Have you ever gotten lost down the social media rabbit hole? You know, that fifteen-minute Instagram check-in that turns into an hour. Or the quick Pinterest search for a new chicken recipe that leads you spiraling into a deep depression because your final product doesn’t resemble any of the pictures. And for that matter, neither does your life. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone.
This game of comparing and critiquing ourselves and our lives based on the perceived outward superiority of others has seemed to take on a life of its own these days. It would be easy to blame all the competitiveness on the influx of cheery, well-framed Facebook photos, but this tendency has been around a lot longer than Mark Zuckerberg.
I can scarcely pinpoint a time in my own life that wasn’t already blanketed with a thick layer of shoulds and supposed-to’s: I should be smarter or faster or more talented. I’m supposed to look like her and think like him and feel like them. And this was well before the internet was a mainstream resource for instilling a sense of inferiority.
As an awkward adolescent, I shed a lot of tears over my inability to conform to the mold that society said I should fit into. As an adult, I have often gotten caught up in the race, sweating and straining and expending exorbitant amounts of energy in an effort to keep pace with milestone occasions I’m supposed to have experienced by a predetermined deadline. As a writer, I have relied on outside sources to determine how I should write, what I should write, and how long it’s supposed to take.
With the prevalence of advice and opinions so widely available to us, it’s easy to get stuck in the habit of asking others how we should be or what we’re supposed to do. Want to be a ballerina, a painter, a poet? Watch a YouTube video. Want to become a better parent, a better Christian, a better teacher? Follow the Twitter feeds of experts in these areas. Want tips for how to be a writer or even a unicorn? Google it. If there’s something you want to do or be or have, you can bet there is someone out there who can direct you on what you need to do to make it happen.
But do you know what YouTube and experts and search engines can’t tell you? They can’t tell you how to be you. Sure, there are nearly two billion Google results with articles and blog posts and books detailing how to be yourself. But no one, not even your spouse or your mom or your best friend since kindergarten can tell you who you’re supposed to be because they don’t know. The only one who can guide you in the direction of becoming the person you were made to be is the one who created you.
So, if you ever find yourself caught in the web of comparison, stop. Stop playing the should be game. Stop running the supposed to be race. Stop looking to others to determine your progress and rest assured in the knowledge that whatever path you’re on and wherever your journey is taking you, the view will not be the same as someone else’s. God has given you beautiful gifts to support your unique purpose. Be bold and embrace them.