I’ve come to believe I live in two separate worlds. The first is one of my general life. It’s here that I go to work, shop, eat and go to the gym. This world values you based on how attractive you are, your achievements, your level of education, and your level of wealth. It is one of harsh judgment and constant competition. There is nothing warm or safe here. In this world, you’re either a winner or a loser. There is no in between. It can be very hard to measure up or be ‘successful’. I believe most people spend a large portion of time concerned with measuring up. To help push us further into inadequacy, we have social media to rely on. Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn are daily reminders of who we should strive to be in every angle of our lives. While these realities are mostly unrealistic, we believe their lives are true and we are wrong for not being at their level. It’s exhausting and so easy to feel like you’re drowning in flaws. People confuse competition with inspiration and tend to wreck their bodies and their credit to keep up. In this world overachieving is an expectation and failure is not an option. As it’s been said, ‘in this world you don’t win the silver, you lose the gold.’
The second world is one of my soul. It holds my faith, spirit and character. It is knowing where I have come from and what I have be able to become despite my set-backs. In this world I win by feeding compassion and personal growth. This area shows my ‘goodness’ and sense of self. It reminds me to work on finding joy. When I’ve been able to overcome a bad habit, even just for a day or a week, I know I am better for having achieved it. It is something that can’t be captured in photographs or within a single story. It is my essence. I find most people don’t develop this area within themselves. To most ‘spirit’ means ‘religion’ or only religion, when it doesn’t. We are more than that. People seem to not focus any deeper than creating the candy coated shell of a social media persona. Instead of looking at the bad habits and bad tendencies we have developed over the years, we find ways to work around them and bury them. It’s only later we realize that when even a single root within us rots, it infects and slowly kills every piece of us. I have learned that healthy growth can’t come from bad soil.
For me, both worlds balance each other. It also changes what I need to do in order to feel successful. I agree with Harold Kushner when he said, ‘In people I believe there are two basic needs, the need to feel successful and important and the need to know we are good people.’ I know a lot of people who struggle with their ‘goodness.’ They hope what they do for a living is helping improve people’s lives or they feel emotionally moved by the kindness of strangers. To do something for someone else for no reason other than to help, is a gift within itself. It heals us. It connects us. When I see people posting pictures of themselves in the military or volunteering I don’t think they’re showing off, rather, I think they’re proud and relieved that they were able to do something to save someone else or help end someone’s suffering. I think compassion is what fuels healthcare workers and what gets people into teaching.
Some people are too bottled up and riddled with pain to be in a place to help others and really develop themselves in that second world. And due to the rigidness of the first world they are too overwhelmed to try. They are numb. I certainly was at one point. For many years in my life I had no reason to feel adequate. I had been molested, beaten, physically spit on, bullied, and reassured I was defective by my parents, acquaintances and even my own body. I think we all need a basis to feel we matter. When we have been wronged we feel the world owes us. When bad things happen to us we feel powerless. I think that’s why there are so many movies and books about revenge. When we have been victimized we want the power we lost restored back to us. We tend to think we were tricked or that when we’ve opened ourselves up to someone and they rejected us, maybe we weren’t so important or ‘good’ in the first place. We use it as a marker to gauge ourselves as to how adequate we are and the more people who hurt us teach us that we are weak, unlovable or shoddy and to never expose ourselves again. Those bad experiences become shame and begin to poison us. It can be easy to fall into just the first world to counter measure yourself, to prove you are special not just because of who you are, but because of what you have earned. I think being able to achieve and win within both worlds is equally important. To win in the second word you prove you are special not just because you did something for something else because of who they are or what they needed, but because of who you are. While our past failures and flaws surround us like a puddle of bad choices and resentments I’ve learned that you can’t neglect either world in having a full life. Should you decide to cut off the your dead roots and replant yourself, ensure you get rid of any standing water that poisoned your personal perceptions in the first place so you can reclaim your life and better define your worth.