Regardless of what school-type environment you’re in, you’re automatically exposed to others doing great things, accomplishing so much for themselves, and it can feel overwhelming to then look at yourself and wonder…am I doing my best? Am I missing out on opportunities and somehow “falling behind”?
Time and time again, the comparison game likes to creep up on us, making us doubt anything and everything we’re doing, longing for something more, whatever that means. Any of us can pinpoint others living their lives and fulfilling their ambitions, and then think of how we stand up.
Before I get too ahead of myself, I wanted to share an exciting update about my future ventures. After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree this spring, I will be traveling to American Samoa for a year to teach English with the organization WorldTeach.
I cannot count the number of times in the past few years and months I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. That I was forever a lost person barely eking by. What I first expected for myself in media kept falling flat. I felt so defeated. No matter how hard I tried to make something work out as my peers and advisers wanted for me, I just always felt off, leading me to make more mistakes and become even harder on myself. And once people associate my identity and reputation with a certain occupation or field of study, am I just stuck as mediocre, just putting up a facade to cover up my shame and disappointment in myself?
What we consider to be “success” and “doing our best” is so abstract, so subjective to whatever might arise in a given moment. That doesn’t mean we don’t still fall into that trap of wanting what we don’t need, physical items and opportunities and awards and recognition and talents…yeah, there’s a lot to think about.
And not for any truly good reason either, except that we create certain expectations in our heads of what will look best on our resumes, how to achieve this noteworthy goal, how to become esteemed in some way we think would be important, what will make us distinguished to others, make us feel worthy.
Maybe I’m just talking in complete hypotheticals here, but self-doubt seems to be a part of our culture, our psyche. We’re surrounded by influences where we show off our absolute best to others, we see advertising for every little thing we might use once but still definitely need to spend money on, we see examples of what accomplishment looks like, and somehow that is supposed to be reasonable for us to conveniently apply to our own lives.
Ultimately, what today’s gratitude is all about is the closed doors for any opportunities we came across but didn’t opt for, or goals that didn’t pan out as we planned them to. They didn’t look like how others in our same position completed them, and that somehow translates into falling short or failing on our part.
But that is not the case. What is laid in front of us isn’t an exact itinerary of what is best and worst for us. What might make for a killer Instagram photo or status update might not be the best for your life and circumstances.
And if you think we haven’t all had our fair share of pitfalls and mistakes, well, that’s denying the nature of life itself. We now have the pressure of 24/7 availability to every single good thing everyone has to share, so inevitably we are left questioning the only people we know of every little flaw and mistake: ourselves.
Let’s be grateful for the opportunity to have ways to communicate and share with others near and far, and let’s use that as a tool to congratulate others and celebrate our successes, big and small. We are all different people at different stages in our own lives. Regardless of where we’re at, there will always be people ahead and behind, and that’s okay. Everybody is on their paths, their own timelines of fulfilling their purposes.
Be grateful for all the opportunities that didn’t pan out because there’s a reason they didn’t go as planned. They weren’t for you. Or they were for you to learn and grow from in another way that was unexpected and maybe not as glamorous as others’ experiences. That doesn’t turn your situation into a complete failure. The only way you can fail is if you dwell upon it, use it as gateway to comparisons, and don’t see how to utilize that opportunity into what lay ahead next for you.
Be grateful for your unique gifts and circumstances. Those provide you the necessary groundwork to make and reach the goals you see for yourself, and even goals that you never made yourself. Those can sometimes be the best of all. Be grateful that life has a way of working the kinks out, of balancing the darker moments for brighter ones. Be grateful for this present stage and everything in this moment; it will be necessary for what you will eventually face, and we need to appreciate it more rather than always wishing for it to pass so we can move on to the next phase.
And be grateful for every closed door that ends up opening a window. When something doesn’t work out, you just gain more room to make another experience and ambition into reality. We don’t have to regret our pasts because there’s always more in store.
I’m grateful to finally realize that what is best for others, isn’t made for me. An opportunity that looks perfect for you on paper doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in that same way. And that’s okay. It’s okay to do things differently than you or others have planned. To go down a different path and seek another opportunity. True gratitude, after all, is realizing and appreciating what you are capable of, respecting those gifts, and believing what opportunities will come to you are meant to be.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie