The world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you.
There have been some thoughts percolating in my brain for some time now, but a few recent events have cause the percolation to – how shall I say it – spill over? Today’s post is written from an honest and vulnerable place, with the hopes that it will encourage all of us – myself included – to be a little smarter and stronger as we consume social media. Heck, this isn’t limited to social media. You could apply this to life in general. Let’s just say this is post about how we tend to measure ourselves against other people, regardless of what form that measuring rod might be (social media, jean size, income, etc), and how we will always fall short in that sort of comparison.
No one is perfect, so stop thinking that they are.
No matter what it is you are picking out about someone else’s life and using to deem them so “special” or “perfect,” I promise you, perfect is not real. Stop it. Stop it right now.
Sure, other people can be skinner than us. Have more money than us. And be really good at the things they are pursuing. But I promise you that no human on this earth is exempt from experiencing heartache, pain, or struggle. If you look at someone’s Instagram photos of their fun night out with friends and start to bemoan how perfect their life is and how much your’s sucks because you ate alone last night then all I can say is – honey, tighten up.
We have to smarten up. Toughen up. And stop being so self indulgent. And that truly is what it comes down to. We pick out everyone else’s highlights and compare them to our struggles and feel sorry for ourself. And guess what? Everybody loses when we do that.
We all get caught up in this. Call it FOMO – the fear of missing out. Call it comparison. (Didn’t someone say that is the thief of all joy?) Call it whatever you like. At the end of the day, it’s just plain stupid and it’s not taking responsibility for our own emotional intelligence.
We have a responsibility, as humans, for our own well being. I’m a little tired of people posting well intentioned but unnecessary apologies for sharing the things they love with others. And I’m not just talking about social media, although that is of course one source. This happens in ordinary conversation, too.
We feel like we have to give all these caveats about how our life isn’t perfect when in reality, shouldn’t we all just KNOW that? I mean seriously, as human beings, how can we all be so stupid to actually think that someone else is better than us just because they shared a good moment with us?
Their promotion, weight loss, fun vacation does not diminish the good things in our life…unless we let it!
I’m reading a book, The Happiness Dare, that talks about happiness shaming and it is so powerful. In the book, the author talks about how it can be scary to be happy because people instantly get so defensive and resentful. Um. Yes!
We’ve all been there, on both sides of the equation. We have been the one sharing our happiness and having someone else bring their rain clouds to the party, and we have all certainly been the rain clouds.
I’ve been thinking about two important truths that I think will help us all mature in our emotional intelligence, become smarter consumers of social media, and perhaps most importantly – learn how to share in other’s happiness instead of shame them.
1.) Recognize our own entitlement.
This is a tough one. But why do we assume we are all entitled to the same experience? We see or hear about other people working hard at something they love – usually something we aren’t applying the same level of dedication to – and we begrudge them their success or progress. Examples:
We get depressed about other people’s weight loss when they’ve been diligent and we have not.
We are jealous of other people’s success at work when we know they apply more work and longer hours than we do.
We get catty over the passions that other people make time for, but we do not.
Basically, we take the things that people love and pour their hearts and souls into pursuing and achieving, and we feel bad about ourselves that we haven’t accomplished the same things — when we haven’t even tried. Do you see how silly that is? Why would we compare ourselves in such an irrational way?
Take this one, from my own story, for example: I tend to compare myself to people who are doing the best of the best in whatever area I’m working on. Sure, I might have to do yoga on my own at home because that is all my schedule allows. But I compare myself to my friends who are yoga instructors and are in the studio literally every day. Taking classes. Teaching classes. Getting physical assists and instruction.
I am not entitled to their level of success because I have not committed to their level of dedication.
When we compare our our behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel, we steal their hard earned accomplishments while simultaneously beating ourselves up by an unrealistic standard.
Do you see how ridiculous that is? It’s a recipe for disaster, yet we all do it. I’m comparing my stark reality to an unreality and then crying when the two don’t match up. And then the crying turns into bitterness, negativity, and jealousy.
