I get the feeling that a lot of people have a strong desire to be seen as special in some way, myself included, but on some level this desire has always bothered me (both seeing it in myself and in others). I get very annoyed when I see people trying to make things deeper or more special than they are (such as captioning a boring photo with some seemingly profound thought or quote to spice it up), but I realize that their motivation for doing this is the same motivation behind some of my questionable habits (like over-participating in class to flex how smart I think I am). I guess what they say is true – when you judge others for something, it’s because you dislike that part of yourself. I’m not sure if I have this desire for recognition and praise due to being from the US, where people are individualistic (and being better than average is idealized), or if it’s a result of growing up being constantly praised for being a good student, or maybe it’s just an innate character trait (or a combination of things).
Either way, I find these feelings I have to be annoying because they contribute to much of the dissatisfaction that I feel in my life. I have extremely high expectations of myself – if I do something, I want to do it well, and if I’m average, it’s like I’m a failure. Of course, this only applies to things that I really want to do or am interested in – it doesn’t matter to me if I’m mediocre at singing and dancing because I simply don’t care about these. Off the top of my head, some things I care about are academic performance, coherent thinking, writing, drawing/art, photography, language learning, exercise/fitness, etc. I think having high expectations for my photography is the main reason that I was dissatisfied with my experience using Instagram, as described in my previous post and others. The quantification of everything made it feel inherently like a contest to me, and caused me to view that as a measure of my success/failure (despite it being a rigged game).
I guess the nature of disappointment/dissatisfaction presupposes the existence of some kind of expectation or ideal. If you expect to do poorly and do well, you may be pleasantly surprised; if you expect to do well and do poorly, you will be disappointed. Both of these situations seem to be putting your mood/feelings in the hands of life’s conditions, not in your own hands. Anyway, because it’s clear that I have high expectations of myself in many areas of my life, I have created a lot of potential to be disappointed. Ultimately, it seems that this is a problem of ego – I think too highly of myself and can’t accept that maybe I’m just a regular person like everyone else. Oh no! Maybe it would balance me out if I focus on sharing my problematic aspects more than my positive ones (which it seems like I often do on this blog already) or maybe just not share anything at all.
To be honest, I am often very jealous of people who don’t seem to care at all about their performance or the way they are seen by others. Being seen as average (but being satisfied) sounds a hell of a lot better than excelling at many things and still being dissatisfied by the few things I’m not great at. I think I used to be a lot more satisfied and humble years ago when I didn’t spend much time online. Even though I don’t try to, when I post things online, I still curate my posts to a certain extent to put forth a certain image of myself for others to see, which contributes to the creation of an impossible idealized version of myself that doesn’t represent reality. The simple act of even thinking about what parts of myself to share with others online is problematic and causes me to not embrace the less ideal aspects of myself.
What is the way forward here? I’m not exactly sure – I guess I have already taken the first step by deleting my Instagram accounts, which should hopefully help me to focus more on the process of photography and sharing with people who matter, instead of thinking about the imaginary competition that goes on in my mind. In the future, I guess I should be more open to doing things I’m not great at and practice being more open and accepting of all aspects of myself, not just the ones that get recognition from others or are idealized by society.
To take another small step, I will share this with you all: I have a 2×2 Rubik’s cube on my desk at work (smaller than a regular 3×3), and I have tried to solve it while reading the instructions online like 10 times, and only succeeded once (seemingly by chance). I must have spent more than two hours in total trying to solve it. I am painfully bad at it. Meanwhile, some of my 10-12 year old students come to my desk and can solve it in like 10 seconds. This experience has been very useful in the quest to weaken my ego!