Let’s face it…Our social media feeds are overwhelmingly filled with health, wellness, and motivational posts of the type of person our society deems as the standard for success.
It starts with a sunny day, a book on self-growth and a healthy breakfast recipe, followed by meticulous note-taking, more healthy meals, a productive gym session and a wholesome night out with friends. These posts always seem to feature a perfectly organized schedule with a balance of productivity, healthy living, and social activities. They often convey perfection.
Instagram pages like these can inspire us, showing us that it is possible to overcome our struggles and find balance in our lives through hard work, dedication, and commitment to change. The downside is that they can also leave us feeling lost or hopeless in comparison, wondering how we can organize our lives to fit everything into a daily schedule. There is an unspoken standard that we need to be continuously productive, social, and physically fit in order to be perceived as thriving members of society. And when we are not reaching this standard, the result is a sense of worthlessness.
Right now, social media represents an “ideal” for highly motivated people who are driven to achieve their goals and ambitions. But motivation doesn’t always look the same for everyone. I believe motivation is uniquely intrinsic to the individual and driven by personal values, dreams and aspirations. So, when we begin to feel insecure about our self-worth or feel like external pressures are trying to pull us in a thousand different directions, how can we inspire and motivate ourselves to pursue our authentic goals and dreams?
I have been grappling with these questions for what feels like forever. In high school, I considered myself to be successful, which at that point in my life meant being a “perfect” student. My view of my own self-worth and my personal concept of success were derived from external validation through my academic accomplishments.
After leaving my hometown for university, everything changed. I learned that there were others with similar questions and people with even bigger achievements and more impressive resumes coming from big cities. On top of that, their lifestyles seemed to perfectly align with what I saw on social media, and they appeared to have life experiences I felt I had “missed out on”. At first, I questioned my own worth and if something was wrong with me for not being able to balance everything.
I went through a phase where I threw myself into extracurriculars, taking on too many different responsibilities while trying to keep up my grades, maintain a social life and keep up with the daily tasks of adulthood. I remember it left me feeling exhausted, and I lost a lot of energy and motivation to do things I once enjoyed. I no longer felt like myself.
During this time, I felt something start to shift for me. I began to look at my life differently, and I began to pay more attention to the lives of the people around me. It opened my eyes to a few things. First, it is impressive and inspiring that anyone is able to balance so much at a young age. Second, are things really so perfect for everyone under the surface? Many of my peers and close friends have reached out to me, expressing similar feelings of self-doubt and demotivation to what I had been feeling.
This left me with an entirely new perspective. I have always thought the people around me are intelligent, beautiful, kind, and capable, whether they are “perfect” in terms of societal expectations or not. I was impressed by people who seemed to find a way to balance academics, socials and healthy living in the same way I saw on social media, and I was impressed by people who didn’t have that type of lifestyle but were driven to achieve other goals or were happy with the lifestyles that they currently were living. It seemed to me that motivation, happiness and success must be things that are unique to the individual. They must be things that come from within, and maybe it is okay not to have it all figured out just yet. In 2023, I started to bounce back from the feeling of not feeling inspired or motivated. I would now like to share some tips I’m hoping will help you on your journey to regain your motivation!
1. Stop demanding perfection from yourself.
You are human, which means you come with strengths and weaknesses, and so do the people around you. I promise you everyone is working on some aspect of themselves they wish they could change or improve on. Self-growth is a beautiful thing. It involves mistakes, and many, many ups and downs before you really start to see the results of your work. It is normal to experience setbacks. It is normal to go through periods where you feel unmotivated. There is no need to feel guilty for having one unproductive day. Forgive yourself and focus on what is ahead. It is not the challenges we face that define us, but how we respond to them that reveals who we really are and what we’re capable of.
2. Let go of the idea that you must follow a certain life timeline.
It is okay to be “behind” in experiences that most people seem to have when they are younger. Give yourself permission to operate on your own timeline. Society places a lot of pressure on us to meet certain milestones at specific points in time when it comes to education, dating, or finances. However, this structure is rigid and does not reflect every individual’s experiences, choices, and circumstances. Do what makes you happy in life. Know that it is never too late to go out and try new things. Don’t let societal expectations or the potential judgment of others hold you back from living the life of your dreams. The only opinions that matter are your own and those of the people who support you.
3. Start now.
So, you have decided that you want to change your life. Don’t wait for a sign from the universe, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for other people or circumstances to arrive. You got this. Start today. If you want to work on self-growth and have big dreams and aspirations, make them a reality in any way you can the moment you decide you want to pursue them. There truly is no better time than the present to start going after the things you want to bring into your life.
4. Start small and be realistic in your expectations of yourself.
Sometimes, you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders when you are trying to figure out how to take on the process of planning, preparing, implementing, and maintaining life changes. But these changes don’t have to be big or extreme to be worth incorporating into your life. Start with changing a small habit, such as making a to-do list for yourself or adding reminders to drink water. Starting small and achieving small victories is a major confidence booster and a step towards rebuilding motivation. Understand that big changes don’t happen overnight. Be realistic in setting your goals, avoiding anything so extreme that you will feel burnt out before you can truly succeed. Leave room in your life for taking breaks and leave your mind open to experiencing setbacks. Be patient and forgiving with yourself. It will fall into place over time if you work hard and continue to persevere even when you start to doubt yourself. You are capable of far more than you imagine.
5. Celebrate your wins.
That’s right. Instead of punishing yourself for mistakes, celebrate your accomplishments. They don’t have to be extreme, and they don’t have to be things that other people would consider a win, either. These victories are personal to you and can be anything from waking up a little earlier each day to passing that test you were nervous about last week. A win is a win and will look very different for everyone. So, hype yourself up! Every time you achieve a small goal or task, congratulate yourself for doing your best and then continue looking ahead and moving forward so that you always move in a direction of self-improvement. Positive self-talk is a great way to work on raising your self-esteem and building resilience in the face of adversity.
I truly hope these words will resonate with you and help you in the way they have been helping me. I am speaking from my own experiences and understand that what works for me may not work for you. Just know that you don’t have to do this on your own. There is a supportive community of people out there who are all struggling to get themselves to a point in life that makes us proud of how far we’ve come while being grateful to exist at the moment. Also, know that what brings you happiness and joy, what is healthy for you, will probably be different than for others. This is all okay. I wish you the best of luck on your journey.
Above all, take care of yourself! You are doing your best.
Article written by: Leah Brown