Sometimes it seems as if everybody in the world, or at least those in our immediate circle, are doing so much better than us. These people seem to have fulfilling relationships, better jobs, well behaved attractive kids, more money, better looking bodies, etc. All you have to do is log into Facebook and be bombarded with everyone’s successes. And if not success, it certainly feels like everybody else is having so much more fun than we are. After viewing endless pics of new and/or seemingly wonderful relationships, posts about new jobs, and social events, it’s easy to log out feeling unhappy about your lot in life.
And it doesn’t have to be just social media. Sometimes we look at our friends, families, and co-workers and feel envious. I think we can all think of a person or two that we are super envious of. We might think this person is just super lucky and everything they do seems to turn out well, while we feel like a failure. We think about the ways that we feel our life is lacking and all the things that we want but can’t seem to ever get. We may even feel like everyone else is doing something right that we just don’t know how to do.
These feelings are more common that you are probably aware of. But I’d like to disrupt these thought patterns because they make us feel bad about ourselves and like we are less than others. Here are some ways to fight feelings of inadequacy when comparing yourself to others:
1. Remember that what you are seeing and hearing is a snapshot in time.
Think about the pictures you have in your possession. Scroll through your phone gallery if you have to. Flip through a photo album. Pick a picture that you remember taking. Reflect on the day you took it. Think about what happened immediately before the picture was snapped and afterwards. Think about what was going through your mind when the picture was taken. Now ask yourself, does the picture show all of that? The answer is NO! A picture reflects the one second the shutter opens and closes and nothing more. Does that lessen the value of the picture? No. But it puts it into perspective.
When we see people who seem to have all the things we want, remember that we are only witnessing a moment in time in their life and that things were not always this way and that things constantly change. Think about the “lottery curse.” We may be envious of someone who just won a multi-million dollar lottery. We may think “Wow, if I won the lottery all my problems will be solved.” But the truth is that people often don’t lose all their problems, they just have new and different problems. And what we know about lottery winners is that often times, long after the infamous pictures with the huge checks are taken, lottery winners often end up losing all of their money, suffering from depression, and losing friends, and sometimes even worse. But we don’t see that or think about that at the moment of the win. All we see is someone’s good fortune which tends to remind us of the ways in which we had more or better.
But having and keeping perspective matters.
2. Remember that people only tell us/show us what they want us to know.
A couple of years ago, a co-worker who I didn’t know very well asked me to have drinks and appetizers after work with her. We chose a popular after work spot, but since we had gotten out of work in the early afternoon there weren’t many people in the restaurant yet. It was a pretty slow afternoon and except for us and a large group of European tourists who happened to be sitting just behind us, the restaurant was pretty empty. But as soon as we ordered our drinks my co-worker started snapping pictures of the cocktails and the tourists behind us. Less than than 15 minutes after our arrival, she began posting these pictures of our outing on Instagram. And in the pictures, it really looked like we were having the time of our lives. People immediately began “liking” and commenting on the pics with things like “I wish I was there!,” and “Next time take me too!” If I wasn’t sitting there in that moment and had only seen the pictures she posted I would have thought the same things. But the truth of the matter was we didn’t know each other very well, had just happened to stop in a pretty slow restaurant for a quick drink before we individually went about our business.
I share this story to drive the point that people tend to show us what they want us to see and in the way they want us to see them. People do PR for themselves. People readily share the things they think will elicit positive responses from other people. And I don’t write this to make you skeptical of everyone or to insinuate that everybody is untruthful, but more to remind you that there are other things that go on in people’s lives that they do not take pictures of, post or share with others. For example, people don’t take pictures during the moment they get dumped or rejected by their significant other, or at the moment when they get fired, or when they get turned down for a loan due to bad credit, or in the countless other ways that they are disappointed. That would be unflattering (and not to mention kinda weird). But these disappointing moments happen to all of us. Keep this in mind when getting down on yourself when someone is sharing their success and fun.
3. Be genuinely happy for others when good things happen for them.
Achieving success, happiness, and good fortune is not a competition. When one person gets something, it does not mean that there is less for you.
When we hear and see other people sincerely enjoying life, the best thing to do is to be genuinely happy about their good fortune. Being happy for others is fully recognizing that success and happiness is possible for everyone. When positive emotions abound, it increases the chances that more positive things will happen.
Have you ever been in a good mood and smiled at someone, maybe even a stranger, just because you couldn’t contain the positive emotions inside of you? I confess that this happens to me often. Nine times out of ten what happens is that the other person smiles back or shares something they normally would not have. I’ve gotten free tickets, discounts, and one time even a free microwave (but that’s a whole other story.)
But anyway, the point is that when positive energy exists for one person and you openly and honestly share the happiness of the moment, it opens you up to experience positive energy as well. And if for no other reason, choosing happiness is almost always a better alternative to choosing bitterness and resentment. Because remember, we choose our thoughts and actions. And bitterness and resentment will not bring good fortune to us.
4. Appreciate all that is you. Remember there is something about you that people envy.
No matter what your status is in life, there are people who are envious of it. For example, single people might envy the security and love that they think married people experience, while married people might envy the options and freedom that they think single people experience. People with kids might be envious of the lack of responsibility and freedom that think people without kids have, while people without kids might be envious of the bonds they think parents have with their children. Have you ever looked at picture of yourself from the past and thought, “Man, I remember those days. That was a good time.”? But if we are honest with ourselves and really think back to the “good old days” of the picture we can remember all of the problems and concerns we had too. Looking at high school pictures you might remember how you couldn’t wait to have freedom and be on your own and how things were going to be so much better once you were an adult. Now as an adult you can look back and wish again for those carefree days.
And so regardless of what you have or don’t have, how old you are, or what your status is, it is helpful to keep in mind that where you are right now is o.k. And furthermore, remember that things change and you are in one snapshot in time. Everyone gets older. People who are single will not always be single. People who are married or in a relationship will not always be. Children grow up and move away. People with jobs become unemployed and/or find new jobs. Unemployed people find jobs. People lose weight and gain weight.
Given that every situation is enviable in some way, I think it is most satisfying to acknowledge what you have and don’t have at this very moment, be super appreciative of it, and make the most of it. Celebrate and revel in where you are and what you have today. The grass is already lush and green right under your beautiful feet.