More is more and bigger is better. At least that’s what our culture would have us believe. Advertisement after advertisement tells us that we need better clothes, newer cars, larger houses… and then of course, more funds to purchase them with. But that’s not all; this message extends past material goods and into what we do and who we are.
We’re taught to believe that if we don’t have the biggest, most outgoing personalities or the highest number of followers on Instagram, then we somehow don’t measure up to the world’s standard of worth.
It’s not true, of course, but it’s a convincing lie to fall for, isn’t it? After all, we never see men and women living quiet, content lives featured on television. We don’t read stories of entrepreneurs who run simple, non-game-changing businesses, or look up to tech titans who earn average salaries. Instead, our cultural diet consists of larger-than-life characters, unusual feats and out-of-the-norm success stories. And so, whether we realize it or not, these are the qualities we often end up comparing ourselves and our circumstances to.
It’s no wonder, then, that we’ve come to idolize magnitude, and that our perceptions of worth and value have become distorted as a result.
When we measure ourselves against the standards presented in the media, we set ourselves up for failure.
And while we can’t singlehandedly change the culture we live in, we can change how we intake and process its messages. We can start by recognizing our obsession with magnitude for what it is and learn to reframe our perspectives to see the good and admirable in even the so-called small feats of our lives. Our culture will never celebrate activities like cooking dinner, driving the kids to soccer practice or being patient with one’s in-laws, but these are just as important as the major societal milestones in our lives. In fact, it’s the small things that help us reach the big things, and in the end they are the things that make a life.
It’s been said that we are the sum of the choices we’ve made, and there’s great truth in this. How we act moment to moment determines our habits, characters and legacies (as opposed to our mere reputations or past accomplishments). So when we act in love out of faithfulness to our values, we create an impact greater than we know. That impact might never be appreciated or even acknowledged, but there is, nonetheless, tremendous merit and meaning in the unseen.
Once we begin to recognize how real life meshes with the bigger picture in this manner, we can let go of the pressure to experience magnitude and learn to love the little victories instead. The next time we feel insignificant in light of what the media depicts, let’s remember that it’s our own standards that matter and no one else’s. No matter what the world tells us, the greatest things are already right before us. True greatness lies not in the magnitude of our actions, but in living each moment striving after our purpose in truth, wisdom and love.