During the final week of October, I decided that I needed to commit to some self-care. I had been feeling anxious and upset for most of the month without really knowing why. I’d wake up in the morning feeling fine and happy, but most nights I went to bed feeling insecure and sad. So near the end of the month, I brainstormed ways to try to cope: spending more time with my latest leisure book, writing, making things, journaling, devoting more time to silence and prayer, and limiting the time I spent on social media.
Some plans (like making things and devoting time to prayer) worked out better than others (ahem, journaling…), but the practices were enough to help me begin pinpointing the source of my unrest. I realized that I had been forming my identity around possessions and personal achievements (or lack thereof), and it had left me feeling empty, unworthy, and unsatisfied.
Stepping back from social media made this especially apparent to me. I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others to see how my life measures up to theirs… and social media doesn’t exactly help curb this habit. If anything, it makes it worse. I see Facebook statuses from high school and college peers announcing that they’re moving to new cities to start jobs or to begin Master’s Degree programs. Twitter friends post links to songs that they’ve recorded and projects they’ve launched. Tumblr friends share pictures of band merchandise I could only dream of attaining or music collections that I wish I could afford. Mind you, I know Christians are called not to get caught up in the pursuit of material goods, and usually that’s not too much of a problem for me. Except when it comes to music. I make it a point to set aside money for my music collection.
And rather than appreciate the achievements that I see on social media, I scold myself for not accomplishing similar things. I feel like I’m supposed to have reached those milestones. I should have a full-time job in a new city. I should be churning out eloquent blog posts or brainstorming projects. I should buy every piece of band merchandise I can get my hands on or that record player that I want… even though I have more important things to save up for.
However, I’ve realized that these desires don’t stem from the same place as my desire to know God, my desire to contribute to a more just and loving world, or my desire to be less afraid of sharing myself with others. They’re not rooted in a desire for well-being or peace. They stem from insecurity, from fearing that I’m not as good as others or that I need to impress people with what I’ve done or what I have.
When I think of this attitude in light of the gospel, however, I find that it’s not only unbiblical, but also downright burdensome. Scripture doesn’t say that being validated by others determines our value. And according to Jesus, appearances mean nothing if our inner life doesn’t match what’s on the outside (Matthew 23:27-28).
I am not the sum of what I’ve accomplished or how I perceive myself. That stuff doesn’t matter to the One I’m seeking to imitate and follow; I’m not loved for what I’ve done or what I possess but simply for being created by God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) just as I am, no strings attached. If I believe that, I’m freed from expectations and pressures to be somebody that I’m not, or to live a perfect life. I can instead focus on cultivating what’s been put in my life and going where I am called.
I’m not worthless or a failure because I haven’t landed a “big girl’ job yet, or because I don’t write songs, or poetry, or create things to sell on Etsy, or have a blog with hundreds of readers. If any of those things are meant to be, they’ll come in their due time. Everyone’s calling is different, and rather than envying the journeys that others are taking, I should focus on the path before me and trust that it will lead me to where God wants me.