There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the plummeting self-esteem of so many teenagers and young adults.
The culprit, in large part, is an endless loop of comparing themselves to others. Social media streams are a floodgate of seemingly perfect lives.
Perfect relationships, vacations, clothes, make-up, jobs, cars, opportunities, and dates. Perfect everything. With or without the fancy filters.
It’s no wonder so many people are caught in a wake of inadequacy, feeling less than with every scroll.
But let’s be honest. It’s not only the youngsters who allow themselves to be wrangled into the social media comparison trap.
Those of us with way more life experience and, in theory, way more common sense often do the same thing. We feel less than as we scroll through our social media streams, holding up our mediocre or heartbreaking or ho-hum circumstances to the dream we believe everyone else is living.
Perfect marriages. Perfect kids. Perfect finances. Perfect lives. No filter needed to convince us everyone else our age is floating through life on the back of a unicorn, eating filet mignon and lobster, and watching their kids win yet another award for being… well… for being perfect at something.
So how do we stop feeling so crappy about all this? How do we resist being so easily lured into the comparison cycle?
3 Ways to Stop Feeling Less Than When Looking at Social Media
1. Remember that social media is the photo album, not the whole roll of film
Wow. I’m dating myself here. Remember back in the day when we actually had to use film in a camera to capture life?
Then we had to wait patiently, sometimes up to a week, for the film to be developed so we could actually see the 12, 24 or 36 images. (Just trying to comprehend those low numbers is mind boggling now, right?! Your entire vacation captured in 2 rolls of film at the most. 72 images tops. Boy how times have changed).
And then what happened? You realized quickly that some of the photos sucked. Blurry. Chopped off heads. The flash didn’t go off. People had their eyes closed. What did you do with those subpar prints? You either threw them away or threw them in a box. Generally speaking, the only photos making it into a photo album or being shown off to others or being given to grandma and grandpa were the photos that actually looked good.
Social media nowadays is a lot like that. It’s like showing only the photos that made the cut; only the pretty ones we want people to see. But that doesn’t mean there were never any images or experiences that sucked.
Yes, there are people who have absolutely no discernment and they put all the crap out there in their feed—the good, the bad, the ugly. But the majority of us? Yeah, overwhelmingly the majority of us want others to see only the pretty stuff. Only the well-lit, in focus, perfectly-composed moments of our life.
And just as you get depressed or drool with envy over what others are posting of their “perfect” life, that’s what some people are doing when they look at what you post. When we remember this, we gain a more realistic perspective. We are way less mesmerized or tempted to long for someone else’s life.
My photo albums from when I was a child show a smiling happy family and squeaky clean birthday parties and festive Christmas mornings. There are no images capturing the heartache of my parents’ divorce. Or the time we lost everything in a bankruptcy. Or the day my cousin—my first playmate—was buried after drowning in an apartment complex swimming pool.
Everybody has hard messy stuff in their life. Everybody. Keep that in mind. Humble yourself. Stop buying into the lie that there are perfect lives.
2. Limit the time you spend gazing at the screen
Yes, I know. You say you don’t spend much time on social media. But it’s been proven over and over that the majority of us significantly underestimate the amount of time we actually do spend. Five minutes turns into 15 turns into 50 before we know it.
Think of all the times you look at Facebook or Instagram or Twitter… in waiting rooms, while standing at the coffeeshop, at your kid’s sporting event, when you’re eating lunch at your desk, or while you’re killing time before a boring meeting starts.
I’m not a math person by a long shot, but I can do the math on this one. The less time I spend on social media, the more realistic I am about life. And not just about my life, but about everyone’s life. It gets me nowhere to compare my life to someone else’s circumstances.
If you dial back the amount of time you’re out there gazing, you’ll have less exposure to the comparison trap.
3. Build authentic in-person friendships
I can’t tell you the number of times I have thought someone else’s life is free of difficulty. And then I sit down and have coffee or lunch with them. And in a raw and authentic and beautiful way of doing life, we commiserate over the struggles in both of our lives.
Nothing beats authentic friendship to keep us humble and aware. Authentic friendship equips us to love well and to be loved well during the joys. And during the trials. The squeaky clean birthday parties. And the kids puking up cake. The weddings and vacations and girls’ nights. And the car accidents and tragic illnesses and business failures. The state championship that ended well. And the struggling teenagers. The in-laws who were surprisingly good house guests. And the family Christmas that was a train wreck. All of it.
If you want to wean yourself from the allure of gazing at the perfect lives presented on social media, then start doing real life with a few genuine friends.
Enough already with feeling less than and comparing ourselves with others. Collectively, we can take back so much of the ground we’ve given away.
For more reading on this topic, check out 3 Things to Do if You Envy Someone Else’s Marriage.
And I have a 5 video series available on building better sex in your marriage. Great way to invest in your marriage! You can find out all about it at this link: Better Sex in Your Christian Marriage.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.