Full disclosure, I didn’t have a great picture for today, so here’s one of Jonah that makes me smile.
OK, it took longer than I anticipated to get these four lies out. I suppose the timeline I had in mind was just another to a long list of lies… but if you need to catch the first three, you can find them here: part 1, part 2, and part 3. Which brings us to the final lie (for now, anyway):
I am the only one who feels this way.
Now, I know we are quick to blame social media for constantly showing us glimpses of other “picture perfect” lives. And yes, to an extent, the general public *may* tend to post highs rather than lows, but here’s what I have found. When I’m feeling bad about myself and I’m scrolling through my timeline, I barely give a second glance to the posts that say “today is hard, I need a hug!” I zero in on anything that looks shiny and glittery, anything that makes someone else’s life look perfect compared to my own. But this isn’t even the trickiest thing my brain does: let’s say someone posts a picture of a a family fun day. All of the kids are smiling, everyone looks like they’re getting along, and I manifest this whole story about how this family is better at family time than I am. I read so much into one tiny image that I have suddenly put this picture on a pedestal that I can’t reach. And it doesn’t matter if this family’s very next post is about a baby who never, ever sleeps or a stress overload. I don’t see those. I only see the good.
When people tell you to see the good in other people, this isn’t what they mean.
Or it shouldn’t be.
What do we say 75% of the time when someone asks, “hey, how are you?” “Fine!” “Good!” “Great!” “Can’t Complain!” So when I ask someone how they are, if I only ever hear “good!” I think: I’m the only one who isn’t good. I’m the only one who doesn’t have a cute family picture online right now. I’m the only one who hasn’t showered in four days and has really stretched the power of dry shampoo to the max. Look. I know it isn’t easy to say “actually, everything sucks and I’m really stressed, how are you?” And, you know what? I also know that sometimes things are just good. And you should be able to tell that to people without having some sort of survivor’s guilt for being in a good place.
And so, here’s my radical proposal to stop this lie: just stop. I know. It’s easier said than done. But still —
Stop the comparison. Your life is your life, and you’re doing it better than anyone else can do your life.
Stop the fantasies. Other people don’t have the picture-perfect life you assign them in your mind. Remember everyone else is as real and raw and fragile as you are, when it comes down to it.
Stop setting impossible standards. Treat yourself kindly. Treat yourself like your own child if you have to; make goals that make sense for the person you are in the stage you’re in.
Stop trying. OK, hear me out. This one sounds like basically the opposite of most self-help advice, but here’s what I mean: stop trying to be something new all the time. Stop thinking “if I can do THIS (eat paleo, run a marathon, learn a new language, etc), THEN I’ll be good.” You’re good now. Stop trying to be “better” and start being who you are meant to be.
I’ve talked to lots of human beings, and if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s this: absolutely no one has everything figured out. You may admire certain people, and this isn’t bad on its own, but when you forget that you’re admiring qualities — portions — not a whole — that’s when you run into trouble.
This isn’t a lie that can be overturned by changing how we use social media. It isn’t a problem that can be solved by giving every simple greeting a thirty-minute therapy session on our deepest life issues. Rather, it involves looking at yourself with clear, unbiased eyes (as unbiased as possible anyway, because they’re your eyes so… just roll with me, here). Don’t let someone else’s victory equate to your own failure. Acknowledge the fact that you’re on different journeys, with different milestones, and it isn’t a competition.
But all of this isn’t even the very best way to stop this lie. All you need to do is accept the fact that it is one. Think of the most “perfect” person you know — the person you wish you could be. GUESS WHAT? They get overwhelmed. They feel inadequate. They make mistakes. EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY — EVERY SINGLE WAY — SOMETIMES. When we compare similarities instead of differences, we find our degrees of separation are much closer than we think.
So, hey. Whatever lies you’re telling yourself? Recognize that’s what they are. If you can’t see the truth alone, talk to other people. Don’t be so afraid to show some of your mess, because other people have mess, too. They do. It doesn’t have to be the same as yours to be real.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:32