Last Sunday, Jonny and I got up early to ride our bikes on one of our favorite routes, twice around Roosevelt Island. It was warm but not sticky and breezy but not windy – a perfectly gorgeous morning.
On our ride we passed a few other people out on the Island, either fishing or sitting by the water drinking coffee.
As we rode past them, I felt envious. I thought, Oh, look at them, they’re already up so early and enjoying their Sunday. These people really have it together. I never have it together!
Do you do this too? Do you take part in the insanity of thinking that everyone else has it better than you? A mindfuck so ridiculous that it makes you… envy people out early enjoying their Sunday that you’re only observing because you are, um, out early enjoying your Sunday?
Why We Compare
In many ways, this whole compare-and-despair behavior is just a manifestation of that totally unsatisfying-yet-keeps-us-growing part of being a human being – that we always want more.
And I mean, believing that someone else has it better than us is more palatable than coming face to face with the inevitable struggle of life. Telling yourself that someone else has it so EASY means that you wouldn’t have to deal with pain and challenges no matter what, you’re just unlucky.
I love the internet, but man oh man is it a breeding ground for feelings of inadequacy. There is just no way it’s healthy to spend hours a day observing the deeply edited existence of others.
How could you not go into a comparison fit when you’re looking at a picture of some acquaintance of yours sitting around with a bunch of people with cool swoopy hair, and they’re all laughing hysterically, above a caption that says something nauseating like “I LOVE MY LIFE”? And just to add insult to injury, thanks to Instagram these people are all in frigging SEPIA TONE, jacking them up at least two levels on the good looking scale.
There was significantly less focus on mental health and self help in our grandmothers’ generation. I bet that part of the reason why is because it was just not as necessary, given their lack of access to pictures of skanks they went to high school with happily frolicking on the beach with their children.
How to Deal
Let’s get you away from this bullshit and back to appreciating your life, shall we?
Focus on the areas where you are a superstar genius. No one ever has it together in every aspect of life at one time. Happy people just know how to keep themselves focused on where they are superstars, and not get too freaked out by the areas that challenge them.
I think that is actually a lot of what we see in the social media world – it’s not that people are lying about how good they have it, it’s that we’re only seeing one teeny tiny side to the story. Your acquaintance with the laughing sepia-toned swoopy-haired friends… she really does have great friends. However, a more in-depth caption for her picture would say “I LOVE MY LIFE… BUT MY BOYFRIEND HAS ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION”.
I guarantee you’ve got some areas where you are on top of the world, where other people would KILL to have the talents/luck/skills that you do. Maybe you have no job, but a wonderful relationship. Maybe you’re single, but you’ve got lots of close girlfriends who adore you. Maybe you have no friends, but you smell fantastic.
Sometimes weaker areas are just weak because you’ve chosen to focus your time and energy in other areas… which is totally fine! Keep your vision squarely focused on what is awesome about your situation. I bet that over time you’ll find yourself energized to channel that awesomeness into other areas of your life, too.
Make the most of your jealousy. Turn that crap into some jealousy lemonade. Envy can be a massive energy- and soul-sucker; but there’s another side to it – it beautifully illustrates what your heart is yearning for with just enough pissiness to give you the zippity pow to get the job done.
This is not very classy, but I would not have this blog if I hadn’t been so seethingly jealous upon discovering healthy living bloggers who made a full-time living taking pictures of their breakfast.
I was so pissed off! How the hell were these girls making money writing about their sneakers while I was slaving away at a job I hated? I envied, I whined, I lamented the general intelligence of our culture for consuming this garbage. And then I started by own blog.
Let your envy carry a message of “This person is showing me where I want to improve and change” rather than “This person is showing me where I am a colossal failure as a human being.”
Compare yourself to you, and that’s it! Someone very wise once told me “You can’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides”.
With your own life, you know all the gross ins and outs, from the diarrhea you had last night to this morning when you gave your hairdresser a hug when she was just trying to remove your smock. There is no way you can contrast that your very real human experience and complex emotions with the surface level, curated existence that someone else shows you.
And the cold, hard truth is that some people really DO have a leg up on you, and they were born into money or genius intellect or with a really nice rack. Comparing yourself to them is useless!
I’ll tell you what’s not useless, though – comparing your current state to where you’ve been. You’ve been there with yourself every step of the way, you know intimately what battles you’ve fought and challenges you’ve overcome. Maybe compared to your friend who got a promotion this year, it doesn’t look like you’ve done much; but you know that because you dealt with a family member’s illness that just getting up and going to work every day was a huge victory. See what I mean?
The Moral of the Story
Don’t you worry, everyone feels like shit about something! Your life is messy and precious, and to comparing it to someone else’s sepia-toned constructed display wastes valuable energy you could spend on living it better.
P.S. Also, you never know who just had diarrhea last night.
P.P.S. I LOVE MY LIFE.