We’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, enjoying pictures of cute pets, friends, family, and beautifully plated meals, when it strikes. You catch a glimpse of someone’s epic globetrotting lifestyle, the obnoxiously happy couple, the parent with flawless style, the boss babe living her professional dreams, and fall deep into the comparison trap. You’ve been paid a visit by everybody’s least favorite green monster, and it feels lousy.
Jealousy is a part of life and social media can be its best conduit, but that doesn’t mean that you have to fall prey to it. At its core, comparison is driven by a feeling of insecurity about our own choices. In our modern world, we’re inundated with choice in a way that previous generations never experienced. To top it off, in the digital age, we also get to see all the choices we didn’t make, on display, in a 24 hour news cycle curated by everyone we’ve ever met. It can be overwhelming.
When I was younger, I fell into the comparison trap again and again. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I started this blog. In my day to day, I was passionately pursuing a career of my own design, training for marathons, kicking ass, and taking names. Yet at the end of the day, I’d scroll through Facebook and feel like a failure because I wasn’t traveling the world or starring in a Pinterest-perfect wedding. I would forget all about what I had chosen for my life and worry about all the paths I hadn’t chosen. At 25, I felt that I had limitless opportunity to both build an incredible life for myself, and completely f*ck it up. I was “drunk” on opportunity, and surmised that by sharing my messy attempt to live my best life (along with my doubts and stumbles), that I might just figure it out and help others to do the same.
Truthfully, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never “figure it out,” but I have learned quite a bit about how to thrive along the journey. Since social media isn’t going anywhere, improving our relationship with it can be pretty significant. One of the lessons I’ve learned, is to reframe the way I consume social media to minimize feelings of comparison. I’m excited to share these tactics with you today, and hope you’ll share yours in the comments below!
Remember it’s apples and oranges
No two lives are the same, and we are all at different places on the journey. To wit, your girlfriend’s yogi poses are amazing, while the height of your inversion practice might be legs up a wall. It’s all good. There’s a high probability that she has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to her yoga practice, while you might be hitting the mat once every other week, or be new to the practice. You’ve got different priorities or timelines at the moment, and therefore, different accomplishments. Don’t get down on yourself because your seventh priority isn’t as impressive as her first priority, or because your starting point is far from where she has already arrived.
Get real about your own filters
While there’s definitely been movement to get more “real” on social media, it’s still a curated presentation of our lives. The next time you find yourself pining over the life someone else is presenting, remember that it’s not the whole picture. Remember that photo you posted last week from your vacation in the Caribbean? The photo you carefully selected that captured all your best angles, then carefully applied a flattering filter, and posted it 3 months after the actual trip with the caption “dreaming of sunnier skies <3”? Somebody right now is feeling a little pang of jealousy over your gorgeous self on that amazing trip. Keep it in mind next time you’re thinking the grass might be greener elsewhere.
Revel in your own experiences
In many ways our own content on Facebook, Instagram and other social mediums are like scrapbooks. You’ve got photos, anecdotes, and notes from family and friends. In addition, as previously noted, you’ve curated much of that content in the rosiest light. Scrolling through your own content can remind you of how much goodness you have in your own life, how much you’ve accomplished, and hopefully inspire you to get focused on where you’re going.
Swap comparison for celebration
What would you say if I told you that your friend’s happiness effects your own happiness? No brainer, right? Of COURSE it does! Scientists have even studied this phenomenon and concluded that happiness is contagious [my choice of word, not theirs]. The happiness of the people you are connected with affects your own happiness. It’s science. Next time you’re comparing yourself to somebody else, swap the comparison for celebration. Not only will it feel better to be excited for someone, but now you can remind yourself that having thriving people in your network is great for you! If you have a hard time convincing yourself of this, try posting a celebratory comment on the post that’s making you feel green. Simply articulating a feeling of celebration will help you to internalize it.
Connect for real
Sometimes, when we’re feeling jealous it’s because we are feeling adrift or disconnected. Perhaps you’re not actually jealous of your friend’s fabulous new life in Los Angeles, maybe you just miss her. Maybe you’re feeling a little resentful towards someone who’s having incredible professional success in your dream career because you’re not sure how to take steps in that direction. In both of these cases, the root cause of your discontent can be addressed by connecting. Reach out to the friend you miss. Ask the one who’s rocking her career if she can give you some professional advice. Social media is designed to help us connect, but if we aren’t taking it beyond a post and a like, we’re missing the opportunity. Use it as a tool to build connections, share your joys and successes, and celebrate those you love and admire.
At the end of the day, if social media has become a comparison reel counter to your own life, it’s going to leave you miserable. Trust yourself and the path you are blazing for your life. It’ll give you the mental and emotional space to be excited for others when they’re able to do the same. Happy scrolling!