I’m tempted to take a social media break. Most of the time I take in social media with a light-hearted stride, enjoying the pictures of fun events, familiar faces from across the country, hilarious videos, interesting business articles. But every now and again something I see stops me mid-scroll and makes me wonder if I am good enough.
It’s ridiculous, and yet social media can bring on feelings of flaw with the speed of the ultra-violet light that illuminates the app.
I shake off these feelings, knowing that “Comparison is the thief of joy” (attributed to Teddy Roosevelt, C.S. Lewis and a few others), but every now and again there is something - the accomplishment of a peer, the success of a former colleague or classmate - that will take up a considerable piece of mental real estate. In essence, I let my inner critic live rent-free in my head…with a megaphone.
I’m truly happy for friends and acquaintances who’ve reached important milestones in their lives and careers, so what’s up with the shame-bath? It’s a human thing. Clearly there are unrequited desires in me I wasn’t aware of (or giving enough attention to). These are the things I’ve discarded because I’m afraid of them, I’m ignoring them, they’re impractical or feel like they’re too far out of a reach for me. Rather than being flushed out of my system, my soul quietly gathered them up from the discard pile and gave them a home.
Comparison then is a “fail safe” for unrealized dreams, making sure you don’t count yourself down, out or label yourself as “not enough” – but it only works if you peel the layers of self-doubt and wade through the feelings of flaw to get to your desires underneath. It’s worth it; you’ll find those things you can’t let go of because they still have an important role to play in your life and career.
Here’s a look at the opportunities comparison can illuminate:
Listening to yourself is key to doing something constructive with comparison. This can include talking to someone you trust when you need more perspective or having a strategy for letting a thought go when it is not serving you (I like to visualize it written on a piece of paper and throwing it in the trash…if it comes back, I set it on fire…sounds simple and it works).
Social media has evolved over the years, and it’s important to keep in mind individuals post things about their best life and ideals, and corporations post things to make you buy into something (mentally or financially) you probably don't need. None of it is “real life”, and you need to filter for that (which may include taking a break from the medium).
Comparison can be the thief of joy – if you let it. It can also be the fertile ground from which you explore what you really want out of your life. Beyond the soul-gazing, please also know you have strengths and weaknesses and are evolving and learning (we all are), so be kind to yourself. Here’s one final visualization for you - popcorn is prepared in the same pot, in the same heat, in the same oil, and yet… the kernels do not pop at the same time. Do not compare your career to anyone else’s, we all “pop” when it’s our time.