The Three Keys to Authentic Fulfillment

No matter how hard we try, we exist in a world where social media filters create an unattainable standard an unattainable standard of beauty, life, relationships, and reality altogether. So, how do we create space to feel like we are fully seen? Sure, sometimes posting a picture of a new outfit or an inside look at a special event makes us feel relevant like we're participating in the world in which we exist. But there are certainly more ways of getting the sense of fulfillment we seek, right? 

For me, I look for opportunities that check three boxes. Something about which I'm: 

  1. Passionate
  2. Expressing myself uniquely 
  3. Able to be recognized by others

Passion is Irreplaceable
Passion isn't reserved solely for love or special interests, which is the typical context. No - passion is simply a strong feeling or emotion. So, all things worthwhile, especially life itself, require us to have the capacity for passion - that driving, motivating, propelling force. Andrew Soloman gave a fantastic TED Talk where he gave eye-opening insight into the human condition and depression:

The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.

Passion and vitality play together like elementary school best friends, so this quality is of utmost importance. From this starting point, all things are made possible. 

The presence of passion assures that you will stick with your pursuit, even through challenging circumstances. The same emotional energy that fuels your motivation also helps you focus attention in a world filled with noise. Your passion does not have to fit neatly inside your current job description for it to be pursued or fulfilling. Actually, passion that extends outside the scope of your current work could be the catalyst for reimagining your professional portfolio or charting a unique career path, as we've seen in prime form during this norm-shifting pandemic. Don't limit yourself. 

Self-Expression is Your Strategic Advantage
Our earliest experiences with self-expression are probably as tiny children attempting to dress ourselves. What were equal parts Halloween costume, dirty laundry pile, and glamorous accessory we stole from our parents' dresser was "100% us" nonetheless. From infancy, we are trying to figure out who we are and express that to the world. Both scientific and poetic, self-expression is possibly the most important way to connect with one another. 

Self-expression allows us to differentiate ourselves from others and to be noticed for bringing something new or novel into a space. One of the greatest challenges to self-expression is the dampening effect of low confidence, often the result of looking to external cues that may not align with our personal strengths or personality. Instead of looking around for inspiration, your challenge is to look inward. Inside you is your unique voice, your particular view, and your experience of the world. If you have the confidence to listen to that voice, it will provide you with a unique narrative and means of expression that will help you create a lane all your own. 

Recognition from Others
The desire for people to see you, appreciate you, and recognize you isn't an exercise of ego; it's a human need. Validation is a form of reinforcement that is both motivating and edifying. Only the obsession with it creates issues, but that is true of most things. Recognition gives our spirits the signal that we are doing a good thing, that people are happy with us, and that we are valuable. On an existential level, it affirms our existence. And being recognized by others helps us feel like an active, contributing, and valuable part of the world. 

I have a group of friends who, during Covid, really got into exercising. During the latter part of 2020 and into early 2021, we would meet in the early mornings to do virtual workouts together. It was so motivating to know that people I love and admire would be the first faces I saw when I woke up. Because we loved and respected each other, we also shared goals, pushed each other to pursue our purposes, and celebrated successes. 

When we discuss fulfillment and how to achieve it, the most important thing to remember is this:


If a person has a life-changing experience in the woods and no one is around to take a picture to post to Instagram, did it ever happen? Yes. 

Before social media, we took pictures for US to remember, and THEN we shared them with others. But the experiences, fulfillment, memories are OURS. They aren’t something we do to project our existence through a manufactured manipulated medium to the rest of the world in hopes it's reflected back to us to be absorbed and interpreted as an authentic experience. 

Once we give ourselves a friendly reminder of what we are seeking, finding ways to achieve it comes into clearer focus. Everything doesn't have to be complicated or extreme and intricate. Instead of looking online for happiness and validation, start with you:

  1. Harness your passion, which is a life force,
  2. Express yourself fully and authentically, which fortifies your sense of self, so
  3. Recognition by others is healthy, creates community, harmony, and happiness. 

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