A couple of weeks ago, I auditioned for a Ted Talk under this theme and I spoke on being “Imprisoned in the Stereotype.”
While I didn’t get selected after the auditions, I got fantastic feedback and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was interesting listening to young people like myself share their perspectives on different social issues. I learnt a lot.
Over the past couple of weeks however, I have not been able to get that theme out of my head. I have made certain observations that were only made possible because the theme would not leave me alone so I have decided to put some of my thoughts down in writing.
If there is one perspective of life that young people need to rid themselves of, it is this idea of “I am special, I am different and so I will (easily) be able to achieve all my dreams. No, you are not special, you are not different and your path to success will not be a walk in the park. There. I said it. Whether or not you accept this truth will not stop it from being true.
In the last quarter of 2016, I read an article titled “Why People Under 35 are so unhappy” and that was a major eye opener for me. The article was extensively written on how our generation is groomed and raised into believing that they are each special as individuals. In the words of the writer, kids were told “that they could be whatever they wanted to be, instilling the special protagonist identity deep within their psyche.”
It’s like being in a movie and regarding yourself as the lead character. The protagonist who never dies. In Action movies, he takes out the bad guy and gets the girl. In Rom Coms, his/her life is positively transformed forever and they claim the love of their lives and ride off happily into the sunset where they both live together happily ever after.
Please read the article. I won’t re-write it here. Lol.
I read that article and it made me realize that life will not always happen for you as you want it. I don’t care what anyone tells you. It simply won’t. You will have instances where you work your butt off and it won’t pay off. You will apply to jobs which you assume you are qualified for and you will not get them. You will be nominated for awards which you are certain you deserve and they would be given to someone else. Don’t believe me? Consider what happened at the Headies awards with the “Next Rated Award.”
Another point I noted from the article is how we are far too easily moved by what we see. Ever heard of the term “Packaging”? Packaging is one reason I try to not pay so much attention to social media. People come and flaunt well-packaged images of perfection that leave you dying on the inside because of course, you are special and simply cannot imagine for the life of you why your own life is not as glamorous or as put together as your old friend from school.
I’ll give a few personal examples. Two years ago, my ex and I ended things and I was in a really bad place. One night, I cried my eyes out and the following morning, my eyes were puffy and swollen. So for the first time in forever, I put some makeup on to disguise the “mourning widow’s look” I had unwittingly adopted. Only for a colleague to remark about how I was “glowing.” I smiled and made to walk away when she said “I wish I could go through whatever it is you are going through right now mehn. You’re really glowing.”
I kid you not. Those were her exact choice of words. I was in shock. My response to her? “Trust me, you don’t want that.” That experience still amuses me whenever I think of it.
People will nearly always project what they want you to see on social media. Why? Because we only want the world to see that perfect version of us. Not the version that suffers depression, or the version that doesn’t have their entire shit together, or the version that is faced with difficult choices and filled with doubts and uncertainty or even the version that is battling with guilt and regret for choices made. It’s why we pout and use filters and share hashtags that are sometimes borderline annoying.
Before the voltrons emerge, I am not saying that everything posted on social media is packaged. Sometimes, people are truly happy and they share. Or like one of my dear friends, they are bold enough to come on social media to say “I’m going through a bad place right now. Holla if you are too. You’re not alone.” My focus is on how people inadvertently react to these posts without knowing the entire story behind them.
One of my very good friends here shared with me how she met a group of people who spent most of their time travelling. They had all these stamps of places they had been to and made it sound all so glamorous and enviable to her. She had been going through a difficult time when she met them so the idea of the happiness and bliss that they expressed was very appealing. So she left home and decided to travel with them and what she discovered was far from the bliss and excitement they had painted to her.
So the long and short of my sermon on the mount is this. It’s okay to dream big and be ambitious but clothe your expectations in reason. Attempt to dare the impossible but keep in one corner of your mind that there are a good number of people out there doing the same thing and that it will require a whole lot more than ordinary effort to be outstanding. Especially for the creatives. Do you know how many comedians, writers, singers, dancers, painters, photographers, exist in the world? Or even in your immediate environment?
So when you encounter rejection after rejection and your confidence keeps taking hit after hit, remind yourself that you are not special. And that there is a process you must go through to solidify and strengthen your person. The ones who are truly special are the ones who realize that they are not special but do not quit on themselves after a few unpleasant experiences.
Another problem with being fed the “you are special narrative” is that is breeds in us an unhealthy sense of entitlement that leaves us with very fragile egos. So we are unable to handle rejections and disappointments. Rather than work harder or try to improve, we tell ourselves “they don’t know my value. It’s their loss and not mine.” Story. While this may sometimes be true, we need to not overestimate our relevance or our abilities. This is really crucial. There is a process. Go through it.
We often forget that most of the people the world regards and celebrates as successful went through a making process. Sometimes we want to skip that process and jump to the happily ever after. It’s not magic please.
So what has this all got to do with reframing and shifting perspectives?
- Stop thinking you are special. You are not. Every other person thinks they are too.
- Stop letting yourself be overwhelmed by envy or jealousy resulting from what you see on social media. Be wary of packaging. Take every image of perfection on social media with a grain of salt.
- Go through your process. Do not expect to magically fly through it. Nothing of value ever materializes overnight.