Living in a time where social media has such a huge impact on our daily lives has been simultaneously awesome and absolutely draining. There are quite a few good things that have come out of it: we are able to connect with people from our pasts or would’ve never had the chance to encounter in person, stay in touch with loved ones in faraway places, we can stay up to date on the latest news, order pretty much anything anytime to arrive at our door for our convenience, get reviews on products you would’ve bought and potentially hated or loved anyway (but at least you got confirmation!)… Amazing stuff, right? I even have friends I’ve met through social media–digital, long-distance “friends” that I value, even though we don’t talk often. We just comment on each other’s Instagram photos and gush over one another. Either way, it’s a connection I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Then there are some bad things. For myself and many others, it’s scrolling through my Instagram and seeing what an “amazing” life some of the people I follow are having, or how absolutely gorgeous someone is and realizing that I’m sitting there, being lazy on my couch and looking less than desirable, and then feeling like human garbage.
We’ve all been there, right? I’ve fallen into this mental comparison trap quite a few times. There are a few folks I follow online that have these amazing Instagram photos of them traveling, eating pasta in Italy, drinking coffee in Spain, roaming the streets of Harajuku, or hiking the Appalachians, then have photos of their own little cottage home that looks like it came out of Home & Garden: Disney Edition. And they’re leaning over the cherry wood banister just outside the ornate front door to greet their adorable Golden Retriever puppy, who had just brought them a stick because they’re a good, trained pooch who actually listens! And this person’s face is basically a living, breathing advertisement for a high end makeup company because they look absolutely immaculate and aglow… And don’t forget their significant other, in the background looking like Grecian statue perfection, cooking the healthiest and most delicious meal I’ve ever laid my eyes on–on the internet. Who are these mysteriously perfect people!? And how can I achieve their perfection?!
There’s my mistake. No one’s perfect.
We only ever get a very small glimpse into one’s reality on Instagram, Facebook, etc., and even then, we really have no guarantees that that really is their real life. I’d like to think that the person I just described is indeed living this fanciful life and documents it for all to see on their social media with a high-quality camera that captures stellar photos, or has friends or family with an excellent eye for photography to take a few shots here and there. I want everyone to be able to live their best life! But again, that’s only a small peek into their reality.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
I remember a visit with my therapist several years ago. I was recovering from a toxic relationship, and was back on my own two feet again, learning to gain self-confidence and practice more self-love. She asked me if I would consider dating again, I told her I planned to, but I was nervous. I didn’t want to be in another unhealthy, awful relationship again. I explained to her that I had just befriended this couple–husband and wife–whose relationship I had admired. They seemed deeply in love, had a small photography business together on the side, had similar interests, had a cute house, a kid, a little farm out back with baby bunnies (because baby bunnies indicate a solid relationship, you guys… Yeah, right.) The list goes on.
My therapist encourages me that it’s good to observe healthy relationships, but I shouldn’t assume that the relationship is actually healthy just based on what I’ve observed during my in-person meeting with them and whatever their social media depicts. I was perplexed by this. You mean to tell me, therapist, that if someone’s life is difficult, complicated, shitty or troubled that there wouldn’t be visual evidence of it in the Instagram and Facebook accounts they post on all the time?! NO WAY!
So when news came about a few months later that this lovely couple was going through a nasty divorce, complete with a child custody battle… It really clicked in my head. Nothing is ever what it seems, and it’s never the full picture. We only ever get a glimpse into one’s life. And there I was, not that long ago, saying that I considered them to be a good example, to draw ideas of what a healthy relationship should look like! I had believed that they were a good example of the kind of love I wanted to experience, and that these two individuals were the kind of “cool” and “mature” I strive to be. Little did I know that it was actually an unhealthy relationship between two toxic people that desperately needed to end.
No one’s perfect. And let’s be honest… trying to be perfect sucks. It’s a lot of stress, a lot of pretense, and is chock full of disappointment. No matter how hard you try, perfection is out of every one’s reach, simply because we’re human. But you know what is within everyone’s reach, and is way less stressful? Just being real. Just being you. We all make mistakes, but as long as we learn from them, then we’re golden.
Although someone might seem to be living the perfect life through what their Facebook and Instagram shows, you really miss out on all of the realness in their actual lives. I have to remind myself of this when I surf on Instagram and see the wonderful representation of strangers’ lives I see. I don’t have to have the house of my dreams quite yet, just because this person on Instagram does. I don’t need to have perfectly flawless skin all the time, because shit happens and everyone has bad skin days. Comparing yourself to others is a losing game for everyone–why subject yourself to that? You are your own unique individual person with your own thoughts, talents, needs, wishes, personality, priorities and interests. Why should you be compared to someone else who isn’t you? Who is completely different? News flash: life isn’t a competition.
The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you. Channel that energy into your own self-growth–to keep working on being the best version of yourself. Never mind the other folks out there–they may or may not be living their best life, but that’s none of your business anyway. Draw inspiration from others, but never put yourself down because someone is achieving something you want to do as well. In fact, if you want to go do that particular thing, just go do it. Get it! You can do anything you set your mind to, reader. You just have to believe in yourself and remember that you deserve good things too.