I personally think that one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is ‘who do I want to be?’. Not ‘who am I?’… but ‘who do I want to be?’.
The main reason I think this is so important is because this gives us something to strive for. We humans (scientifically) are goal oriented, and the brain (from a scientific perspective) is happier when our daily (or even weekly or monthly) pursuits are contributing to our goals, because it deems those as meaningful and worthwhile endeavours, which I would agree with.
This question carries even more weight for someone like myself who is a creative type, as I also have to think about who I want to be perceived as through my work. What I post on my blog, on social media, and in general what I share with the world and my peers, paints a certain picture of me for others to see, and I somewhat need to decide what that picture portrays.
It’s easy for me and any other person to scroll through Instagram or Pinterest or YouTube or basically any other social media platform, and be greeted with representations of thousands of other people living thousands of different lives. It’s easy for us to desire the lives that we see, yet often no one actually ventures to achieve it, because we simply accept and settle for what we have, because we have only ever asked the question ‘who am I?’ which results in a seemingly absolute answer. I think we forget that we are mostly the authors of our own lives, and we need to ask ourselves the question more, of what we actually want.
Obviously I can’t live a thousand lives. I can’t live the life of every single person on social media, with whom I probably have no real connection to, but I can live my own life. Social media means that we do not immerse ourselves fully in our own lives. We can even often use it as a form of escapism, to immerse ourselves entirely in the lives of others to distract from our own, but I really think this is the wrong approach. By contemplating who I want to be encourages questioning of exactly what about these fantasy lives I see is attractive to me, and how can I try and reach that? What can I implement into my life to make it more meaningful and to make myself happier? What can I do to make myself stop craving an escape?
Another thing that is important about this is that we need to learn to not compare ourselves to any other person. Literally, no one else. We all live individual and unique lives, in individual and unique places and contexts, and as Miles Carter says: ‘a life lived in another mans context is not a life worth living’. If you need to entirely distance yourself from social media to do this, then do that, you’re probably not missing out on anything that is at all meaningful.
It’s easy to have a ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ view on this, but the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself. Really analyse the things in your life and what you deem meaningful and happiness-inducing if you will, and anything you feel would improve your life or your person, set goals to accomplish that. Try and do something every day or every week (even if it’s small) to work towards the person who you want to be both for yourself and others, and that way hopefully you can find some kind of meaning in your pursuits. That way you can also compare yourself to a past version of you and hopefully see the improvements you’ve made, which will then encourage you to continue on such a journey. The outcome of this change of perspective will hopefully be that we can view the lives of others and appreciate the difference between theirs and ours, without yearning to live their life.
To finish with another quote that inspired this thought tangent:
‘Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today’Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life