You are worth so much, another reminder

There have been times – many, in fact – where I feel worthless. My thoughts toss over one another as if in a tumble dryer, telling me I should be “farther” in life than where I currently am. I look at friends, acquaintances, family members, who have all accomplished so much, found what their life is meant to be about, and the most appropriate emotion that comes to mind is discouraged. Lazy. Simply put, crappy. In my personal experience, there are few feelings as terrible as scrutinizing yourself and coming to the conclusion, “I’m not enough.”

I know I’ve written on this topic before, so forgive me if I’m redundant from my previous posts, but this is a topic quite personal for me, and I know for many others as well. I wanted to revisit it, especially because over the past few weeks I’ve felt more worthless than normal. Suffering from depression, I’m clearly not blessed with high self-esteem in the first place, but even on bad days I usually have enough self-acceptance to tell myself, “you’re enough.” Unfortunately, as I lay here in bed, up rather late for someone who has to be at work at four in the morning, I feel the need to release my feelings on this subject once again.

For myself, there’s always been something tragically pitying about trying to pat yourself on the back…the equivalent of a “cheer up bud” from a coach, or some cheapy, dollar-store participation medal whilst everyone else gets gold and silver. A consolation prize, if you will. I want a gold medal, so telling me that the participation medal is just as cool isn’t going to cut it for me. I, like many others, don’t want to settle. Most aren’t asking for the world, they’re simply asking for contentment, a sense of accomplishment that isn’t acknowledged as, again, a figurative pat on the back.

In my view, it all comes down to comparisons (another topic I’ve written on multiple times before, for the same reason) – holding yourself to a standard that someone else has set for themselves, and beating yourself up emotionally when you fail to reach it. Logically, I think it’s fairly easy to point out the flaws in this way of thinking. For one, the standards you may try to hold yourself to aren’t even yours. As a 24-year old, I can look at another person of my age and say, “Oh, they’ve graduated college, and they’re on a fast track to a career. I’m physically at the same point in my life as them, and I haven’t achieved either of those things and as such, I’m a failure in that regard.” Perhaps my example of hearkening myself to a failure is a bit extreme, but it’s still the same train of thought that many go through when judging themselves based on standards set for others.

So, as I look at this person who has completely different circumstances, skills, social groups, and just a different life in general, I still find a way to expect myself to be at the same level of “accomplishment” as they are. Can you see the flawed logic? Simply put, despite any similarities we may have in our lives, the fact remains that our lives are not the same. For every similarity we have, we have ten more differences between us, in so many different aspects of our lives. So, when we hold ourselves to a standard based off of somebody else’s life, it’s bound to end in disaster.

With all of this, there’s the snowball of emotions we call “worth.” I don’t mean literal, financial worth, but instead our self-worth; how much of an achieving human being we see ourselves as. In my opinion (and that’s all it is), the entire concept of worth in our society is gross, poisonous, and just plain hurtful. As a millennial in the United States, I was passively expected by American society to have graduated college. As someone who has not, my job prospects are severely limited, and I can’t even tell you the amount of time I’ve been asked by family members who I barely talk to when I’m going back to school, as if it’s low-key expected of me.

Of course, this is just one of many examples, all based on where you live, your family, living situation, etc. As I’ve tried to demonstrate thus far, this cultural and social mindset also leaks into our personal psyche. We are so prone to comparing ourselves to others, and using our discontent at not being where we want to be compared to others to fuel our motivations. I don’t believe that there’s anything inherently wrong with this, but when it gets to the point where it emotionally drains us, making us tell ourselves that we aren’t enough, it needs to stop. I’m convinced that there are much healthier ways to motivate yourself to achieve your goals in life.

