Written by Kristin Greco, MSW & Edited by Madia Javid-Yazdi, M.Ed.
A cherished friend of mine once confided she occasionally felt lost in her life. This recurring theme prompted her to acquire a tattoo of a Celtic compass. It was beautifully marked on her body in its curved elegance, with no clear beginning or end to the lines that looped north, south, east, and west. My observation of my friend’s journey was completely contrary to her feelings of being “lost.” I recall thinking how suitable the compass was — representative of a life path that unfolded just as it needed to; guided by her intuition and resilience.
Today, I believe she is beginning to perceive her Celtic compass to be less symbolic of indirection and more symbolic of a resolute direction, which has led her (sometimes painfully) to a better understanding of her needs, wants, and purpose.
At certain points in our lives, I believe all of us have or will yearn for a “compass” to guide us. Uncertainty may leave us with feelings of frustration, anxiety, depression, or anger. After all, it’s human nature to want our lives to unfold the way we envision.
I have clients who contend with these feelings when they view content depicting the filtered lives of friends, family, and acquaintances on social media. These feelings are then exasperated by negative self-talk that most of us engage in from time to time. Examples sound like: Why can’t I look as gorgeous as her? He’s successful in his job and I’m still trying to find out what to do for the rest of my life. They look so happy together, I wish I had a relationship like that. They got pregnant so easily and we may not be able to have a baby! She works full time and makes dinner; I can barely get to the grocery store each week!
We forget that occasionally we are forced to make decisions or live with unanticipated circumstances due to external/internal factors outside of our control, or as a result of the behavioural impact from the people around us.
Above are few examples of how we compare our lives in an effort to determine whether our lives are “what they should be.” These expectations vary depending on gender, age, ethnicity, social and cultural norms. They highlight the standards that we place (and are placed) on us often from a very young age, which can spiral into regrettable reflections of choices we’ve made, the losses we’ve suffered, and ultimately mistrusting our internal compasses.
I am not immune to feeling doubtful, the life altering behavioural impacts of others, or questioning my internal compass. Still, what I have learned, for myself and from the work I am privileged to do, is that each turn or twist (whether a forced decision or not) is an opportunity to learn a life lesson. That said, I do not want to sound grossly optimistic, especially in the face of pain and tragedy. However, it is a chance to better understand who we are, what we need, and what we like and dislike.
Contrary to the filters we hide behind, not one of us lives the perfect life. I believe a perfect life would be the very opposite of what it is to be human; perfectly imperfect. Let’s practice the art of imperfection. After all, there is only one of you; embrace your individuality and unique life path. Those who pass judgement are merely exposing their own insecurities.