There is a lot of research coming out these days on the importance of purpose in living a fulfilling life. And it’s made me reflect on the role social media plays in hindering our ability to find purpose, primarily because it gets in the way of living with authenticity.
Just as we begin the uphill task of discovering who we are and appreciating what makes us unique, something flickers across our Facebook feed, and comparison melts the budding confidence of authenticity into a forced conformity. [Tweet “Comparison melts the budding confidence of authenticity into a forced conformity”]. Instead of fanning the internal fires that are alive within each one of us, we give in to our conditioned, fearful selves in order to fit in.
In a letter written in 1784 to his friend Benjamin Vaughan, Ben Franklin wrote: “But the Eyes of other People are the Eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine Clothes, fine Houses, nor fine Furniture”. What would he have said of living under the relentless eyes of social media…?
Despite our best efforts, it can be hard to not care about these eyes. As humans, we’re wired to want to belong and to stick to our ‘tribes’. We’re wired to fear rejection and to feel shame in not rising to societal standards. Which is why social media has the power to mold authenticity into a paltry commodity that follows the latest trends.
But this does not mean that we have to keep shoving who we are in the closet in order to look interesting and win the approval of others. We can find the comfort of belonging by connecting to a much more “authentic” authenticity for people naturally turn towards those who dare to live life with a passion for what they believe in. [Tweet “People naturally turn towards those who dare to live life with a passion for what they believe in.”] We can live on purpose by identifying our unique gifts, despite trends and expectations, and using them to make a difference to the lives of others.
This isn’t always easy to do. Re-educating ourselves from the inside out is like changing skins – painful, uncertain – a slow death until the new rebirth. But unless we believe in the rebirth, in the joy that it brings, and the freedom that it entails, we will continue living life disconnected but safe, sterilized but boring, dead yet alive.
So here is what to ask ourselves so we break free from the tentacles of other people’s approval, and let our brightness light the way to our purpose:
If I were to die tomorrow, what’s the greatest difference I would want to have made?
What passions would I have pursued, which relationships would I have nurtured?
And once you have those answers, ask yourself:
So what can I do today to move towards living with purpose?
And what’s stopping me?