As our communities, classes and communication have moved primarily online due to COVID-19 it can be more tempting than ever to compare others’ highlight reels to our inescapable realities – don’t. Most of us are spending more time online and therefore encountering uplifting quotes that might feel accusatory or snippets that show perfect poise, fashionable spaces, talented and resilient people and flawless finishes. This should not in any way threaten our concept of self or encourage us to judge our current realities. If nothing else, this pandemic has surely proven what matters and alternatively what really does not matter. Even if the grass is greener on the other side of the screen, so what? Let us lean in to our own realities and into the “so what’s” and finally give ourselves a much needed break from the comparison trap.
So what if someone else is doing more? So what if we are all of a sudden doing less? So what if the internet is insinuating that this time should be a pivotal time to prove that we can be focused, successful, flawless, devoid of body fat, filled with positivity or bouncing with new ideas and novel concepts that could set us apart for future fame? If that is not our reality then that is simply not our current reality.
It is fine to admire without emulating. It is fine to appreciate without replicating. It is fine to also aspire to things in our own times, in our own ways. It is fine to unfollow things and people we previously appreciated that now have us experiencing negative thoughts and emotions. It is fine to react to novel situations in the way that works best for our inner peace and mental health. This is a novel situation and you are allowed to respond in ANY WAY. There is no one way to act. It is not necessarily now or never – after all deadlines have passed, projects have been put on hold, long term employment contracts have been terminated and even more serious circumstances are facing all of us in unique ways.
The iron is not piping hot now and failure to strike now will not lead you into a life of distress. Don’t let the fame and possible ingenuity of the few overwhelming your social media timelines or within your friendship/family/professional groups make you feel lazy, inadequate or uncertain of yourself. Just simply unfollow and follow the path that truly resonates without the external opinions/judgments.
We can also adjust our expectations of self and learn to give ourselves what we need given our current unique realities. For example you might have discovered you are not as tidy as you thought you would be time permitting. You might realise that it was not lack of opportunity that stopped you from your becoming your own body goals, reading The Art of War or finishing writing that best selling novel. You might be aware that it was not the funds that stood between you and the certification you desired because now it’s being offered for free and you’ve only logged into the online course once. The biggest discovery that should trump all other discoveries is that certain goals and standards may not even be your own and you never did certain things simply because did not want to – and more importantly this is okay. Decide what you really want to do and when you will be ready to execute.
People thrive in different soils. People grow and blossom in different circumstances. Some plants abhor sun and blossom in the wintertime and vice versa. Therefore all the easily coined and widely shared quotes about “if you don’t come out of this pandemic with x, y, z” need to be appropriately filed – in the bin. Timelines are unique and arbitrary – this is a proven pandemic associated revelation that holds true – look around you.
We are all experiencing the same thing in different ways. We are all also experiencing different things at the same time. So do you. The only thing you owe it to yourself to do is to listen to yourself, understand yourself and love yourself wholly without the barber/hair salon appointments, pretty nails, regular coffee runs – or whatever you considered an extension of your identity. That heart beating in your chest is priceless and that body, mind and soul of yours is what exists when all else is stripped away. So listen, learn and love.
That learning does not have to even take active forms. Blog if you want to. Journal if you want to. Paint or pine if you want to. Be who you really want to be. Whine or wine if you want to – both and neither are also fine. Life has never been clearer. So as a lot of things are cleared out and cleared away it’s an opportunity for you to decide what stays. A lot of the essentials have been rendered unattainable (for now) therefore they were never essential to begin with.
These are novel times and now more than ever there is a deep need to not berate yourself, compare yourself or tear yourself down – not your body, achievements, aspirations or any other thing. You may be among those who have lost loved ones, who are fighting for your health, who are at the front lines helping to fight this pandemic – whether through health care, essential services, etc. You might be someone who lives alone and is deeply missing physical touch, friendships, coffee runs, etc. You might be surrounded by loved ones and feeling guilty for not having to face any of the bigger challenges yet feeling unproductive and unmotivated nevertheless.
STOP! Let’s all take a beat.
Nothing is expected of you. Release yourself from your own expectations. Take a deep breath. Recognise our collective mortality, connect with who and what is important to you when all else is stripped away, and decide to do something, anything or nothing without the burdens of comparison, guilt or self loathing.
Enjoy the gift, art and blessing of living in whatever way works for you in the here and now. Tomorrow you can adjust, adapt or simply repeat. It’s okay.
What have you learned, discovered, experienced during this time?