I don’t want that, and I’m sure you don’t either!
We should all be able to share the good parts of ourselves without having to start with a disclaimer of “I know this looks really awesome, but it’s just because I’ve been working so hard at it. And don’t think that this makes me perfect! I might have made a great dinner for my family tonight but I haven’t washed our sheets in weeks!”
Seriously. Let’s start cheering each other on, knowing that we all face hard stuff – so yay for you that you didn’t let the hard stuff in your life get in the way of _______ (you fill in the blank next time someone tells you something awesome they did. 😉 )
2.) Allow ourselves to be inspired.
I think this is an important take away for this conversation. We are going to see people accomplish things that we can’t do, or experience things that we haven’t done. Sometimes, there will be nothing we can do about it. For instance. There is nothing I can do about the fact that I have never left the country. I’m dying to travel, but traveling isn’t like a diet. There is no “16 days to flatter abs and a trip to Italy!” (I mean, if there is, someone PLEASE tell me.”
But there are a lot of times when people share their happiness with us that – instead of feeling entitled that we don’t have the same thing – we can turn it into inspiration!
Someone cook a great meal? Ask them for the recipe and then do the prep work that goes into meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.
Someone lose weight? Ask them how, and then create your own plan for eating better and getting more exercise.
Someone have a skill that you think you might enjoy? Ask them how they got started and then formulate your own game plan for developing that same skill in your own life.
But in case you missed it, the important thing about all this comes back to the first point – most people work really hard for the good things in their life. So we can’t just go around feeling sorry for ourselves when we don’t have those same things. But we can allow ourselves to feel inspired and then get to work!
And those people that look like they have the world handed to them on a silver platter? I’ll let you in on a few little secrets. It takes a lot of work to look that way. They still experience pain. They still aren’t perfect. And you should know better than to think that they are.
calling out the good
I’ve committed to calling out the good in others, because I don’t ever want people to feel afraid to share their happiness with me. I want them to know that I see the things they’ve worked hard at and the wonderful unexpected things that just came their way – I see it ALL – and I’m just so dang happy for them. Why? Because their life isn’t about me, and making it so will just make me miserable and destroy relationships.
In The Happiness Dare, Dukes-Lee says “Shared light is a double light.” I love that. I want people to be able to share their happiness with me and – not quench it with my resentment or jealousy – but allow the light of their happiness to be doubled by my happiness for them!
And truth me told, I want others to do that for me. I’m going to be super honest with you. It’s hurtful when people are resentful of the simple things that I love and work so hard at to include in my life. For example, I work really hard at cooking, and I enjoy it! I don’t think it makes me better than you if you don’t cook. Why would that even be a thing? That reveals much more about your own opinion about yourself then it reveals about me. Truthfully, all our insecurities work that way.
When we allow comparison to invade our hearts and minds, it starts to fester and turn into jealous, bitterness, gossip, and discontent. That colors our opinion of ourselves and others. So the next time someone says something snotty about the awesome thing that you are rocking and working so hard at? Know that it’s about them – not you – and get back to rocking your bad self.
Dukes Lee shares a Native American legend that I think is incredibly powerful and will help us as we wrap up this discussion.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I’m not suggesting that we stop scrolling social media. I’m not suggesting that you stop hanging out with people who appear to have it “all together.” That would only diminish our emotional intelligence. I’m asking us to buck up! Toughen up! And smarten up! And start feeding the right wolf!
Friends, when we compare ourselves to others – whether we use realistic measuring rods or not – we are feeding the wrong wolf. You will only end up getting your hand bit off. Capture your thoughts before they run rampant and wreak havoc on your hearts and minds (and relationships!)
For me, it’s important to feed the right wolf by first of all, honoring the individual life and story that God has give me. I need to stay in my own story. (Interestingly enough, The Happiness Dare taught me so much about this! Read this book you guys!) And then, I need to honor the individual life and story that God has give you. I want to cheer you on in your happiness and good things of life.
Because shared light, is a double light.