now imagine that drawing as your life, a perfect depiction of you. As the only person who is completely intimately aware of every pencil stroke of your journey, you more than any onlooker know about every flaw in the design. While others look at your life and see a “model citizen,” you zoom in on those in your mind, obsessively calling each and every one to light. In the name of self-improvement you call yourself to meet incredibly ambitious goals within ultimately unreasonable time frames. At the end of this little expedition, you routinely find yourself disappointed.
A PROPER PERSPECTIVE ON CHANGE
That used to be me. For the past year I held a terrible habit of demanding far too much from myself. I worked ridiculous hours, driving myself with unhelpful standards in the hopes of “proving myself worthy.”
To combat this, I’ve decided to take an outward approach to this problem, and I hope you can do something similar. As I will likely never create a perfect drawing without blemish or capture a truly timeless engagement image that stirs hearts for centuries to come, I’ve decided to stop requiring myself to do so. I certainly hope I can get to that point, but it’s no longer a requirement for tomorrow’s agenda. With each session I do, I grow a little better at my craft. With each wedding, I become a LITTLE more bold. With each time I talk to people, I get a little bit better at holding a meaningful conversation that builds a stronger friendship! I am getting better.
Today, I focus on being better than I was yesterday. Daniel Jackson is not the same person he was a few days ago, or an hour ago, or even twenty minutes ago!!! Shoot, in the last two days, I’ve had multiple REAL conversations with friends that have opened up my eyes to new whole new WAYS of thinking. I’ve discovered that the best way for me to become who I want to be in the future is to accept where I am in the present! Whether it’s been mistakes or successes that got me here, I am here, and so are you!
You are who you are right now, but you will be someone new tomorrow. Maybe not a drastically different version of you, but a new you all the same. With each breathe we gain a new chance to shift our perspective, a fresh gasp worth of possibility. My friend, if you are reading this, you have HOPE. Your life journey doesn’t say “The End” yet! Take in another breathe like you’ve been doing for so long, but this time, THINK ON THAT BREATHE! With each intake, consider it a beginning. The start of THIS moment. Then the next.
What if you gave up looking at your life by its imperfections and instead focused on how much you’ve improved/can improve? What if you could grow yourself without degrading yourself? What if when you looked in the mirror, you saw a new you, shaped by your past, but not defined by it. You are like a mountain created by the ever changing tectonic plates of life, beaten by storms, but GROWING within. In the same way that Mount Everest grows about two and a half inches year year, we are on a long road that isn’t going to reach it’s destination anytime soon.
I think we need to stop focusing so much on who we are, and instead shift out gaze to who we are trying to become. This is something I can’t define for you. Each of us has to struggle with this alone. I hope though that you will spend time today figuring it out. We are more than a multitude of carbon chains. We are sentient beings that hold amazing potential for awesome things. You, my friend, are capable of doing way more than you can imagine right now.
You want to open a business? GREAT! What is one thing you can do today to help make that dream a reality? You want to become a doctor? Where can you take ONE STEP this week! I’ve heard that greatness is just a lot of small things done greatly. We are not failures for having not achieved our dreams. We’re all just works in progress.
And progress starts with this next breathe.