Falling Into the Trap

Happy urban city couple on travel in Barcelona taking selfie self portrait photograph with smart phone camera. Happy young man and woman on Placa de Catalunya, Catalonia Square, Barcelona, Spain.

Don’t you wish that your life was this good? Well, maybe it is.

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:

  1. It is very easy to forget that you are looking at our friends’ “highlight reels” and not their full stories.
  2. 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:

  1. Refusing to compare yourself to others (remember, you don’t know the full story.)
  2. Being genuinely happy for other people’s happiness and success.
  3. 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.

Your Turn

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!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. Hiteshkumar says:

    Competition is good but never comparison…we can increase our self image, value, but simultaneously we should take other people’s opinions positively.

  2. I was just telling an Associate of mine this the other week about FB, I said “It’s a highlight reel!” I just rejoined FB Saturday (yes 2 days ago lol) after being off for almost 4 years. When I initially joined 4 years ago, I was late obviously because FB is older than 4 years old, I only stayed on for a year before I deactivated my account. It was SO annoying, I feel like it feeds narcissism. I still feel that way but my fiancé and I got our engagement pictures back and our Photographer posted them on FB and Instagram (I don’t plan on joining Instagram though lol), and I wanted to see the pictures and share them. I don’t plan to post daily updates talking about myself whether it’s good or bad…the next pics I may post are our wedding pics in 8 months other than that I don’t plan to be on there much. I feel like FB is not truthful and you never know if you’re letting people into your “life” who secretly don’t wish you the best. I know FB has its positive sides but since I don’t have a business I’d like to advertise or long distance family/friends I don’t really see a need for it personally. I couldn’t believe I was off for almost 4 years until I logged back on and I saw my last post saying I was about to deactivate lol. Those 4 years went fast and I didn’t even miss FB, being off was a relief actually, because I didn’t have to deal with the “lies”, highlight reels, and narcissism on a daily basis anymore. We’ll see how long I last this time around lol.

    • I hear you, PhillyL. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m originally from the east coast, and I have a ton of friends that I would normally never get to stay deeply connected with if it weren’t for Facebook. I get to see their kids grow up, they get to see my kids grow up, and we’re able to share life’s joys together. Of course, the downside is that I also have to wade through the drama kings/queens who use this as a tool to feed their insatiable narcissism. It’s all good though–that’s what the de-friend button is for, right? 😉 Most importantly PhillyL, now that you’re back in, don’t let it change who you are!

  3. Comparison is the thief of joy!

    You are so right, and it is not limited to social media. My oldest is a high school senior who is constantly comparing themselves to others. It is hard for everyone, but especially a teenager, to remember that we don’t know everyone’s story…only what we see.

    Thanks for the weekly reminders to be positive and true to ourselves, Shola!

    Kathy

    • So true, Kathy! It is definitely not limited to social media–everywhere from high school, the workplace and practically every place in between has the temptation to compare ourselves to others. But I think high school is when comparison to others is at its all-time peak in our lives. Like you said though, we don’t know the whole story, only what we see :).

  4. Shola, ugh, I struggle with this one. I am a sucker for the image people put out to the world, whether in person or on social media. Their clothes, their looks, their successes, their statements about perfect families, etc. OMG I feel so inadequate. I do practice gratitude for what I have, and do say prayers of thanks every day. And I do take responsibility for my life, that whether it’s good or bad, that’s on me. But then I take other people at face value, and think they are so much more together than I am. I love the #LifeSoReal idea. I don’t post much on FB, because I never have anything up to the perfect standards of my “friends”, and that just might need to change! Thank you Shola, for a kick in the butt, and I will continue to work on reality-checking everything I see and hear.

    • Donna, I’m right there with you, my friend–I’d be lying if I said that I don’t fall into this trap too, on occasion. It is so easy to get caught up in the image that people show the world, but it is important to remember that it is just a highlight–not the full story. A quote that I often say is “the person who you think has it all together is the person who you don’t know very well.” No one has it all together. We are all struggling and fighting our own battles, but don’t let your own fight make you forget how special and awesome you are. The wisdom that you have shared on this blog in the past year is proof-positive that you have this whole life thing figured out far more than the average person does, that’s for sure :).

  5. Thank you for the wonderful post, Shola. Many times in the past that I fell into the same trap! But I have been working on it, just always being grateful for the good things in my life and being happy for the successes of others. I realized we are all unique people with unique narratives, and so it wouldn’t be fair to keep comparing ourselves with others. It also helps, at least for me, to really disconnect and just be present. Looking forward to your next post!

    • Well said, Jean! That’s the one thing that I didn’t include in this post that I should have included–the need to disconnect from social media and to be fully present. Not only does it help with regaining our perspective, but it also distances us from the need to compare ourselves to others. Thanks for sharing!

  6. yEAH BABy…I hear you. I felt my blood pressure go up and my mood descent every time I saw how great everyone was doing when I was going through my own private hell. My therapist said to me years ago: ” Josie, do NOT get on face book again.” That tells ya something right there.

  7. Hi Shola! I love this post, so full of truth! I used to be one of those people that compared her life with everyone else’s in Facebook! By doing that I was jeopardizing my own life because I thought “My life is boring, I’m a boring person :(” and become depressed. Then I realized that I can have my own fun and live life the way I want to, even if its not as “amazing” and “cool” as everyone else’s “life” in Facebook. Guess what? I started doing more activities, focusing in my own life and eventually I stopped logging on Facebook. I lost several “friends” but I made new real life friends that I can see and talk to in person every day, and we only use Facebook to exchange pictures of our adventures together or to share fun things. I deleted some of the “friends” that never called, never asked if I was doing ok and rarely saw. Those “friends” that only loved to boast about their life but never had the time to sit with me for a cup of coffee. Who needs them when I am having the time of my life in the REAL world? I celebrate my imperfections as well, specially during Yoga class (I have the WORST case of elasticity ever… I can never reach my toes!). That has helped me to keep positive and avoid falling into the trap!

    Thanks for such a great post Shola!! Blessings to you!

    • I love this, Sofia! Another thing that I neglected to dive into in this blog post that you mentioned, was the need to clean out our friend lists by removing the fake friends who are simply just taking up space and adding no value. Props to you for finding new friends who you can actually hang out with in person and share adventures with. That’s what life is all about, as far as I’m concerned. Keep doing your thing, and props to you for staying out of the trap!

      P.S. I can never reach my toes either 😉

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