We’ve all felt it: the slight gnawing twinge of discontent (or maybe it’s even evolved into a slight depression) that pops up after spending time scrolling through our social media feeds. Call it what you want—envy, jealousy, FOMO—but there’s no doubt it’s often a result of allowing ourselves to play the comparison game. It can be brought on by someone else getting a ton of Instagram likes, (not so) humble bragging about landing a huge opportunity, or lucking out with a new job that you’d really like to have. These triggers are constantly at our fingertips, letting us dive right into the comparison game with one swipe of our iPhone. Making it easy to tap into the disconnect we all feel sometimes between the life that we want to have and the life that we actually have. And since it’s all too easy to create a facade of a “perfect” life on social media, we can easily find ourselves in a constant state of catch up with someone who, from the outside looking in, seems to have it all.
As a blogger, my career is often completely rooted in the online world, and social media is an inextricable part of my workday. It’s not really an option for me to delete my Instagram account, nor would I want to! I think it can be an amazing tool for keeping a visual record of our days, finding positive ways to improve our wellbeing, keeping up with family and friends, and sharing moments that I find inspiring. So the question becomes: if we’re going to use and interact with social media on a daily basis, how do we combat the feeling of dissatisfaction that can accompany a scroll through the “fabulous” lives of everyone in our feed?
Here are a few practices that have worked for me to avoid playing the comparison game.
Instagram is often a shiny happy world where people post only the moments (and outfits, meals, parties, and destinations) they want people to see (edited and filtered to perfection.) There’s nothing wrong with conveying a curated feed of the things that inspire us as long as we’re not forgetting that the other 99.9% of our lives is actually real life. If I find myself focusing on the number of “likes” I’m getting, it probably means that it’s time for me to get outside myself and start engaging with other people, loving my family and friends, and setting my sights on the people and things in my life that matter. Because real-life love beats one million “likes” any day of the week.
Be supportive, never jealous.
In this crazy and quickly changing world of blogging and social media, can we please find a way to be on the same team and help each other? Instead of allowing the wins of our friends’ (or “competitors”) to feel like threats, how can we turn our perspective so that they are an encouragement and inspiration to us? It’s not as though the amount of success in the world is some kind of bank account that can be depleted. There are lots to go around, and our friend’s success in no way takes away from our own present or future victories. Trust me: when you’re able to truly be happy and supportive of others’ accomplishments, you’re left feeling one thousand times better than if you let jealousy rear its ugly head.
Just be inspired.
One of my good friends Ashley Woodson Bailey recently shifted her career as a floral designer to that of a fine art photographer, inspired by the desire to capture the constant metamorphosis of a flower as a moment in time. She does it on her own terms with her favorite medium (flowers) and her iPhone. Ashley told me that since she gave herself the freedom to dive headfirst into her passion, she’s finally been able to ditch the cycle of competition she’d previously felt. She’s learned to appreciate the beauty all around her. Instead of constantly feeling the need to “get ahead,” she’s learning to let real things of substance, like sharing art and beauty that moves people, become her yardstick for success. Just remember: a quick snapshot on social media (and how others respond to it) is unrelated to our real value in the world.
Learn to set boundaries.
Do you have certain “triggers” that set off the start of the comparison game for you? Be aware of when these happen, and be proactive in deterring them. Maybe it means turning off your phone at a certain time in the evening or refraining from scrolling through your Instagram feed first thing in the morning. It might mean unplugging for an entire day while on vacation or even just over the weekend at home. That way, instead of thinking about how you’re going to capture it with your iPhone, you’re actually just soaking it all in. And if that sounds like a dramatic step, it probably means that it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Remember: life’s too short.
Don’t worry too much about what other people think. You’ve got one chance to live it, and I promise that most people are way too caught up in their own little worlds to worry too much about yours anyway. Our culture applies the time-is-money principle to every single moment of the day and night, which doesn’t leave room for rest, play, or so many other things that our bodies and souls long for. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to master the art of staying present in the real (not virtual) moment.
I wanted to write this as much to create a constant reminder to myself, as to share and get thoughts on the subject from all of you. In this world when our sense of value and purpose can be rocked by “likes,” “follows,” and other metrics that are, at their root, pretty meaningless, it can be difficult not to start feeling like the internet is one big popularity contest. One thing that usually helps me combat jealousy of any kind is to remember that, no matter how hard I try, there’s always going to be someone prettier, smarter, more well-liked, wittier, and all-around better than me at just about anything I can pursue, but they can’t be me.
The power of each of our individual uniqueness is that it’s the one thing someone else can’t match. No one can be as good of a version of me than I can be when I set my mind to being my very best self. So, get in touch with what unique gifts you bring to the world, then devote yourself to cultivating the things that light you up and cause you to overflow with energy and love.
This post was originally published on September 26, 2018, and has since been updated.
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