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I Want To Matter

While I recognize that this post is long, I ask than anyone who stumbles across it will give it a chance. I'm posting this because I've spent years dealing with my own insecurities, and I want to pass on advice to others. With that said, here are my thoughts:

Many people, especially young people, are so weighed down by the massiveness of today’s world. The age of the internet has brought about something wholly new: the ability to know what’s happening to everyone everywhere. Especially as we are realizing the impact of things like overpopulation, pollution, climate change, etc., so many people feel a need to do something. Everyone needs a purpose, not because it is necessary for life, but because it soothes our fear of death. We contribute to society – to our collective survival – and, thus, we convince ourselves that we are somewhat important. To be insignificant – to leave no impact – is frightening because it brings into question “Why do I exist?” and “Would it matter if I wasn’t here anymore?” We are social animals. We are instinctually driven to seek some amount of acceptance; to be seen as a part of the group. However, we are still individuals. We have our own problems, our own strengths and weaknesses, and our own personal desires. Inner strength is a muscular system of its own, and we cannot hope to hold ourselves up without it, much less hold up other people.

We are aware of the world, and we feel responsible for it, but any amount of change starts from within. It is that lack of inner strength which plagues so many people now. When we turn away from ourselves and our problems, we become incubators for insecurity. We allow our weaknesses to grow and hold us back, which only makes us feel even less capable of attacking the ever-growing mountain of problems in the world. The process is simple: I want to do something because I am insecure. That insecurity stems from fear of insignificance. That, in turn, stems from a fear of mortality. The number of problems that I am aware of is infinitely higher than the ones my ancestors were aware of. The weight of the world is on my shoulders simply because I am aware of the world’s problems. I may not be able to make significant change, but I can do something. It is the drive to participate – to matter – which compels me to try, but I’m being confronted by a massive number of issues which form a seemingly insurmountable monolith between me and “success”. At that point, the two easiest options for me are to either feel defeated or invent success; create problems to fight, and surround myself with a cult of affirmation. Instead of attacking the monolith, I over-inflate small problems – or entirely make them up – and I tell myself that combating these things is worthwhile. More than that, it’s critical. I’m fighting injustice. I’m fighting hate. I’m working to improve the world.

If enough people tell themselves this, they can form an ideology; a structured worldview capable of giving them the meaning and sense of belonging that they desire without the uncertainties and required effort of reality. It’s a shortcut to purpose; a means of satisfying our fears and dulling the pain. And, once we’ve opened the door to delusion, there’s no end to what we can ignore. We can ignore personal responsibility and blame our problems on someone else. We can ignore consistency and reason to reshape the world in ways that make it easier for us to grasp. Anything can be abandoned so long as we’ve found a way to feel important and safe. Have no doubt: we will do anything to keep ourselves from feeling insignificant. We will bully others to make ourselves feel strong. We will cheat our way into power just to stand over others. We will hate, attack, and even kill others to make some impact; to show the world that we matter.

It begs the question: what does it mean to matter? Does it mean saving lives? Saving the world? Being a superhero? Or, can it be as simple as living your life in a way that makes society continue to function; doing your part to make the world a better place? At the end of the day, we decide for ourselves what it means to matter, but we can’t help the fact that we are exposed to things now that never existed before in our world. Many people today grew up with a seemingly endless array of stories and images taking them to alternate realities and other places in the universe. What was once fantastic is now mundane, and even today we take for granted the amazing technology that can show us the perils of a comic book superhero or the mysteries of traveling through deep space. We need no longer imagine true love. Instead we can read it or watch it. We can experience almost anything, which not only provides us some escape from the world’s problems, but also changes our idea of what it means to make a difference. Everything around us indirectly puts pressure on us to do something meaningful. The possibilities are almost limitless, but the weight of expectation is greater now than it’s ever been before. It is easier now to hold ourselves to a supernatural standard, in part because we want to be as impactful and powerful as the characters we’re exposed to. This isn’t to say that fantasy or escape are bad things, but we must acknowledge the impact that these ideas have on us. We must remember reality and accept that while our potential can be limitless, it will always take a lot of effort to realize it. The greater the goal, the larger the amount of effort that is required to achieve it. We shouldn’t bar ourselves from seeking to accomplish great things, but we cannot ignore the amount of work that is required to progress. The fight begins at home; the road starts from within, and this leads me to my final point.

So, why does this happen? Why do so many people crumble in the face of difficulty? Why does it seem so hard to actually try? Why would so many rather turn to delusion than deal with reality? I argue that this all stems from one simple problem: we’ve become too outwardly focused. We are now so fixated with, and overwhelmed by, the world’s problems that we forget to focus on ourselves. Nowadays, we can learn about political conflicts on the other side of the world before we’ve figured out who we are as individuals. The news constantly reminds us of violence, destruction, lies, and whatever else is happening in our community, our country, or beyond. We see all of this and, understandably, it makes us feel bad. We want to do something to change it. We try to save the world without sorting out our own mess first; forfeiting a strong foundation for a desirable end-goal. The simple fact is that you can’t build anything substantial, strong, and long-lasting on a faulty foundation.

Eventually, for the good of society and for your own sense of meaning, you will need to look beyond yourself and consider how you impact the world around you. However, before you can do that, you need to know who you are, what you want, what your insecurities are, etc. What we need now is introspection and isolation. We need to look at ourselves and ask who we really are, not what we want to accomplish. Arguably, to be introspective is one of the hardest things you can do. It means confronting your insecurities and, above all else, confronting your fear of death. It means accepting who and what you are; everything you like and dislike about yourself. It means taking responsibility for your actions and for your health, both mental and physical. It’s a form of exercise, and it’s not a one-and-done. It’s something you have to work on for the rest of your life. It’s a challenge, and one that you must, ultimately, face alone.

The unknown within us is a reminder of the unknown beyond us; a realm of darkness and unpredictability which operates independent of what we want to be true. To be as secure as possible is an investment; an adventure within and without that requires some amount of open-mindedness and humility. It’s dangerous and frightening. Not everyone makes it out okay, but no one has ever succeeded by giving up or trying to ignore it. You can’t turn away from who you are and you can’t change what you’ve experienced in the past. Sometimes, the world is harsh – even unimaginably cruel at times – but we cannot help anyone or anything if we cannot first help ourselves, and we cannot help ourselves until we acknowledge our insecurities. Reality doesn’t operate based on what we want. What’s true is true independent of our existence. Succeeding in life requires the acceptance of this fact. Once we do this, we can place whatever meaning we want on our lives. That is our freedom. If we want to change the world, hold down a job, or just survive, we need to recognize and appreciate the importance of our own mind. We cannot ignore who we are and we cannot escape our insecurities. However, we can learn from our weaknesses, learn from our mistakes, work on our problems, and find our own ways of making life worth living. The choice is simple: work on yourself or risk tearing yourself and everyone else down. If staying alive is something you want to do, then you have to work for it. Life isn’t free, and the cost of ignoring yourself is everything that you hold dear. Put forth the effort, or don’t. The choice is yours, and yours alone.
SW User
Did you write this? You have amazing wisdom and insight for one so young. You are a rarity. Don't lose sight of these things and don't be discouraged if few take the time to read it. It is excellent. Thank you for sharing this!
Drachona · 26-30, M
[@635091,Gethsemane] Thank you. My goal on this site is to help others, although I often do it privately. I thought I'd try posting something which, I believe, many need to hear.

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