We may be going about our business, and we come across a coworker, parent, writer, blogger, maybe even a stranger who seems to have it all. Maybe we get sucked into their social media feed (for an hour or hours). Maybe we see them at the park or at a party. This someone who has the perfect life, the perfect body, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect partner, the perfect home, the perfect sense of humor, the perfect skills. This someone always knows what to say. They always know what to do. They rarely make mistakes.
This makes us stop and put ourselves under a microscope, and suddenly the things we have don’t seem so shiny anymore. Suddenly, who we are doesn’t measure up. Suddenly, everything looks off. Suddenly, our home needs a makeover. Suddenly, we need a makeover. Suddenly, we second-guess and question everything.
I was recently reminded of the swampy, deep rabbit hole that comparison making can become in this powerful post by Erin Loechner, who’s one of my favorite bloggers. She writes:
I am no stranger to the comparison trap, not in the slightest. It’s a large portion of the reason I quit Facebook (well, there were many reasons there), and it’s a large portion of the reason I regulate my time in front of the screen. I’m prone to thinking everyone has it all figured out except for me, prone to thinking everyone has it all, period.
No one has it all.
I know this, I know this, I know this.
(Why do I not yet believe this?)
But on this quiet morning, as I sit braless with bedhead, it’s easy to see the girl with the elder-flower spritzer in NYC (actually, currently in France – need I say more?!) has it all.
All of us are susceptible to taking a person and assuming that their lives are flawless, while assuming that our lives are smudged, chipped and charred. Intellectually, we know this isn’t true. We know that everyone is flawed and lives imperfect lives. But it still doesn’t stop us from feeling bad. It doesn’t stop us from thinking we’re inadequate in comparison. It doesn’t stop us from wishing we were different somehow.
We also assume that happiness is limited, finite, fixed. As Erin writes, “And in my small mind, I twisted someone else’s happiness to mean there would be none left for me.”
Erin suggests we listen to our jealousy. She suggests we write about it and try to learn from it. She even suggests we thank it.
I agree. Acknowledge your feelings, without beating yourself up about them. Process them. Reflect. Jealousy, as painful as it is, can act as a teacher.
Ask yourself, “Why am I jealous? What about this person’s life is so appealing to me? (I want a home that’s a sanctuary. I want to have a job I love. I want to say no more often and more gracefully. I want to express myself through art. I want to work less. I want to slow down.) Do I really want what this person has? Or do I want to feel like this person seems to feel? (I want to feel ease. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin, too. I want to feel fulfilled, too.) Or did this person trigger my deep-seated self-doubt?” Because you can work on that. You can work on all of it.
And remember that someone else’s happiness does not negate or prohibit our own. Remember that social media gives only a glimpse into people’s lives. Remember that everyone struggles. Remember that your worth isn’t contingent upon anyone else’s anything. There’s more than plenty to go around.