From the minute we are born we are constantly being monitored on our progress and achievements. Our first birthday, our first words, our first steps… Then it’s the first day of school (and endless dodgy photos of us in our first uniform with a gap in our mouth because we’ve lost our first tooth). Our first kiss, first love, our first time driving after passing our test, our first house, first child. What do we do for each of these things? We celebrate them. So why is it, the older we get and the more things we achieve, we stop celebrating our victories and move onto the next thing as soon as they are ticked off the list?
Because it’s never enough, right? Or is it because times, they are a-changing, and the milestones that society deems important are getting harder and harder to reach? The things we are ‘supposed’ to achieve through our lives become pinnacle points that we measure our success and our worth against, and when we don’t achieve them, we feel like we have failed.
This is something I struggled with for an awfully long time, and it’s only recently that I have come into my own and stuck two fingers up at the ‘should haves’ that have been circling my head for years. I look at a lot of my friends and all they have ticked off their life lists – married with children, travelling the world, qualifying for PhD’s and climbing the career ladder and generally succeeding at this thing we call being a human being. However, success is subjective and depends entirely on what you measure it against – so why are we all measuring it against the same things? Things that have been drilled into our brains as important simply because ‘that’s what you are supposed to do.’
I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. I don’t do this to be obnoxious or controversial, I just don’t believe that one size fits all – and trying to cram my sparkly star-shaped being into the square hole of convention is not something that’s ever going to create a beneficial outcome for anyone. So, I did the one thing that set me free – I stopped comparing my life to others.
Comparison is the biggest killer of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. Comparison makes us look down at our belly and sigh when that Fitness Model on Instagram flashes her abs. Comparison is the buzzkill of buying a new Fiat and watching a Maserati drive by. Comparison is the deflation of getting your period every month while everyone is posting photos of scans and signs declaring that their babies are now 43 days old. Comparison – especially with the picture-perfect lives shoved down our throats from our social media feeds – is the fastest, most direct route to feeling awful about yourself.
I’m not going to turn around and just say ‘stop it’, because it’s not that easy is it? Every day we are bombarded with people that we compare ourselves against, but here’s the thing – you are a person too, which means that someone out there is using you as that pinnacle point to compare themselves against. You never thought about it like that, did you?
Now, as you all know by now, I’m HUGE on personal development and self-improvement. I don’t want to be the same person, in the same place, doing the same thing this time next year – I want to learn, I want to grow and I want to experience life in new and exciting ways, and the things that I am learning and experiencing are entirely my own. That’s not to say I don’t want some of the things ‘we are supposed to have’, I am excited about meeting the love of my life, becoming a mother, having a house with a garden that the cats can (finally) venture outside into, yes I want those things – but not because I feel like I should have them (especially by a certain age, but I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole today), but because they are the things that set my soul on fire, and that right there is the clincher.
You need to understand what sets YOUR soul on fire because it will be different for every single one of us. Just for a moment, forget what you have been brought up to believe you should have at this point in your life, and think about the things you really want, the things that are important to you, the things that float your boat and that you will make you feel amazing when you get them. These are your milestones. It doesn’t matter if it’s winning a Nobel Prize or finally getting a fringe, what matters is that they are yours. They are the things that make YOU feel great. Do more of those things! Even if it’s for a hobby, or an evening class, or something you just do once, it’s so important to do the things you love, simply because you love them.
I have a list (no surprise there) of goals, of things that I want to achieve, I have a vision board of the way I see my life panning out and I have new ideas about the things I want to do every single day, but do you know what I also have? I have a list of things I’ve achieved in my life, I have a book full of the things I have pulled off my vision board because they are now mine and I have a mason jar on my fireplace that is so full of corks from all of the things I have celebrated that I have had to start a new one. I also have a jar that sits beside it that houses lots of little rolled up pieces of paper, and on each one, I have written something that has happened, that I have achieved or that has simply made me smile. My Milestones.
These things are far more important than my list of ‘supposed-tos’, they are all of the things that I have conquered, they are the small victories that are all too easy to dismiss as unimportant and they are reminders of all of the reasons why I need never compare myself to anyone other than the person I was yesterday – and looking at all of these things I have ticked off, I’d say I’m giving myself some pretty tough competition.
I urge each and every single one of you to spend some time today thinking about all you have achieved because you can’t have made it this far by doing nothing in life can you? Maybe you got that promotion, maybe you have beautiful children, maybe you made it out of bed this morning when it’s the last thing you wanted to do, whatever your achievements are – OWN THEM because they are all yours and no-one can take them away from you. Then, when you see something that brings on that oh-so-familiar twinge of insecurity – think about how far you have come, how much you have done and all you have to give to the world, just by being you.