Have you fallen into the trap before?
If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, let me give you a recent example.
I have a friend who recently started graduate school to get her Master’s Degree, and if you ever met her in person, you’d probably agree that she has everything together. She’s smart, funny, down-to-earth, beautiful inside-and-out, ambitious–she’s just the complete package in every way.
That’s why I was so shocked to hear her admit how nervous she was to start school. More specifically, the reason why she was so nervous.
“Shola, there are so many perfect people at this school. I spent close to an hour on Facebook last night looking up a few of my new classmates, and they are all beautiful, super-smart, and basically flawless. How am I going to be able to keep up with these people? I’m screwed.”
This is the trap.
The sure-fire way to know that you have fallen into it is if you are measuring your self-worth against what you see from your friends, family, or anyone else on your social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
Sadly, my good friend fell into the trap face first. Then again, so have I on numerous occasions. I bet if you’re willing to keep it real, you probably have too.
This is the challenge that we’re up against.
It’s very tempting to fall into this convincing trap, and if you do it often, you are in for a world of pain that could be so easily avoided.
Let’s talk about how to sidestep this fate while also maintaining our sanity.
The Unreal World
This shouldn’t be surprising to you, but the world that you see from your friends on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media site is not the real world. Not even close, actually.
It is a heavily-edited highlight reel.
There are two obvious problems that come with this truth:
- It is very easy to forget that you are looking at our friends’ “highlight reels” and not their full stories.
- It is pretty tough for any normal person’s real life to measure up against anyone’s highlight reel.
You have seen all of the highlights crawling through your News Feed, I’m sure. For example:
- One of your friends posted a picture with her new boyfriend having a romantic dinner, captioned, “I am sooooooo in love with this guy! He’s perfect!”
- Another one of your friends just finished running a half-marathon for her 40th birthday, and posted a picture showing off her ripped abs, with the hashtag: #ageisjustanumber
- Another friend took a picture of his perfect family, all smiles, as they were about to board the plane on another exotic family vacation.
And then there’s you. You’re at home in a less-than-perfect relationship (or no relationship), too tired from working long hours to go to the gym (much less run a half-marathon), and your family life is full of drama, bickering, and stress.
They are so lucky, and your life sucks.
Not so fast. That’s exactly the trap that I’m talking about.
We often compare our complete stories (inlcuding our ups-and-downs, failures and insecurites) to the incomplete–and often perfect–stories that we see from others on Facebook. No wonder it is so easy to feel down in the dumps after spending any significant time on social media.
If you fall into the trap on comparing your life against what you see online, your vacations will never be as mind-blowing as your coworkers’ vacations, your relationship will never be as romantic and loving as your friends’ relationships, your kids will never be as well-behaved as your neighbor’s kids, and you will never achieve the happiness and peace that everyone on your News Feed is enjoying, besides you.
This option doesn’t make any sense.
Comparing yourself against others is a recipe for unhappiness, but comparing yourself against a world that isn’t even real has the power to destroy your sanity.
We all have drama. Just because most people don’t share it on Facebook, doesn’t mean that their drama doesn’t exist (side note: on the flipside, I know that some people love to overshare their drama with the world on Facebook, but that’s a topic that probably deserves its own blog post.) Most people want to present their best selves to the world, so they conveniently leave the imperfect stuff on the cutting room floor.
It’s worth remembering this next time you feel inadequate after scrolling through your News Feed: you’re only seeing highlights, not the entire show.
Avoiding the social media trap requires three key things for us:
- Refusing to compare yourself to others (remember, you don’t know the full story.)
- Being genuinely happy for other people’s happiness and success.
- Most of all, having the self-love to remember that you have your own highlights to celebrate too.
This brings out a more important question, though. Why is everyone so afraid to show the world their less-than-perfect moments?
The Real World (#LifeSoReal)
Part of the human experience is that none of us will ever achieve perfection. That’s what we signed on for, isn’t it? So why are we so scared to admit the imperfections that we all have in common?
We can get into arguments with our significant others, our kids can act crazy at the most inopportune times, we can backslide when we try to kick an unhealthy habit, vacations can turn into nightmares, we can fail to reach our goals, and privately we can be wracked with fears, insecurities and self-doubt.
I know that most people would never dream of admitting these things on social media, but why not?
I believe it’s our challenges and imperfections that connect us. It is a powerful way to show others that the struggle is real, and that they are not struggling alone.
No, I’m not talking about sharing every single deep, highly-personal piece of our drama on social media, but I think that having the self-esteem to present ourselves to the world as imperfect is a powerful life-skill.
How much more fun and meaningful would social media be if we shared our imperfections with a hashtag I just made up (#LifeSoReal), instead of only showing the world our perfect side?
- “Tried to make waffles for the kids, but I burned them to the point that they look like car tires.” #LifeSoReal
- “I have a huge presentation to give this morning, and the voices in my head that are saying that I’m going to screw it up are getting louder.” #LifeSoReal
- “I went two months without a cigarette, but after a stressful day at work, I lit up again. It’s a setback, but I will break this habit.” #LifeSoReal
This is the part of positivity that most people don’t understand.
Life is about the ups and the downs. The light and the darkness. The perfect and the imperfect.
What makes our lives positive is how we deal with both situations.
Do you have the wisdom to not to judge your self-worth against the highly-polished and edited stories that you see on Facebook? Do you have the courage to present a less-than-perfect side of you to the world in hopes of showing others that they are not alone?
If so, then not only have you avoided the trap, but you made the world more connected than it was before.
I don’t know what could be a more positive use of a social media account than that.
Have you ever fallen into the trap of comparing yourself to others on social media? Are you willing to share a #LifeSoReal moment that happened to you in the past week that will help others to feel more connected? Either way, jump into the comments and make your voice heard!