So, in case you have trouble telling yourself this, as I do, let me be blunt: you are worth so much. Regardless of your social, financial, romantic, familial, or occupational situation, you are precisely where you’re supposed to be at this point in time. You are a unique individual, so acting like you should be where somebody else is in their lives just doesn’t make sense. Don’t get me wrong – I know we still compare ourselves to others anyway. Heck, I do it constantly. But that still doesn’t change the fact that you are you, and nobody else, no matter how desperately you wish that your “worth” was as great as theirs.

I’m worth plenty. He’s worth plenty, she’s worth plenty. It all just comes down to realizing that we all are, including you.

Stay strong.

– Ryan

 

Life isn’t a straight line

So, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a post on here – coming close to a month since my last one. It’s been a hectic past few weeks, what with the obvious stress of the holidays, work (as per usual) and a certain family situation arising.But it’s quite alright, because, good or bad, everything passes eventually. I mean, I’m still working, but if I couldn’t balance my work time with my writing time I never would have started this blog in the first place. Anyway…

Something that DID happen over the holiday season was my five-year high school reunion. I didn’t go to it; it was perilously close to Christmastime and in a completely different state from where I live + where I traveled for Christmas, but it happened. It got me thinking why people  get so excited for their class reunions, and what it would have been like if I had went to this one. Ask a few people and I’m sure many would say they go to their reunion for just that – reuniting. With old friends, old flames, old teammates…and I don’t doubt that. If I had gone to my reunion, it would have been to see people I’ve barely (or not at all) kept in contact with, mostly via Facebook and mutual friends. On that note, reunions are great, and I’m glad they’re, well, a thing.

But anyone who has read my Comparison, the Enemy of Joy post knows how I feel about comparing myself to others, whether it be money, looks, occupation…the list goes on. The big thing that would scare me about a reunion is just that: comparison would be inevitable between former classmates. Basically a “who has gotten farthest, or made the most money, or had the happiest marriage in the past five years.” I don’t believe that this type of comparison is something people do with the intention of harm – I feel that those who are going to compare themselves to others are: A. People who are quite happy with their life, or B. People who are unhappy with their life.

Here’s why I say that: For people who fall into group A, looking at other people who haven’t been as “successful” as you (in whatever one of those categories mentioned beforehand) makes it easier to pat yourself on the back and say, “Good job, me. I’ve done things right for the past five years.” On the flip side, people who fall into group B would most likely compare themselves with others to either motivate themselves, or pity themselves. To be completely honest, if I had gone to my reunion, I would have been in group B, no doubt. As I’ve said a thousand times before, my depression makes it so that I see the worst in any scenario. If I’m in a room of people who have all been successful in their careers, or have been happily married, or whatever, instead of being happy for them and embracing their happiness, I instead beat myself up mentally, asking myself again and again why the hell I’m not at that point yet.

I know, I know, me having that mindset goes against everything I argued for in my Comparison post. I truly believe what I wrote in that post, that comparing yourself to others is an unhealthy mindset, but the truth of the matter is I still fall prey to that way of thinking sometimes. I’m by no means “unhappy” with where I am in my life right now – I have a job that I enjoy, friends and family who support me, and I’m rapidly saving up money so that soon I’ll be able to get my own place and establish my independence even more. I’m content, but to say that I feel incredibly perfect with where I am right now would be a lie. I don’t want to sound like I’m not grateful for what I have, I truly am. When I talk about “where I am in my life” in this case, however, I’m more so talking about things that can affect through my own actions (mostly career and independence).

So even if I did have a chance to make it to my five-year reunion, I’m not entirely sure that I would have even gone, simply because of the danger of me falling into that mindset of me vs. other. It’s fairly tragic, because I’m always a little heartbroken when my own anxiety and depression tries to stop me from experiencing what life has to offer.

