Philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote of confidence, relationships, and dependence in her letter to James Harmon to be published in the book, Take My Advice. On dependence she wrote, “even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve.” This quote struck me as being very honest about our nature and our inner feelings in a world where we go out of our way to project visions of our best and happiest selves.
As our lives fill up with Facebook and LinkedIn, our online persona becomes a competition to see who can lead the most exciting, the most attractive, and the most impressive lives in both our social and professional lives. The images we share with the world are our personal highlights, and the goal is to make us look strong, confident, and happy. What we miss when we compare our lives to the lives of others on social media is the moments between the highlights, when each person must deal with self doubt, uncertainty, and fear. Nussbaum’s quote helps me remember that I am not the only person who experiences these doubts when I compare myself to others online or in person.
I think it is important to consider how dependent we are on the planet for our own survival. We are not just dependent on natural resources, but in many ways we are dependent on the systems we have built, people who maintain those systems, and supportive people around us. When we focus on how much we depend on others we can be grateful for the guidance, assistance, and services we receive from others. Cultivating this awareness can help us see how important it is to reciprocate those actions and feelings. When good things happen in our lives it is tempting to blow up social media with our awesomeness and take credit for our accomplishment or good fortune, but I think Nussbaum would encourage us to instead give thanks, and to recognize the incredible system of support and assistance on which we depended, and from which our accomplishments materialize.