All of us living in the digital age see a lot of photos like this one (that’s me in Central Park!) of people doing interesting things, looking happy, and overall experiencing things that we want.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, and online photo albums give us much more information about our extended network than ever before.
Today’s article touches on an undercurrent that I hear a lot of people dealing with- getting bummed from comparing our lives to other people’s lives.
Here are five and a half tips for handling “compare and despair” syndrome.
1) Realize that you’re never seeing the whole picture, and recognize that there’s no perfect place.
There are certainly nice moments in plenty of different life circumstances, but every phase of life also comes with its own distinct set of challenges.
Your friend from college who posted pictures of her new brood is probably also living on the edge of her patience in a sleep deprived state. Your new acquaintance who seems to have the most awesome job in the world is likely working long hours and yearning for a social life. The couple you know who are sharing photos of their new home may be starting to feel trapped by their mortgage.
You get the idea. Every blessing comes with consequences.
We have a tendency to share more of the good than the tough, but that doesn’t mean that the tough parts aren’t there too.
A photo of one instant will never represent the entirety of someone’s life.
1.5) And, similarly, everyone has good days and bad days. EVERYONE!
This was a phrase that I picked up as an absolute truth when I worked as a nanny. Kids have good days and bad days. Nannies have good days and bad days.
So do people in every other life situation. It’s just part of life.
No circumstantial change is going to eradicate this phenomenon. We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed every now and again.
2) Deep down you may not even want what you’re seeing. You’re likely resonating with an emotion.
When you see a friend’s accomplishment or an old acquaintance’s smiling wedding photos you may start to think, “I want that too! I want the accolades or the relationship.” Or whatever else it is you’re looking at.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll realize that what you’re really wanting is the emotion you imagine the other person is feeling. You want to feel proud or important or loved or connected.
This distinction is important. Before you begin pining away that you’ll never find the relationship, the job, or the perfect vacation you’re looking for, ask yourself, “What is it about this other person’s life that I want to be feeling?”
Then imagine ways to generate that feeling in your life today.
For example, if you want to feel proud of yourself you could take the time to acknowledge the difficult tasks you recently completed. If you want to feel connected you could reach out to a friend or family member.
The feeling state you desire is not locked away in one specific life situation. It’s available to you anytime anywhere.
3) Acknowledge the gifts that are in your life today.
You knew this one was coming. I bet if you took a conscious look at your life you’d find lots of things to be grateful for about today.
Try these questions.
What have I been taking for granted?
What are some of the gifts that are present in my life right now?
4) Take care of your physical state.
We’re all more likely to fall into “compare and despair” when we’re tired, hungry, or restless. If you notice yourself getting lost in the internet, take a moment to see if going to bed, eating, or taking a walk sound appealing. Log off and handle your basic needs to arrest the despair spiral in its tracks.
5) Keep your eyes on your own paper.
Spending lots of time oogling other people’s life situations distracts you from taking care of your own life. If you aren’t there to pay attention to your life, who is?
Consider- what could you do to improve your life this minute, this day, this year? Get to it.
When you’re immersed in your own life you’ll be far less likely to fall into the compare and despair syndrome.
I’d love to hear from you on this topic. Have you ever fallen into compare and despair? Which of these tips resonated with you? Or, what other strategy would you recommend? Leave a comment below!
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