While many of us can share the same experiences, we are all destined for different paths. Yet, as we climb the ladder towards our goals, there are moments when we feel discouraged. We may see one of our peers receiving higher marks for the same efforts that we implemented. We may see someone with the same desires as us progressing faster. Before we realize it, we may be sinking down the rabbit hole of comparing and contrasting our lives to others. We’ll start to forget that we are not all the same and attempt to mimic others while sacrificing our own identities.
In the age of social media where it's easy to keep up with others, it’s hard not to put yourself in the shoes of others. It is easy to feel as if you could never be competitive. The influence of social media is strong, and so is the illusion.
“I think in a general sense, social media glorifies the material and unrealistic as successful,” UofSC student Brooklyn Nevarez said. “The ideas of what success looks like on social media are extremely skewed and false, to say the least.”
Another UofSC student, Jaylin Madison, feels similarly.
“I see people my age traveling the world and living in high-rise buildings just because they have a big social media following,” Madison said. “It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough or even not on track to success when in actuality I’m a normal college student.”
In a recent article published by the New York Post, author Todd Rose said that “social media is a funhouse of mirrors–it will distort.” Furthermore, in an article published by Psychology Today, it is stated that there is commonly a mismatch between private misery and the perfect life experiences that tend to clutter social media posts.
“I think what discourages me more is seeing others live the dreams I want to live,” Nevarez said. “I have to always remind myself, though, that delayed does not mean denied.”
But the pressures to stay on track and on time remain.
Madison spoke about how being a first-generation college student could make someone a “meal ticket” for their family. He feels that he has to live up to a standard of perfection, though he can’t determine what perfection is and according to him, neither can his family.
For Nevarez, figuring out if college is where she belongs has been a struggle. Like many of us, she was also taught that going to college and getting a degree is the guaranteed way to reach stability.
But we know that the pursuit of higher education does not always result in the dream career or dream salary. Arguably, a lot of our successes in life may be linked to the skills we develop and the connections that we make. It is years of hard work and careful planning.
As difficulties, dramas and swift changes accumulate, many of us may not realize that we are in a state of despair until we are in the thick of it. While it’s okay to be determined, we have to take the time to check our heads. A lot of the time, our reactions to different circumstances in our lives may be the result of misplaced emotions.
In an article published by Time, it is said that when we do acknowledge our emotions, we disregard them by recalling different mantras from our childhood. We are taught to press on and to get over it.
“Sometimes you just want to find a way to move around it,” Madison said. “I try to think that it is only temporary and shall pass.”
Nevarez chooses to write as it allows her to find an outlet for her stress without unloading it onto others who may be struggling with their own issues.
Still yet, sometimes we just need support from another person. A shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, an ear. That is what we start to look for in those who care about us. That is when we look for our friends. It is selfish to believe that the world revolves around us, but as we all grapple with life, it can be comforting to have others ride the waves with us instead of leaving us behind.
“I am very particular about who I keep as permanent people in my circle,” Nevarez said. “I tend to watch how people navigate certain topics in their lives to see what kind of energy they put out into the world.”
No legitimate friend is going to belittle you or make you feel bad for moving forward in life. A legitimate friend will be the first to call you out on your poor behavior, but the last to laugh at you when you fall. You never have to stand there and accept someone’s attacks as “tough love.” It isn’t “overly sensitive” to understand that you don’t need to be beaten down to be shown the way.
“I’ve had many people praying on my downfall,” Madison said. “But if I were to retaliate in any way, I would lose everything I worked hard for.”
Never let them see you sweat, is how the old saying goes.
We may not always have to be alone, but sometimes you will have to be your own best friend and your own cheerleader. That is when self-confidence starts to come in and build. That is when you need to show yourself some support. That is when you need to show yourself a little bit of self-love.
The University of South Carolina sponsors a program called the Resiliency Project that connects students to different tools and resources that help with managing and alleviating the stresses that come with young adulthood and beyond. The program also informs students of different events and programs that will help them thrive.
Another preventative program is the C.A.L.M Oasis for mindfulness and meditation. It is open to anyone interested and is located in the Center for Health of Well-Being room 215.
We can wander around waiting for seats at the table, the round of applause or the green light to do what we are passionate about. Waiting around for mass acceptance, however, will get you nowhere because it just isn’t going to happen. It is unnerving to know that you will be judged. It is bothersome to know that you stand to face a lot of adversity as you progress through life. But you don’t have to demean yourself to get ahead.
You don’t have to lose yourself.