If it seems like you’re the only one on social media that isn’t living your best life, you’re not alone. These social platforms have become a competition to display one’s life successes, leaving many like myself a little panicked. However, these feelings of panic and inadequacy are based on a virtual illusion.
As the post states above: “Don’t let the internet rush you. No one is posting their failures,” and this is true. Now I don’t normally take advice from someone’s Facebook post, but I believe taking this message to heart is important. The reality is that failures are inevitable; everyone is going to be a hot mess at one point and time. Thus, entertaining the idea that everyone else has their life together but you is about as toxic and unrealistic as Fox News.
Now, if you believe that I am preaching a load of self-acceptance bullshit, I am, but please hear me out. A while ago I was distraught about my academic situation (well maybe I still am). I had decided to change my program late which would force me to be in school longer than I hoped. Being set back, I had to watch while all my friends were getting good jobs, moving in together, and travelling around the world while I was stuck in school crying over projects at 4 in the morning. It stung when I glanced at social media. I would see family, friends, and acquaintances living what appeared to be their best life: exciting vacations, weight loss transformations, new romances, and establishing careers. And I would think: “why I am the only one struggling?”
However, what I failed to miss is that everyone posts their victories and gloss over their misery or mistakes. Behind these picturesque posts are untold stories of some other aspect of people’s lives which are crumbling to pieces or are simply nonexistent. For example, many people that go on glamorous vacations do so in order to escape jobs they despise; many couples who always post about their undying love for each other ironically fight a lot; and many people with prestigious jobs gain them by sacrificing important relationships.
I am not broadcasting these situations to get joy out of other’s misery. My main goal is to provide context to drive home the point that misery, failures and the feeling of “being behind” are not exclusive to you. Everyone experiences them. Social media is a useful platform, but it’s one in which we use to impress people and gain likes by posting our best moments. Therefore, it helps create a mindset that everyone else is in an internal state of happiness and success which is so far from the truth.
When we buy into this “virtual perfection culture” it becomes very easy to feel consistently inadequate. And even if we do succeed in becoming the envy of others, it is only temporary. We have all witnessed those perfect individuals who really prided themselves on “having it together” go downhill. And believing in “getting what you deserve” makes things worse because it implies your failures and victories are entirely your own making. Believing in this construct makes it really hard to accept your current situation and leaves you in an anxiety-ridden state. So needless to say, when shit really hits the fan, it’s best to accept that everyone’s been there and you will get out of it.
Another notable point is that success is defined by all individuals differently and, furthermore, makes it very subjective to compare amongst ourselves. This is why I consider it to be counterproductive to compare and beat yourself up over how others perceive your life and vice versa. Comparisons cause an immense amount of self-loathing for essentially no reason. Not saying that I haven’t fallen victim to the same feelings many times; we all have. However, at some point, we have to realize the self-loathing has become enough and that our concerns are self-perpetuated.
I am not going to pretend I am the Dalai Lama and bestow some magical wisdom upon you, but I will give you my opinion: we need to stop giving such a shit about being perfect on the internet and in person. My rationale is that social media isn’t going anywhere; changing how we interact with the with these social media platforms really doesn’t get to the heart of the problem either. It’s giving up this pursuit of perfection and not feeling guilty about it. We worry so much about impressing others with how happy we are that sometimes we forgot to, well, learn to be happy. So maybe the next time we start feeling embarrassed about our lives we can remember to stop trying to live up to someone’s else’s dream and start living our own. It’s cheesy, but it’s the truth.