Feeling without purpose can be a really lonely place to be. While our lives pass, with often very little significance in the grand scheme of things, our sense of purpose is hugely authoritative over our mental wellbeing. So intangible, yet entangled in our sense of worth, the two morph into a wiry haired, knobbly kneed, tooth baring troll, only the size of a fist but mighty enough to make you weep just at the sight of him. Yours may vary in size and appearance but the effect is probably the same as he digs his little claws into the last thread of hope that you are worth it and it will be okay.
I am probably not the only creative, sitting on their bed trying to find some way of regaining their purpose in this world. It strikes me that I require fairly regular affirmation from others, and indeed myself, that I am good at what I do to maintain my sense of purpose and worth. For me, this comes from performing live. Being on stage, performing my own songs to a room full of dancing, smiling faces, appreciating what I have to offer the world, is what really makes me tick. That's why I do what I do and the obvious lack of such situations, has meant I haven't cashed in, recharged my purpose battery pack, in quite some time. Not fully anyway. So much so that even my own self-affirmations are dwindling and the underlying confidence I have in myself gets lost in the overwhelming sense of failure and indefinite uncertainty. I find myself feeling worthless and without purpose while those around me continue to make their way in the world, progressing in their careers and able to get regular doses of 'well done you, you are succeeding'. And worse still, I'm finding that others' success makes me feel less successful.
However, Ehrmann's Desiderata (1927) offers some key observations that I have always felt are good landmarks to guide one through the turmoils of life. He suggests 'if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself'. In other words, you can only be you, and you have a certain combination of skills and features that are totally unique to you and that makes you the best at being you. It is important to be the best version of yourself, to strive to do your best, and trying to be someone else's best is a slippery slope. I also realise that by rejecting comparisons, we leave room to find satisfaction in the things we don't feel the best at. Western society has conditioned us so harshly to feel the pressure of reaching the top, winning the race, but note the necessity for others in these circumstances. Undoubtedly, some thrive in competitive scenarios, good for them! I am not one of those people, and I must regularly remind myself that I will only achieve greatness by being my greatest self.
My success is not related or comparable to others, nor is it defined by a good gig. When I really think about it, I define my success by progress. I have succeeded over lockdown because I have made progress in my career since March. And if I am making progress, I have a purpose. Granted, I do believe my best component to be performing, but it is not the only good component of me or my skills within my career. And if I re-direct any feelings of comparison to realising that I can only do my best, I will achieve much more and my days, weeks and months will regain a feeling of purpose.