"There are some amazing people going through some impossible struggles with no answers...but that's where I feel like we can help."
These words were sent to me from a friend, and I couldn't agree more. But even though I agree that YES, we can help those who are hurting, why are there still so many people not getting the help or support they need? These are my thoughts….
As humans, we’re built for connection. We have a pre-disposition to want relationships with other people and feel accepted. If another person is going through something painful, it should be our goal to help them move past it. But what I've realized, even at times in my own life, is how numb we’ve become towards our own pain or anything in our lives that may make it seem like we don’t have it all together. We hate pain so much that we run, hide, and armor ourselves from feeling it. You don’t have to take my word for it; look at social media and see how many people (including myself at times) are posting pictures and pretending to be happy when in reality, they’re alone & might be dying inside.
It’s not always our fault though – it’s also the Culture we live in. Our whole social structure is built around winning and the rewards that come with having it all together, even if that means forsaking community and compassion. We will lie, cheat, and steal just to hide the fact that we’ve failed at something. We hide because we fear that our mistakes and our failures will cause people to think less of us, which can bring a person to their knees in embarrassment.
This conditioning starts at a very young age, especially with boys, and never really stops. As an athlete growing up, I was taught the importance of winning. It meant we got trophies, a party, ALL the girls. Winning also meant that I’d get to hear my mom tell me, “I’m so proud of you, baby. You’re a winner!!” Succeeding makes a person feel special and important and since we always want to feel that, “winning” is all that we ever focus on. When this type of attitude and belief dominates the cultural mindset, especially with young boys, what do you think that does to their self-esteem over time? The minute they lose, they feel like they’re not good enough. So to fight this feeling, they pretend to be someone they aren’t just to LOOK like a “winner” in order to get the approval of others.
My thinking around this issue has really shifted these last few years, thanks in part to social media. Don’t get me wrong; I love posting photos on Instagram or statuses to Facebook. It’s a great way to reach people and a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. But the downside of social media and a big part of why I believe more people don’t share their pain or what they’re REALLY going through is because of:
It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing our lives with the people we follow or the people we’re friends with. Every single day, whether we realize it or not, we see someone post a photo talking about what they’ve accomplished and inside we get a little jealous. We don’t always admit it, but I know there have been times when I’m having a bad day and then see someone I follow post a photo talking about the amount of money he’s making, or the trip he just went on. Instead of being 100% happy for that person and content with my own life, I start comparing and thinking, “Why can’t I have that?”
Instead of being honest with ourselves about our own weaknesses or where we’re actually at in our own lives, we present a picture of the life we want people to believe we’re living; The life of a winner. And that life is filtered in more ways than one. I don’t want people knowing that I only have $7.48 cents in my bank account – so here’s a picture of me sitting in a Ferrari. Or I don’t want people knowing that I have anger issues because of my dad’s incarceration or my mom’s battle with cancer, so here’s a picture of me swimming with the dolphins in Cabo with the caption, “The happiest I’ve ever been. #Me&Snowflake.” It’s silly, but it happens.
This is a very dangerous game. If we’re not more aware and more careful, we will find ourselves trapped on an emotional roller coaster of winning and losing, of comparing our lives and our shortcomings with someone else’s victories and accomplishments. Living like this will do nothing but tear you apart and ultimately keep you from being who you really are. When you’re not honest with yourself about who you really are and the things you deal with, you won’t be able to help someone else going through something similar.
This is why I believe there are still so many people in the world today who are hurting and hopeless. The moment we start comparing our lives with someone else’s, we’re downplaying the person we are and how far we’ve come in our own lives. And when we pretend to be someone we’re not, we’re actually keeping ourselves from doing what we were created to do —connect with one another.
Right now, there are people in your life who are watching you. People who desperately need someone to connect with; someone else who can understand what they’re going through & help them feel less alone, in any capacity. Someone who can help him/her believe that something better is possible. But in order for that to happen, we must first find the courage to face the pain & fear in our own lives that we’ve been running from. The type of courage that allows us to talk about & share something that doesn’t make it seem like we have it all together, but instead, makes us feel vulnerable. When we can face our pain and then talk about what overcoming that experience was like for us, other people will believe they can do it too. That’s the real win.
So instead of using Social Media as a way to promote our accomplishments, we should instead look at it as an opportunity to share our truth, which can ultimately help people. We don’t help people by showcasing our perfect picture with the perfect filter and the perfect caption because people can’t relate to perfection because NOBODY is perfect. So instead of chasing & sharing the big “wins”, let us not forget that the smaller “WINS” in life still matter. Moments like making another person laugh, getting through a day you were dreading, or sending an email you were nervous about. Sometimes it’s these small moments that should be acknowledged as the big ones.
As human beings, it should be our mission to love and serve people. But ‘The Challenge’ is that, “to be of service, you have to be fit for service.” To help someone with his or her pain, you first have to know your own. “A leaky cup can’t effectively serve water.”
So this week I challenge you to be real with yourself. Don’t waste another day comparing your life with what you see on social media & pretending to be someone you’re not, just to fit in. It’s not about winning BIG and then showcasing your wins for the world to see. In my opinion, it’s the small “wins” in life that matter most.
ARE YOU UP FOR THE CHALLENGE?
I hope this Encourages somebody.