Our aim is to inspire and motivate people using a variety of methods. The main purpose is to give people the confidence to realize their potential.

Letting Go of Who You 'Should' Be

Release the Pressure

This is something that I struggle with a lot. So maybe I’m not the “expert” that should be writing about this topic. But considering that the whole point of this article is to let go of who and what you think you should be, I might just be the right person for the job. Because I get you, I’ve been there and understand the frustration of feeling like you don’t measure up and know what it feels like to constantly compare yourself to others.

Understanding Societal Expectations

Everyone experiences some sort of pressure set out by society that they feel they need to meet in different areas and phases of their lives. This could be influenced by your culture, religion, or even the people you surround yourself with. But regardless of how you grew up or where you might find yourself in life, all of us have extra pressure added nowadays. Why? We not only have to compare ourselves with what our parents did at our age (they most likely owned a house, and a car, got promoted, and had 3.5 children at this age), or to our friends or neighbors whose grass quite literally looks so much greener than ours. No, today we get to compare ourselves with people all over the world! Because somewhere out there, there’s a 19-year-old kid who just bought his first house and owns a 5-million-dollar company. Never mind that these kids just know how to edit their photos to perfection and have mastered the art of taking convincing photos in a furniture store.

As technology advances, the expectations set out by society grow and unrealistically so. It is no longer acceptable to simply have a job working at a cash register while you figure out what you want to do in the future. You have to work a full-time job, be an entrepreneur, and become educated all while being in perfect health and a successful relationship all before your wisdom teeth have come out.

The Dangers of Trying to Fit in

All of this has a tremendously negative impact on your mental health and self-esteem. Why would you celebrate being promoted to head canned goods packer if there is someone on the other side of the world - 5 years younger than you - who just came back from their third tropical vacation this year?

It’s no wonder that anxiety rates keep increasing with increased social media use. There’s constant pressure to be better and live a more extravagant life than what you can reasonably reach now. We’re constantly setting ourselves up to fail because we keep telling ourselves: “Why can this guy do it? He is my age and has achieved so much already! There must be something wrong with me…” But the very thing we are measuring ourselves up against isn’t real! And even if there is some version of truth in it, what good does it do to measure ourselves against a seemingly impossible standard?

There is always going to be someone out there doing more than you or doing the same thing that you’re doing, but better. You’re always going to end up feeling crummy about yourself. And I don’t know about you, but when I feel terrible about myself and my limited potential, I’m not all that keen to try new things. This causes a whole snowball effect because you don’t only feel bad about where you’re at but you also stop any future growth because you already believe you suck (can anyone say fixed mindset?). And what follows naturally from this belief? Jealousy, pessimism, ungratefulness… and before you know it, you’ll be stuck in a rut that’ll take ages to get back out of.

Embracing Authenticity

You now know that you’re probably measuring yourself to impossible standards and that this does not contribute to your overall well-being or future growth. Now what? Realizing this and that it is a problem is a good first step. But sometimes if you’ve consumed too much information from outside sources that bombard you with idyllic images of what your life ought to look like, it can be difficult to separate what you truly want from the nonsense that you were fed.  

It's important to try and distinguish what it is that you want out of life and what’s important to you. Now I’m not talking about a vision board accompanied by a 10-year plan setting out what your life ought to look like because you’ll probably end up doing what I did, just placing more pressure on yourself to achieve. No, what I’m talking about is just to take a step back to focus on where you’re at. Are you doing what you love right now? Are you enjoying life right now? Are you learning and growing as a person? Are you spending time with the ones you love? Because that’s what truly matters, not reaching ridiculous goals.

Cultivating Self-Acceptance and Pursuing Personal Growth

In the life skills and self-improvement circles we talk a lot about “being on your own journey” and after hearing it so many times, it kind of loses its meaning. But the thing is, it’s true. Everyone’s starting block isn’t set in the same place and all of us were dealt with different skills and aptitudes, there is no use in comparing. So, what if someone did something long before you and seems to be doing better in life? They’ve got their own struggles and you’re probably far ahead with other lessons that they have yet to learn. And by focusing so intently on what others are doing, you lose sight of what’s important to you. You could very well be making yourself miserable for not achieving someone else’s dream. Meanwhile, you may have no intention of running your own business or going to university. Doesn’t that sound like a waste of precious time?

The best way forward is to focus inward and work on the areas where you can grow personally. Celebrate where you’re at and what you’ve done so far (and believe me, I’m preaching to myself just as loudly on this one). And even if you feel like you haven’t done anything and have been wasting time up to this point, dig a little deeper and look for the lessons therein. There is always something that you can be thankful for and growth that you’ve undergone, even if it’s not so obvious at first.  It’s only by taking our eyes off the world and all the “shoulds”, that we can truly be happy and create a fulfilling life.

Katia Theron Author

Article by
Katia Theron

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