Your Life—Not The Lives Of Others
One of the worse illusions perpetrated by social media is that everyone is living a great life—except you. Posts announcing engagements, job promotions, and book contracts; selfies depicting exotic vacations, great parties, and joyful nights out; other pictures portraying loving couples, healthy children, and smiling, happy people everywhere. We are bombarded by these images day and night. Even at parties close friends and perfect strangers go on and on about the wonderful lives they lead.
I have come to think that a great deal of social interaction—virtual and otherwise—consists of mini-competitions in self-boosterism.
Most of what you see and hear about successes and achievements is not entirely accurate. You probably know this already, but you remain silent out of good manners. You don’t want to be known as a “hater”.
Your quiet skepticism does not rid you of the irritating feeling that everyone in your social circle has it better than you: better jobs, more popularity, better relationships, more sex—more of everything that you and the people you know see as valuable.
Don’t give into the feeling. Live your life, not the lives of others.
It seems like common sense. Being comfortable and confident in the path that you have taken toward success, living with the choices you’ve made as far as your profession and relationships, seems as though it is the easiest and most natural thing a person can do.
However, this is not the case. We covet. Envy and jealousy are our instinctive responses to the good fortune of the people around us. Indeed, our nature as humans is so perverse that the closer the friend or family member the greater the jealousy when we hear of their good fortune.
There is no use denying it. You know you have all felt it. All that is left is to acknowledge the feeling for what it is, and the best means of preventing it from overwhelming you is to put things into perspective.
First, announced achievements are rarely as life-changing or life-defining as they are made out to be. For example, I hear all the time about old friends who have gotten salaried positions in academia. This is usually followed by word that they have signed a book contract. It would be perfectly natural for me as a freelance writer whose only published novel, Tea with Maureen, has not sold well to envy such success. But then it occurs to me. The universities they have attached themselves to are rather obscure; they’ve still not even written a book, and by the time they do so I would have published 3; and they are forced to meet the demands of what amounts to an office job, whereas I remain free in how I organize my day.
And this brings me to my second point. Although your desire for money and material comfort is as great as anyone else’s, you know that there are different means of reaching such ends. It is also the case that you value other things besides security. I, for example, could never go back to an office job. I am therefore willing to make less money in order to have more freedom and flexibility in how I organize my life.
The bottom line is that you should not believe that the life you lead is inferior to the lives of others. It isn’t. You must pursue your aims and purposes; you must make the most out of your situation and circumstances.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.