I was listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler this morning about hope and I got inspired to write something that's been on my heart a while. I made a note in my phone yesterday to blog specifically about contentment and how we can learn to stop hoping for more than what we have currently been given. Matt Chandler's sermon was all about HOPE and tied perfectly into that. He was speaking about how hope is what drives our entire lives. We get through our days in hopes of being recognized, in hopes of getting a better job, in hopes of finding our true love, in hopes of becoming so-and-so's friend, in hopes of making more money, in hopes of losing weight, etc. etc. Without hope, we really have no reason to live. But hoping in things that will never deliver -- which is everything of this world -- will lead you into anxiety and restlessness. I know for myself that a lot of times hope and control go hand in hand. I hope in something and try to figure out how I can control the outcome to get what I want. But guess what? Control is an illusion. It's something that will completely ruin you and suck the joy out of life.
I remember last year all too well, constantly wishing I was shooting like a photographer I admired, editing like a photographer I admired, trying to be a photographer I admired. It wasn't even one particular person -- I was just ALWAYS wanting to be someone else. I was living my whole life forgetting who I was and desiring things that were not only unachievable but were a waste of my time. I chose to lose who I was in an attempt to be someone else -- someone I can never be, someone I was NOT CREATED TO BE. I would see an image and immediately critique my own work and I was left feeling defeated, tired, and insecure. But I have good news. I began praying that God would reveal my sin to me and help me to LET GO. I was tired of constantly wishing for more. It wasn't fun and it made every experience something to achieve rather than something to enjoy.
In the photography industry, we are surrounded by people who are better than us. There will always be someone better and because social media is such a huge part of our business, we see the lives of others online and it becomes a trap to compare your entire life to someone else's "highlight reel," as I've heard it called before. But this is NOT a way to live. This is unhealthy and if you struggle with it, you're not alone but you're also not meant to continue living in it. This year I've talked to countless people who have explained to me that they want to be friends with a certain group of people, that they want their work to look like a certain person's, that they want to have a certain number of followers, and the list goes on. I GET IT. I do. But I am so passionate about helping people understand how to live out the quote below. Life is not meant to be a constant comparison. Stop focusing on what others are doing and focus on what you are doing. Stop letting your success and selfishness drive EVERY decision you make.
"When we focus on being significant in the lives of people right in front of us, rather than trying to be successful to the world around us, then God will do mighty things through us." -Stephanie Holden
When I learned that it's the little things and the kind gestures that help people to see Christ, not the success of my business, everything changed. When I started telling myself that in 50 years, THIS (whatever I'm putting a false hope into) will fade and won't matter, my outlook on life changed and I can honestly say, I have stopped putting my hope into the material things of this world. Granted, I still struggle, but wishing for more is draining and I hate it. I'm not saying it's bad to work hard, pursue dreams, or hope to live a happy, healthy life, but set realistic expectations and when you go to achieve something, don't let the things of this world derail you from living in contentment. So with that, I have a few things that I think will help you get out of this dark valley of always wishing for more and hoping in what's not eternal.
1. Ask yourself what or who you are hoping in. Is there someone you desire to be or something you want to achieve? Ask yourself why and then determine if that's healthy or not.
2. Figure out what is sucking the joy out of your life. Social media, your job, your friends?? Figure out how you can fix that. In my case, social media was sucking the joy out of me -- specifically Facebook -- so I unfollowed a lot of pages for my sanity and I don't look at my newsfeed as much.
3. If you believe in Jesus, pray for peace and for God to reveal your sin. When you know what's causing the discontentment, it's easier to spot it when it creeps in and shut it down.
4. Don't be afraid of failure and remember that your failure is only bad if you choose not to learn from it or you allow it to control you. On the other hand, also know that someone else's success is not your failure.
5. Understand that this is just a season and you have the choice to make a change. Life's not perfect and work was never meant to fulfill us so I'm not telling you to quit your job right now, give up, or lose sight of joy because you dread waking up in the morning, but remember that this season will come to an end.
I hope this was encouraging and please feel free to message me, leave a comment, or ask to FaceTime or Skype. I seriously know what it's like to feel alone in this and to feel like you'll never get out of it but I know it's possible and I know there's SO much more to life. :) Have a good week!