You’re not special, but you’re special enough

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of numbered articles targeted at “twenty-somethings” circulating the Facebook and Twitter-spheres. Maybe they’ve been around forever, and I didn’t notice. It’s possible that I’m seeing these articles everywhere I turn because I am finally about to be a “twenty-something.” Either way, every week a new article gains popularity spewing out societies ideals of how I should be experiencing and living my life.

At first, I enjoyed reading them. Who doesn’t want advice? Now, months and several thousand numbered lists later, I can answer that question — I do not want that advice, and you shouldn’t either.

Some of the lists are pretentious in a hidden way (see:5 Things Super Successful People Do Before 8 AM or 14 Things Successful People Do On Weekends) toting the ways that we can be “successful” and contributing members of society. This is particularly frustrating, because to me, success doesn’t have one specific definition. There’s no possible way that these 19 things are going to lead everyone to what their individual definition is.

As I read more and more of these lists I feel the crushing pressure to be successful in a strangely specific way. It’s as if every article is shouting “Be yourself!” followed with a “NO! Not THAT way.”

What if my idea of success isn’t to be a millionaire or a celebrity or even to start a family and live in suburbia in the American dream house with the white picket fence around my manicured back yard? Now, not only do I have the advice my parents instilled in me, I have thousands of lists and the opinions of peers telling me how I should be living my life based on how others are living theirs.

We live in a generation of people who do not measure ourselves and our own achievements against what we think success is. We instead compare ourselves to other’s ideals of success. It’s sickening how much we strive to outdo each other rather than support and help others grow.

As a society, we have learned to devalue our achievements and believe that we can always do better. Maybe we can do better, but it’s still important to encourage ourselves and acknowledge what we have done so far. These lists pile more on our plates to worry about and stress over.

Based on the inability to appreciate ourselves, we have lost the ability to accept a compliment. Instead, once again downplaying our acknowledged attributes and mistaking it as modesty. Instead of saying “Thank you!” and graciously accepting it with a smile, we make excuses about why we do not deserve the compliment. It’s no wonder that no one has any confidence.

I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you take these lists seriously, but I firmly believe that you’re wasting your time reading them. These lists and other “helpful” advice from peers, society and our parents might assist sometimes, but there is no reason we should follow everything they say. Instead of allowing us to grow and experience through trial and error, they encourage us to cheapen anything remotely exclusive about ourselves and settle for what everyone else is doing.

Success is something that we determine for ourselves, and the ability to appreciate and highlight our unique traits only makes it that much better. So instead of reading “The 100 Things Every 20-Something Needs To Realize,” maybe we should go outside our comfort zone, try, fail and then succeed until we realize our own worth.

After all, success is a journey, not a destination.

The next time you feel like you aren’t special, unique or successful, just look at how far you’ve come instead of comparing yourself to a list that tells you that you have such a long way to go. We aren’t all doing the same thing with our lives, so our journeys won’t be identical, making comparisons irrelevant. As it stands, we’re all going to the same place in the end.

Stay humble, brag about yourself when you deserve it and don’t accept society’s definition of who you should be. Only you know that for sure.

Reach the columnist at mikayrod@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @mikayrodr