By Gloria Wu
We live in an age where popular, mainstream ideas have emphasized loving yourself and accepting yourself for who you really are. Now, I am not against the movement of having people grow in confidence and happiness.
But what happens when we focus on ourselves in a selfish way may often lead to the opposite of happiness, and ultimately contributes to snowballing insecurity.
When I look around, I realize how much of a norm it has become in society. We post Instagram photos and ponder how many likes we can rack up. Not just photos, but posts of just ourselves. Whether it is a selfie of a face with makeup, or photos obviously just showing the world our body, posts on social media is just that. Like my recent! Comment and support! Yourself, myself, herself, himself. We are so self-absorbed, trying to prove to “others” of our worth, looks, or charm- whether or not “others” will actually care. We catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Smile! Flex! Pose! Stare at yourself for as long as you’d like until you are satisfied. The spotlight is all on you. And that’s the problem these days. We -the Gen Z- have been raised in such comfort that focusing on ourselves is all we have ever done. Why is that a problem? What’s the big deal? The deal is, all this energy focused on ourselves has given us nothing in return but stress, anxiety, and insecurity. Sure, our parents may have been insecure when they were our age. Everyone has gone through it, it’s totally normal. But what makes our generation so different? Is it self-love? Is it this so-called self-love that makes someone more insecure than they already are? Is it self-love that kindles FOMO (fear of missing out)? Is it self-love that ignites anxiety attacks?
The source of all these issues is actually self-centeredness. Self-centeredness and self-love are two completely different things. It’s unfortunate to see how common depression and anxiety is, and although they may be caused by traumatic events or genetic probability, I believe that we make our own problems. So much attention and detail on ourselves make us our worst critics. Directing all our attention on our flaws, short-comings, grades, and relationships definitely contributes to worry and fear. And this accumulation of worry and fear causes unhappiness, anxiety, and depression. Growing up in an environment of convenience, one small issue can lead to negative overthinking, ranting, and even panic attacks. Why is this happening to me? Why does everyone hate me? Why am I the only one? It may be a stretch to say that body image issues, eating disorders, depression, and even suicide may stem from this typical natural human tendency, but negativity is definitely contributing to these ubiquitous problems. So this kind of narcissism, or self-absorption, is actually what leads to self-destruction. The prosperous middle-class of America may seem to have it better than countless others compared the rest of the world, but we are still unhappy. And that’s the irony, the more we focus on our own happiness, the more unhappy we become.
To prevent the escalation of our own issues, let’s first focus on things that aren’t our issues. The world will keep on spinning with or without our issues, and the sun will still shine, and God is still good. This isn’t an active approach. I’m not saying to sit next to someone you don’t know at lunch or ask your friends to talk about their problems. This is a mental habit that gradually takes over your actions. Your thoughts always change your actions, but your actions may not necessarily change your thoughts. As you focus less on yourself, you may come to terms with yourself with peace. You don’t have to be your own slave. You don’t have to burden yourself with what YOU want to be (it’s probably actually what “others” want you to be, which ultimately doesn’t impact you until YOU allow it to). You are in charge of yourself. This may seem confusing, trippy, or cliche, but spending less energy on yourself (in a self-absorbed manner) can actually give you confidence you’ve never had before. You don’t have to think about yourself because isn’t that kinda tiring? Doesn’t it get boring? It’s much more meaningful to be a positive influence to other people because the spotlight doesn’t have to be on us anymore. We don’t need it.
So what do we need? We are all selfish people with an empty void to fill. We are in need of things greater and more meaningful in order for us to flourish. Find a passion, whether it be a sport, instrument, or other hobbies, and be good at it. To invest in this as well as the people around you makes your life more balanced. Your free time is in your hands. Rather than staying up late scrolling on tik tok, think about what you want your life to be like. Make it meaningful. Make it have an impact. Now is not the time to feel fulfilled with yourself, neither is it the time to indulge in the easy comforts of the twenty first century. It’s time to focus on the goals way bigger and way ahead of us. It’s time to grow. So let’s put aside the petty little trinkets we so adore and challenge ourselves to become more mature, stronger, and more selfless, investing ourselves in our studies, our goals, and our community.