If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.– Charles de Montesquieu
We just can’t stop comparing ourselves to each other. At school, you compare your grades to your friends (and if you’re from an African family ‘So and so got A so why did you get B?’ is all too familiar!), you wonder why you’ve hit puberty before/after your friends, university choices look better or worse depending on where your classmates are going…and this incessant competition doesn’t stop there. Being a twentysomething is stressful. None of us really know what we’re doing – have we chosen the right job, are we living in the right city, should we be in this relationship? Nobody can tell us the answer to these questions and so we fall into the old trap – comparing ourselves to others. If you rely on his method to assess how well you’re doing in life, you’ll never be happy. Here’s why.
Social Media Lies
We all know deep down that what we see of others on social media isn’t their real life – it’s the life they want everyone to think they have. We know this because we all do it! So why is it that when others seem to be doing ‘better than us’ or having ‘more fun than us’ on social, we take it as the truth? If you flick through my Instagram, it looks like I’m constantly out and about, loving life. And while that is partly true, what you can’t see the break up I went through recently or the insomnia that sometimes turns me into a zombie 💤 High social media use has recently been linked to depression, as “highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives”. Just remember to take everything you see online with a pinch of salt.
When you see an old friend, or even a current friend, and they say ‘everything is awesome’ they’re probably lying. Again, think about yourself. Perhaps your job isn’t quite going the way you want it to, you may be suffering a loss or illness, you may even be going through serious financial difficulties. How many of our friends have you shared this with? Unfortunately, we’re conditioned to always show ourselves as happy, successful women who don’t complain or let themselves give in to negative feelings. This is so unhealthy. In order to deal with negativity, we have to acknowledge it – and a big part of that is sharing it with those we love and trust. The next time you’re catching up with friends, share the truth of what’s going on in your life, not just the latest restaurant you ate out at…and you might find that, as well as being way more supportive than you imagined, they open up some wounds of their own.
You Do You Boo
I remember a while ago there was a week or two where it seemed everyone was getting engaged. ‘Everyone’ meaning about 5 people on Facebook, probably only 2 of them people I could actually call friends. I threw a hissy fit claiming I was going to die alone. My best friend’s response – ‘would you really want to get married right now?’ Me, indignantly: ‘Maaaaybe’. Her response: ‘Okay, would you want to get married to any of those men?’ Point taken. You might think others have their lives sorted because they have the perfect job, perfect fiancée, they’ve just bought a house, they’re jetting off on holiday. But do you actually want any of that? Of course we’d all love to be flying to Barbados but what have they given up to do that? Or who is buying that holiday for them? Or are they flying to Barbados with the weight of the world on their shoulders? We all know the much quoted ‘be yourself, everybody else is taken’ and, especially in this world of obsessive celebrity culture, we need to keep reminding ourselves of this.
We all have baggage
There’s an American TV show called Baggage. It’s a dating show, where each contestant has three suitcases; small, medium and large. In each, is a card stating a piece of ‘baggage’ they have – the size of the suitcase corresponding to the seriousness of the baggage. It could be anything from ‘I have 3 children by 2 baby mamas’ to ‘I’m $500,000 in debt’. As well as being a hilarious show (obvs, it’s hosted by Jerry Springer) it also drives home an important point. Everyone has their own baggage. Everyone has their own s*** to deal with. If you’re too busy looking at what other people have and wishing you were them, your s*** will not get dealt with. Focus on yourself, set your goals based on what you want to achieve and how best you can do it, and go get it girl.
Do you struggle with comparing yourself to others too much? What’s your advice for overcoming it?