Growth Beyond "Likes"

During my 20s I was guilty of one common mistake that many overambitious young adults are also guilty of doing. 

As a college student I fell into the trap of over-committing myself to activities, organizations, people and events in order to be liked and to feel important. I chose to involve myself in numerous activities in order to maintain a full calendar. I thought that being everyone's friend or acquaintance was the fast track to success. It seemed as if the most successful student leaders were the ones who navigated several social circles, juggling involvement in 5 or 6 duties at the same time and constantly running from meeting to meeting. I saw them as my role models for success. They commanded respect from their peers, received public popularity, and appeared to be on top of the world. 

I wanted the same accolades so I attempted to become just what I saw. 

I thought that the secret to success was being liked. 

I learned the hard way that simply seeking 'likes' is not the most important factor in the path to success. It was during my most difficult days when I discovered that the circle of true friendship is small. 

As the world of social media likes and shares consumes our lives, I recognize that there is a temptation to fall into this need for approval and popularity. The facade of affirming the social avatar disconnects us from our true selves. After the revisions, filters, edits, and layers we lose sight of who is really hiding behind our social mask.

When we are more interested in which events we are invited to and devalue the importance of building quality relationships, we may find ourselves caught within a spider web of deception.

I have experienced this dynamic a few times in my own life. It was when I realized that my priority to please others, stand out in timelines and be on every VIP list was not pushing me closer to self-acceptance and purpose. As a matter of fact, the more I played into the game of a socialite, I found myself alone with a stranger. However, I soon discovered that the stranger was me.

Learning from changes.

Like many other young adults, I learned the hard reality that plans will inevitable change. There will even be some (possibly many) moments when you will indeed fail. During those humbling moments when it seems that the world has come to an end because your ideal plan didn't work out the way you originally designed is where the growing pains intensify.

I have to admit that I never expected to feel so many gut wrenching and hard moments. Through my own path of self-discovery and growth, I learned that in order to survive I had to learn how to be authentic. This included both in reality and the virtual world.

I started doing the hard work of revealing my own truth to myself first and then to my circle of trust. Parker Palmer's book, A Hidden Wholeness, taught me the importance of discovering my inner peace through caring for my soul. This type of self-care allows us to exercise the gifts of the Spirit as we pursue a life that is rewarding. It helps us to breathe when goals and plans don't fall into place when we think that they should.

Even if you have felt the pressures of not living up to the person others said you would become at this stage. Maybe you are worried that you haven't achieved everything you wanted. It's even possible that you have become the master of disguise on your social media platforms. 

“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks--we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”
Parker J. Palmer

Doing the Inner Work

The good news is that there is redemption for all of us who desire to live free, brave and true. 

It took me hitting rock bottom and being alone to realize that living to be liked by others would not sustain me. I had to live for a different reason if I wanted to be able to endure this marathon of achieving my own greatness and walking in my purpose. I decided to search deep within myself to care for my brokenness and to find joy in the process. 

I do this by committing myself daily to finding God's truth for my life. As a Christ-follower, I believe that my complete identity is in found in the One who sees me with all of my weaknesses, strengths, secrets, wounds, failures, successes, hopes, dreams, doubts, questions, and fears. It is because I know that God sees me with love and compassion that I have the courage to be myself. In Christ, I know that I am supported, loved, valued, encouraged and safe. This is the reality I seek. This is the place where I believe to be my sweet spot.

This is not an attempt to glamorize my struggle and package it as if I don't continue to struggle. Trust, there are some days when I have more not-so-pretty language to describe my frustrations with the process of life. I am aware of the complexities of growing older and not yet reaching achievement. However, I am choosing to stay on the course and not let this process consume me.   

My challenge to you is to do the same.

Fall in love with your dreams and the reality you have in Christ so that you can find the peace that comes with being whole. You might just find the strength to be exactly what you need to make it through today.