There is a certain pressure to appear strong and put together in our culture. Just look at anyone's social media profile. It will most likely be a highlight reel—snapshots of that person’s happiest moments reflecting their own idealized versions of themselves. Several studies, in fact, have linked social media use to depression. Why? Because browsing through a feed of highlight reels can understandably evoke feelings of loneliness, jealousy, and sadness.
People's perception of reality becomes clouded and delusional whenever they think that everyone else is happier. It’s no wonder that so many people are miserable. In a culture that is all about perception, it is easy to avoid things like vulnerability and unknowing. It is easy to want to avoid anything that feels like weakness. And so the natural response in a world that is all about image is to focus more on polishing perceptions through performances in work, relationships, or even religion—rather than doing the hard inner work to heal, see the world more clearly, and use our struggles for the good of others.
So many today are caught in the grip of a toxic cycle of fear-based reacting. Instead of sifting through their inner turmoil or dissecting the lies they might be telling themselves, they join the rat race. They work harder. They try to make more money. They buy more things. Sometimes they cut corners. They do whatever they feel like they need to do in order to appear successful. That can sometimes even mean marrying the wrong person because they are afraid to be single again . . . or judging others who don’t believe the same things because they are afraid to confront their own doubts in their faith. People are so afraid of their struggles that they do anything they can to cover them up with a more polished perception. And, though this might appear to work for a little while, eventually everything collapses.
So many people, in the pursuit of the American Dream, build their lives on the cornerstones of this flashy cultural promise. Many mask their struggles in work, relationships, and faith—three spaces in which most of people's struggles seemed to unfold—with simply grabbing ahold of as much as they possibly can. It’s easy to suppress inner turmoil and instead dedicate oneself to looking like a success; that is, until everything falls like a house of cards. The very system in which so many build their happiness upon eventually implodes.
Use the failure of the system and the emptiness of materialism to be the catalyst in your journey of discovering purpose. It will be the most difficult yet also the most rewarding journey of your life. Enter into introspection and ask yourself the hard questions before the perception you are constructing is shattered. Uncover true purpose and consider what true success looks like.
The best way to usher in that introspection—the best starting place—is to carefully evaluate the struggles in your life. Step out into the arenas of work, relationships, and faith, and ask yourself some difficult questions. Focus on one particular struggle and perhaps ask yourself: what does this struggle say about my values, the life I've built, or my fears?
Face your struggle the next time you look in the mirror. Your struggle is not to be feared. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's strength. Your willingness to confront, dissect, and diagnose your struggle is the beginning of uncovering a deeper and more fulfilling purpose in this life.
Befriend your struggle for understanding. Partner with your struggle for truth. Learn and apply the keys and principles to confront your struggles. Your struggle is your signal for change and your opportunity for growth. Instead of focusing on polishing your image on the outside, let your struggle guide you inward. Let it guide you into a deeper reality beyond the facade so many work so hard to construct. Let it guide you to your source. The best struggles are ones that lead you to develop and grow a strong relationship with something bigger than yourself. That's where you’ll find the real treasure.