“I wish I had her body. She’s perfect.”
“They’re such a happy couple. When will I experience that?”
“How did he land that job? That’s my dream job.”
“Why is she on vacation again? Does she ever work?”
“I wish I had their life.They’re always having fun.”
“Will my hair ever look like hers?”
“He’s good at everything he tries. Why aren’t I?
“She has so many more friends than I do. Maybe I’m just awkward.”
If you’ve ever found yourself spiraling down this dark rabbit hole, stop. If you’ve ever found yourself in the throws of comparison, stop. No matter how old you are or what stage of life you’re currently experiencing, society has trained you to believe that you could always be doing better. That you are leaps and bounds behind those around you. Society tells us that what we see on social media is real. That the success and so-called happiness others are experiencing are an indication that you have failed miserably if you are not yet there, too. That you are not good enough. That digital strangers and acquaintances have the life you’ve always wanted and you’ll never get there.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Welcome back, friends. And more importantly, welcome to a topic that has been on my heart for some time. I will be the first to admit that I find myself in these throws quite frequently and I have witnessed others struggle with the same thing in many facets of life almost daily. Speaking on behalf of millennials, I can safely say that we as young adults are constantly pressured to do the best, look the best and be the best. We are trained to believe that our progress should equally match the progress of our peers and if we fall short, well, we’re failures. If our bodies don’t look like the girl we saw on Instagram or if we don’t have the relationship that the happy couple on Facebook seems to have, we are inadequate. If we didn’t land our perfect dream job right out of college, we are useless. We will never have what they have.
I find myself constantly comparing and worrying. Why have I not reached all of the goals I had envisioned for myself by this age? Why does it seem like my peers have it all together and I am just one big hot mess? Why have I not yet found the perfect relationship? They are progressing and I’m not.
I constantly hear those close to me asking the same questions of self-doubt.
The reality of this is, that it’s not reality.
The problem is not me, it’s society.
More often than not, I see people completely lying to themselves in the hopes of keeping up with the Joneses. Following the construct that society has laid out for them because they feel like they should or they have to in order to be considered ‘on track’ in life.
The truth is that there is no such thing as ‘on track’. That perfect body you saw on Instagram was photoshopped to a fault. That happy couple you always see pictures of? They bicker regularly and have deep-rooted trust issues.
You see, today it’s all about the aesthetic. About instant gratification and validation. We can’t wait because we need it right this minute. Everyone is so quick to share their successes and the ‘highs’ in their life because they seek the validation of complete strangers who will tell them, “Hey, you’re doing great!” and “Ugh! I wish I was you, you’re so lucky.” But God forbid they show the ugly. No, no, you can’t show the ugly. The hardship and struggles behind their defeat. The doors that have been slammed in their faces before the right one finally opened. The work it took to reach a place of confidence and comfort in their own skin. The unhappiness behind a failing relationship.
One perfectly polished smile in a photo doesn’t reveal the tears and pain the same person is experiencing. The beautifully hand-crafted aesthetic that someone builds on a social media page does not depict the truth of their life, as much as you may believe it does.
This is a concept that has taken me very long to grasp and to this day, I still catch myself becoming anxious or worried about the status of my own life’s progression and the completion of my goals compared to those of my peers and the social media landscape. Why don’t I have that type of lifestyle? Why don’t I look like that? Have I failed? To even entertain these thoughts seems ridiculous, but sadly it’s become a societal norm.
We are inundated with so many updates, statuses and photo albums pertaining to every minute detail of the lives of strangers, it’s impossible for our brains to process it all. We become prisoners of our own minds. For this reason, I believe the advent of social media has been a curse as much as it’s been a blessing.
Maybe I’m a bit old school, but I find it so sad that we can’t take our heads out of our phones for longer than 15 minutes. (It’s truly become an addiction that I admit I’m guilty of) That we feel the need to capture a moment on video before we see it first with our own two eyes. That we spend more time browsing the profiles of strangers who we will never meet, as opposed to nurturing the relationships that are right in front of us. That the amount of followers and likes you have holds more weight than the person you are when the camera isn’t on you. That ‘dating’ has essentially become the same as shopping for a new outfit. Don’t like the way it looks? Swipe to the next.
Technology may be lurching forward but I promise you, our generation is on a path to no where if we hold steady the belief that social media and the digital realm is reality. That the grass is greener on the other side. That it’s better to mimic the lives and looks of others rather than be unique and unapologetically ourselves.
Is it any wonder why relationship failures are on the rise? Why the word anxiety has become so mainstream?
Sometimes I crave the collapse of it all and wonder what would happen if we went back 20 years, before any of this. Back to the days where going on road trips required the use of an actual map and not your cell’s GPS. When people actually had to sit around a dinner table and…wait for it…. talk. Before life-made-easy apps and photo editing tools were available with the touch of a button. When kids got dirty and played outside until the sun set rather than swiping their fingers across an iPad to pass the time.
The same can be said for relationships. As I reflect on the love that my grandparents have shared (60 years!), I wonder how they weathered life’s storms and trials without ever turning their backs on one another. They were and are still so in love. Nothing has changed between them from the day they met until now. I wasn’t there for their beginning but I can tell by the way they speak of it, how beautiful and rare it really is, especially now. I attribute it to what society was for them at that time. During a time where you put your all into the person you were with and didn’t stray to find something better when times got tough. Not because you couldn’t, but because you just didn’t even want to. A time when respect was more attractive than someone’s physical attributes and a man asked a woman to dance. (crazy concept, I know) It’s no surprise why my grandparents can’t fully understand today’s world or where it went wrong. They didn’t grow up with a phone attached to their hands. They worked hard for everything they had and were never in a cyclic competition with strangers. The lives and progressions of others didn’t bother them because they were so entrenched in building their own foundation together. They were simply grateful and happy with one another.
We have strayed so far from this. It has become normal and okay to seek connection with a stranger, instead of investing in the relationship you’ve had forever. It has become normal to only portray whatever it is you want the world to see you as, all while lying to yourself and masking your true feelings. It has become normal to find whatever it is you’re looking for with a click or a swipe. Society and social media has conditioned you to believe that while you may be doing okay, someone else is always doing better. There’s always something/someone/somewhere that is better. And you better keep up, otherwise you’ll fall behind.
As a fed up millennial, I say to you this; don’t believe everything you see when your thumb is scrolling across the glass of your latest smart phone. Don’t lower your standards or ever feel inadequate in comparison to the show someone else is putting on for a digital audience. Don’t rush your life in an attempt to try to be something you’re not in the hopes of squeezing into the tight bubble society has created for you. If you’re old school, stay old school. If you’re unique..stay unique, we need more of you.
Wherever you are on your journey right now, whether you’re living the life you dreamed of or are wondering why the heck you can’t catch a break, trust that it’s exactly where you’re meant to be.
I believe that God has a plan for each of us and we are all destined to be something wonderful. Didn’t get that job you wanted? That’s because a better one is coming. That relationship didn’t work out? God is waiting for the right time to present the love of your life to you. That diet isn’t going so well, huh? Weight can always be lost. At least you have your health.
Believe in tradition and values, they never go out of style. Believe in the love your grandparents shared. Be different, think different. Smile in a photo because of how happy you truly are, not because of how happy you want people to think you are.
You will get to where you need to be on your own time, at your own pace. Log out, log off and live your life.