2021 has been a very difficult year for many of us, including myself. Although there have been many, successes—that I have been incredibly grateful for—there also have been many trials that have made this year a struggle.
Before I proceed further, I do want to note that the goal of this post is not to create a pity party for myself. Rather, I know that many people in my life have faced similar circumstances, and I want to provide a fellow understanding of the struggles of life and hopefully provide a sense of hope and direction for others.
This year has been filled with many successes: starting a doctorate program, successfully navigating Judson’s first-ever football season, moving, joining a new church, losing 35 pounds, and continuing to foster and build new and old relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime.
One can look at this 12-month resume and call it a success. However, all these moments feature internal ponderings and consternations that have led to significant anxiety.
I see many of my peers marrying the loves of their lives, having kids, buying houses and cars, and it appears as if their lives are coming together. They most certainly should celebrate in that, and I celebrate with them. However, once I see these successes and compare them to where I perceive myself to be, my self-esteem decreases like my leaking bike tire on Christmas afternoon.
I often devalue my worth by noting that I currently live in my grandma’s basement; holding a job that is not my career goal in the second-lowest tax bracket; belonging in a doctorate program in large part due to personal connections; and quitting my side job, to boot.
The easy self-help response to these moments is simple: I moved to save money and create an environment that fosters working-at-home successes. I am employed and go to school in a great environment that encourages professional growth and holds positions that I aspire for. And I am much more emotionally and physically healthy since lowering my weekly stress load with a Sunday sabbath.
But any relief I have from reminding myself of these truths is short-lived. Hence, I began an end-of-the-year quest to understand the root of my perceptions of life from a glass-half-empty perspective.
I first began to process personal environmental reasons of why I may feel this way. I live in a family that has highly successful and influential individuals—including doctors (PhD), lawyers, engineers—who are making a difference for the world, and, therefore, have pressured myself to reach unnecessary expectations on myself that a 26-year-old cannot achieve. Sure, many of my goals could be reached by someone my age, but to expect to reach every goal to near perfection is not of our fallen human nature.
I am driven by my late grandpa’s saying, “Make it Happen,” which encourages the paving of the way for one’s success. I am grateful for his example. However, this mindset is only pure when it is not laced with the belief that we have complete control over the immediate outcomes of our lives, as our fast-paced technological world alludes (Thanks, Andy Crouch, for the wisdom here).
I have come to a much greater peace recently by realizing and embracing that I am currently in a season of waiting. Although my plan-oriented mind aligns with the world’s desire for efficiency and effectiveness, I have learned that the benefits of waiting include seeing the beauty and worth of my existence by letting the nuances of life occur and I appreciate the personal growth that this season brings in preparation for the future endeavors that this world has for me.
After I began reading select chapters of books and listening to numerous podcasts and sermons, my discovery can be summarized by the following statement:
I need to “BE” and not “DO.”
What is my personal application to this statement? Well, I need not be anxious about meeting the “standard” 26-year-old life in an ever-changing and confusing society that we live in. I should not over-stress myself with trying to prove my own worth or even living the “perfect” lifestyle; even if that means occasionally ignoring well-intended, and often correct, value-oriented expectations. One person cannot live perfectly. I believe only one person who has graced this earth has ever done so.
I recently heard on a radio program a psychologist who suggests that we take emotional self-care daily by telling ourselves a three-second statement to begin our days: “Today is a great day because [insert reason].” This is a beautiful example of how we can remind ourselves of all the positives of life by having an optimistic outlook on our daily activities.
In short, if we appreciate what each day has to offer for us and understand that it today is a process in a life-long journey, then I believe we have a good shot at increasing general daily emotional homeostasis.
God Bless you all this Christmas/Holiday season and have a Happy New Year!