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By Brianna Wiest
If there’s one reason you’re perpetually dissatisfied with life, it’s likely that you think, in any given moment, it should be different than how it is. The quality of your life is being shaped by expectations you don’t realize you have.
These include, but are not limited to, your criteria for choosing a life partner, the ages you consider “deadlines” for entirely subjective life events that your parents happened to do at that time, the idea that success is synonymous with unlimited financial freedom, or that you are more special than other people and thus your life should reflect that fact in some ego-centric way.
We’re unhappy – statistically, more than any generation before, despite being educated and privileged. But maybe that’s just it: now that the question of whether or not we’ll survive is mostly a given, our existential worries have extended to how we thrive.
I’d argue that the first step is recognizing and then letting go of the idea that life is always rosy and simple, and that if it is not that way, we are doing something wrong. There’s no historical evidence that points to life ever being an easy thing, but there’s a lot to make the case that developing mental and emotional resilience makes for a much more meaningful and endurable time.
1. You hold yourself back from being creative because you think that everything you do should be a masterpiece.
In a world where (artistic) content is churned out in record speeds online, it can be easy to forget that most artists that people look up to created only a handful of great things in their lives.
What’s holding you back is not the fact that everything you do is not “great,” it’s that you think it should be. If you are doing it to prove that you are special in some way, you will freeze up whenever you make something less than average, because your identity is riding on being talented at this thing.
But not expecting yourself to be “good” at something is essential, because it gets you past your real hurdle, which is your ego. Then you are free to develop your skill and become who you want to be.
It's freeing not to expect yourself to be great. It allows you to do what holds most people back: create every day.
— Brianna Wiest (@briannawiest) March 10, 2017
2. You have a spotlight complex. Your inner narrative is from the perspective of other people, you think that everybody is watching and judging you.
This is something that social media has fueled, but nonetheless is a tenet of the human condition: you exist thinking that you are some form of a celebrity and that everyone is watching you and caring about what you are doing with your life. They aren’t. They’re not. They’re thinking about their own lives and refreshing their own pages to see how they look to “other people.”
3. You subscribe to the millennial success standard, which is the “one in a million success story.”
Millennials have a very unique idea of what a successful life is, and this collective mindset has been created in equal parts by upbringings that informed us we are “special” and can do “whatever we want,” and a lot of sell out spirituality that teaches not being a well-to-do CEO is the result of not manifesting hard enough.
Not everyone is meant to be a CEO. Not everyone is meant to run their own business. Not everyone is meant to be the one in a million success story, that’s what makes it rare. Does that mean you can’t have a fulfilling, joyous, meaningful, important life? Of course not. But the first step is letting go of the idea that success is so shallowly quantifiable.
4. You think that by your age, you should be “comfortable” with money, as in, able to afford more or less whatever you’d like.
There is no age at which the majority of people suddenly wake up and think that money isn’t a challenging and stressful part of life that has to be managed daily.
If you think that you will feel better when you “no longer have to worry about money,” you are kidding yourself. You will always have to worry about money, and there will probably not come a point in your life when it isn’t a difficult thing.
What this means is that our best response is not to complain that things aren’t easier, but to make them easier by learning practical financial solutions like budging, home cooking, contentment, minimalism, and so on.
Money didn’t mysteriously become harder to deal with one day, we just grew up with the expectation that it would be easier than it is.
5. You think that your body shouldn’t have changed after high school, or that it shouldn’t look the way it does, and further, that there’s something wrong with you because it did.
Maybe if you were born with the body you think you should have, you’d be a shell of the person you are now because you would have relied on being “attractive” and not developing who you are. Maybe the point of looking the way you do is to free you from the idea that you are contained to your body, or maybe you are supposed to play a role – even just in the lives of people around you – in shattering the suffocating beauty expectations that cause so many people suffering. Maybe there is an inherent beauty in your body that you cannot see yet, and the journey that leads you to seeing it will be the most beautiful and meaningful of your life.
6. You think that your feelings will always clearly and accurately communicate how you are doing in life.
This is a difficult concept because it is so counter-intuitive: you cannot always trust your feelings. Sometimes you will be in a better station of life than you ever have been, and you will still feel depressed. Sometimes you will be in the right relationships and struggling with your self-worth; sometimes you will be blissfully content in the wrong ones.
It is your mind that has to discern whether or not you are actually okay. If you expect that your feelings will determine the quality of your life without any intelligent discernment, you will forever be at the whim of your mood swings and temporary discomforts.
7. You think that you shouldn’t be as unsatisfied as you are right now, but maybe the reason you are is because your life is trying to wake you up to actually live it.
Maybe the raise and the significant other and the nice photos don’t make you feel better because they were never meant to, and there is a blissful reality right in front of you that something within you – however small – is trying to get you to notice.
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