Things You Can’t Do Vs Things You Can
My mind is a carousel of Can’ts.
I can’t get a million (or even a thousand) Instagram likes.
I can’t write the next Eleanor and Park.
I can’t stop comparing my success to others.
I can’t find the time to write.
I can’t commit to these stories inside of me.
I can’t be like her. I can’t look like that.
I can’t jump on a plane and quit my day job.
Want to get off yet? Tell me about it.
Most of the time I react to other people’s success like a normal human. I’m happy for them, inspired, in awe, and if I know them personally, I’m pretty full to the brim with all the good feelings. Sure, there’s that bit of envy and the ‘Why can’t I have some of that?’, but it’s just the right amount.
And then there are the times when that little bit of envy finds a voice. It starts as a whisper. A small “Wow, look at how well they’re doing. You’re not doing that well are you? I mean you thought you were, but compared with that…” And then it gets louder. And harder to ignore. It grows legs and starts chasing me around, screaming “YOU CAN’T DO THAT! WHY AREN’T YOU BETTER? MORE SUCCESSFUL? THINNER? HAPPIER? MORE INSTAGRAM-WORTHY? WHY ARE YOU EVEN TRYING?”
Phew. As you can imagine, it’s not only ridiculously unhealthy, it’s pretty exhausting.
I know it’s difficult for us to turn off that nagging, judgmental voice that we get whenever we see these seemingly-perfect lives online. But what if we really examined what the voice was saying? What if we stopped focusing on all the things we can’t do and took a look at what we can do instead?
Yes, I can’t get a million Instagram likes. But why do I want to? I’m sharing pictures of my rather small book collection, not pictures of my arse. (Not that my arse is worth a million likes, but it’s probably worth a few.) And a massive social media following isn’t how I quantify success. It’s the comments from other book bloggers, the encouragement from other writers, the ‘Me too’ reactions that keep me writing and posting. No matter how few and far between they are.
Yes, I can’t write the next Eleanor and Park, or Harry Potter, or Catcher in the Rye. Because they’ve been done. Expertly, brilliantly, painstakingly. What I CAN do is write my own stories and hope for the best. What I CAN do is be inspired, to find courage in the fact that every one of my favourite writers was at one time just a wannabe sat in front of a laptop/notebook/typewriter.
Yes, I can’t find the time to write or commit to my dreams right now. But that’s my own fault. I want to watch Netflix and see my friends and write flash fiction stories just because. I want to read everything I can get my hands on, and take too many pictures of books. I know that finding the time to write is in my control. If I truly dug deep, if I said ‘being a published author is the most important thing in my life’, then I would sacrifice everything to try and make that happen. But it’s obviously not, because I can’t make that sacrifice, there are just too many other things that bring me joy that I’m not ready to give up.
I can’t be like her or look like that. Nope, that one I really can’t talk my way out of. But what I CAN do is find comfort in my own skin. And solace in the fact that even those beautiful, sparkly women are on social media wondering why they can’t look like someone else too. We’ll basically never be happy, but at least we’re all in the same SS Self Critical boat.
I can’t quit my day job and jump on a plane if it takes my fancy. I definitely can’t do that – but only because I like my day job and being able to pay my mortgage(!!). Right now, my priority is building a home that makes me happy every single time I walk through the door, feeling secure and being able to buy books and cute animal-themed dresses without worrying too much. Right now, my priority is recovering from surgery, finding new pictures to put on the walls, seeing people I love, and looking forward to discovering new places in short, slow bursts. The priorities of those people waking up in a new city every month are different from mine, and that’s totally okay.
We can’t be someone else no matter how hard we try. We can’t all have the same experiences, or successes or opportunities.
What we CAN do is work on our own damn journey. And try and be a bit easier on ourselves whilst we’re making it.