My mother and father are both wonderful people. I’ve mentioned my mother briefly before and how she also struggles with depression and anxiety, but my father doesn’t have either one. While I can talk with my mother to an extent not many people can because I understand the way her mind works and vice versa, my father sees my thought processes with these mental illnesses from an outside perspective. This is where I give him so much credit, though – he makes an active effort to try and understand why I think the way I do. While we’ve both accepted the fact that he will never 100% understand the way my mind gets to its conclusions, he refuses to sit down in the back of the auditorium and let my life play itself out. From the little things, such as making sure my medication is full enough, to the big things, like helping me find and apply for outpatient counseling a few years ago, when I felt at one of my lowest points, he helps me. He’s a great man.

My father is a smart guy and has lots of sage advice, but one of my favorite things he’s ever told me is this: life isn’t a straight line. He told me this at my lowest point, soon after my depression and anxiety had surfaced and basically flipped my life on its head. Long story short, I was out of college, out of money, and was staying in bed half the day, doing nothing to make my life more productive. Since I wasn’t in school and not on some job-to-career path, I was, well, depressed. I was convinced that at the rate I was going I was never going to make anything of myself. I was convinced that in a few years I would be living in a friend’s basement, eating Ramen for half of my meals and working 9-5 at some dead-end day job. My father saw my despair, and after a long talk he told me – life isn’t a straight line. What he meant by that is basically things don’t always go as planned. In fact, they rarely do. Life takes sharp corners and turns unexpectedly and slows down and speeds up, but it always reaches the end. Life goes on, and us with it. It may seem obvious to some, but to me at the time, there wasn’t anything better for me to hear. We may not be able to control the “line” completely, but we can plot its course, its general path in the direction of where we want to be someday. Is it easy? Again, rarely. But it’s possible.

So going back to the whole comparison thing – there’s another reason we shouldn’t do it. Nobody’s life takes the same path as another’s – we’ll all be at different points at different times than others. But as long as we know where we want to go, we can get there. It may not be when we want or how we want, but it’s possible. Am I being super cheesy right now? Yeah, probably. But I don’t care, I genuinely believe what I’m saying, and you should too. Nobody, I repeat, nobody is a lost cause, no matter how far past rock bottom they seem to have gone. The zigzaggy, curvy, angled line of life continues. We all continue.

  • Ryan

Comparison, the Enemy of Joy

Comparison is a pretty vile thing. In order to compare ourselves to someone else, we have to accept (to an extent) that there is some “quota” that we must reach. Some undefined line that begs us to surpass it, otherwise we failed in that regard. The problem with comparison, however, is that that “quota” is constantly in flux, depending on who we compare ourselves to.

From as far back as our early childhood, many of us are taught (albeit unknowingly) to judge our own worth based on how we stack up against others. “Tom’s only a freshman and he made the varsity team, yet you’re a junior and you didn’t? Why not?” “Potter is only eleven and he already defeated the most powerful dark wizard of all time and he’s the Seeker of the Gryffindor quidditch team, and you can’t even keep your wand intact?? Shame!”

In the end, aren’t we all a Ron Weasley?

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. But humans truly have a nature to treat life accomplishments as a competition, as so much of society tends to urge us to. There are seriously so many problems with this mindset. Unless you consider yourself the best of the best in everything you do (and I have never met anyone who thinks that), the comparison mindset only promotes thinking of yourself badly. In competition, the goal is to be number one. Olympic atheletes aim for the gold, American football teams fight to reach and win the Super Bowl…the list goes on. Anything less than the best isn’t good enough.

Then there’s that line. “You tried, and that’s all that matters.” Yeah, sure, great. In a perfect world where depression, low self-esteem and a naturally competitive society doesn’t exist, that’s all that matters. Truth of the matter is, though, that isn’t the world we live in, and if you’re reading this then you probably already know that. As nice as it would be to just move on from something we consider ourselves “failing” at, for those of us with depression, it frankly isn’t that easy. Hell, even for those without depression is it rarely that easy.

Depression causes many of us to think that we’re not enough without even somebody else in the picture – basically we don’t need to see how we stack up against someone else to see how much we fail. When comparison is brought into the picture, however, it’s a whole new level of beating ourselves up. “I already knew that I was bad on my own, but now that I see just how good this person is doing at [insert literally any action], now it confirms that fact that I really suck at it.” Like I mentioned, unless you believe you’re the best in the world at [thing], you’re automatically put in a position to beat yourself up.

Now, I could go into the whole “you’re a unique snowflake with your own qualities and quirks and you can’t compare yourself to anyone else, because every snowflake is different” thing. As poetic as it may be to say that we’re all snowflakes, it rarely helps us stop comparison. Yeah, we’re each unique, but if you take two different snowflakes and look at them each under a microscope, you can still say, “Ooh, that one’s prettier.” I would absolutely love to be able to convincingly buy into that mindset of uniqueness and individuality, but comparing myself to others is something I struggle with every single day. I rarely resent people for being what I consider being “better” than me, I just beat myself up for not being able to reach that level of quality myself. You don’t have to tell me that’s unhealthy, I know, that’s why I’m writing this post. I compare myself with others every day, but only recently have I started to look at it from an outside view to see how emotionally damaging it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely do believe that each and every person is unique, and there will never be two human beings with the same combination of qualities and flaws as each other. It just isn’t logical to compare ourselves to one another, because we’re all different in countless ways. But let’s be honest here – when has simple logic ever stopped a depression-addled mind from thinking the way it does?

So I won’t try and convince you to stop comparing yourself to others. As much as I would love to spout the snowflake argument, I have trouble applying that to my own life – I won’t force you into applying it to yours. However, I can say one thing about comparisons – I can guarantee that anyone using comparison as a means to judge you and your life isn’t worth being around.

I promise you, the people who truly care about you don’t put you into a ranking system. There’s no top ten list or medals to award. There is just you, as a person. To the ones that care, you are you, and someone else is someone else. There is no you vs. them. There is you. And there is them. Seperate entities, seperate people, each with their own accomplishments and flaws, each completely seperated in that regard from the other. This isn’t to say that you aren’t connected in any way, but when it comes to “winning and losing” the battle of being worth something, it’s safe to say that doesn’t exist.

In short, you may compare yourself with others, but others don’t compare you with others. At least, not the ones who matter in your life. There are times when I myself stray from seeing each person individually, and internally judging them based on how they rank against each other. I’d like to think that, most of the time, I catch myself, because their worth is not based on my judgement (or anyone else’s, for that matter) of them. I say this over and over again in my posts, but it’s because I truly believe it: worth is inherent. Nobody can take it away from you, and no one person is born with more or less worth than another.

I mean it when I say nobody can take away your value and worth to the world, and that includes you trying to take it away from yourself. If you view yourself as a failure as a result of comparing yourself to others, it doesn’t affect your value as a human being. I know it isn’t easy to just change your mindset to one of constant self-worth: hell, I’m writing this post tonight, truly believing everything I say here, but I’m still probably going to go into work tomorrow and judge myself against others (and when I judge myself, I generally come up with a very low score). But I’m working at changing that. I’m getting better at catching myself in these destructive thoughts; reminding myself that I’m worth as much as anyone else no matter my “failures.”

I know that it’s nearly impossible to change a way of thinking overnight. It comes slowly, but if you keep working at it, your mind will accept it. If we’ve been taught as a society to compare ourselves to others, we can teach ourselves to tell comparison to go screw itself. Don’t view others as an object to compare yourself to. View others as a person, like you, but not you. You aren’t brands of steak – you or they aren’t a finer or lesser cut. You’re people. You have such value to just your existence, imagine how much you can build on that by your actions and words, not by your accomplishments compared to others.

I feel like this post is a bit scattered – I didn’t plan this topic ahead of time, it’s just something I’ve been thinking about and wanted to share my thoughts on. Like I said, this is still something I struggle with every single day, but I do believe in everything I argued for in this post. You have value inherently, that can’t be changed by you seeing yourself as a failure, either to yourself or to the world around you. Please, try and remember that. Stay strong.

– Ryan