Me comparing myself to strangers is nothing new.
When I was a kid, I became obsessed with characters in movies, books, and TV. And when I was old enough to realise they weren’t real people, I became obsessed with the actors who portrayed them. And once I was old enough to realise they weren’t real people, I… uh, yeah. I was still obsessed with them. When I was about 10 or 11, I discovered my mom’s high school year books, and became fixated with people in the pages, imagining what their lives were like, giving them back stories and pairing them off. I loved other people’s photo albums, other people’s year books, for the same reasons. And when I became a young adult and blogs and social media became not just A thing but THE thing, it was like realtime photo albums and year books – but for real people. Seemingly real people in my stratosphere.
I just liked learning about other people’s lives. And what came along with that, rather insidiously, was endless comparison. What me and my life looked like stacked against every one else’s.
You guys, I’m in my 30’s now and nothing about the above has changed. In fact, it’s only gotten worse. Thanks to social media, I’m
always often distracted by Other People’s Lives to the point where it’s detrimental to my own sense of self (says my therapist).
People on the internet have it all together. There’s nothing like perfectly imperfect curated feeds with consistent, matching over exposed and slightly pink but not obviously pink filters; lovely and perfect pastel or colorful and gold tone sparsely placed flat lays; homes with elegant but casual decor – the effortless but unattainably chic blend of “quirky” knick-knaks and high end modern furnishings and beautifully “messy” rooms; “I woke up like this” artfully tossled or thrown up hair seflies; impossibly organised pantries with chalkboard labels and mason jar storage in copper wire baskets; perfectly comfortable, perfectly ripped and perfectly rolled jeans with amazing shoes; blasè mentions of brilliant careers or stay at home mom projects; workspaces with industrial stationery and expensive technology; kids that will be smarter, funnier, and better dressed than you or yours will ever be; outings with friends that will be 800% more joyful than anything you’ll ever do with your friends; captions that are effortlessly funny or ridiculously relevant with well timed emojis, hashtags as punchlines only; and 678 likes in 24 mins to make me feel like I need to throw out my life and start over. That make me overthink 99% of all my posts. That make me second-guess what I actually want, what I actually like, where I’m going with my life.
Before I know it, I’ve wasted 3 hours of my life falling into a black hole of Instagram posts and Pinterest boards trying to curate a life that I think I really need and want — because @put_together_pipers_mama decorated her room in blush pink and pastel geometric shapes with deer heads and natural wood furniture and damn that looks good on her post so now I’m convinced I need ALL THE THINGS even though I know in my deepest heart of hearts that I don’t own pastel, geometric, marble based ANYTHING because it makes me gag.
But shit, it’s hard not to fall prey to comparison when every time you open a social media app, you’re inundated with people’s high light reels. And people’s poetically phrased fail-reel. Because once you think someone is better than you, even they even seem to fail or fall on hard times, they’re doing it better than you. And it all can make you feel like a wet fart.
Humans are social creatures. We compare ourselves to each other because want, nay need to be liked (this is another soothing bit from my therapist). But what’s happening lately is we’re becoming so consumed with comparison that we’re losing sight of ourselves, with what brings us joy (thanks, doc). So whenever I’m drowning in Not Good Enough, I have to remind myself that these people have shit in their life, too. And not glamorous shit. But real, every day, life draining shit.
They’ve let the laundry pile up for 3 or more weeks.
They’ve spent $200 on groceries just to come home and order $75 worth of pizza.
They’ve waited 3 or more weeks to do laundry and instead of doing laundry, bought new underwear.
They’ve moved the bits and the bobs and the piles of crap and the stacks of shit from one side of the room to the other so they can take a picture of the clean, organised area of the room.
They’ve been alarmed at how bad their arm pits smell. In the middle of the day.
They’ve been sitting in a meeting, mindlessly touching the edge of their chin and found an inch long whisker that sprouted out of nowhere.
They’ve gotten pimples in their ear and only realised it when they put the phone to their ear too fast and with too much pressure and yelped out loud from the shocking pain.
They’ve had explosive diarrhoea in the middle of the afternoon from eating too much dairy.
They’ve done a Google search for a sweater Kristen Stewart wore in Breaking Dawn.
They’ve had diarrhoea and put their feet up on the door when someone used the stall next to them, lest they be recognised by their shoes as Someone Who Has Diarrhoea in the real world. (Why is knowing someone knows you have had diarrhoea the worst thing in the world?)
They’ve gotten awkwardly teary at work when “Must Have Been Love” by Roxette started playing on the radio at work because damnit Vivian just wanted to be loved.
They’ve left a blog post unfinished for 4 weeks only to delete it later.
They’ve failed Alegbra II. (twice!)
They’ve let the one table top surface become so covered in bullshit that they forgot there’s a table underneath it.
They’ve come up with a great come back, 6 weeks later.
They’ve gone to the grocery store specifically to get coffee, milk, and bread, and forgot to get coffee, milk, and bread.
They’ve suddenly come to, only to realise they’ve lost nearly 3 hours and have scrolled 6 years deep into Jenelle Evan’s Instagram.
They’ve had a serious emotional crisis in the grocery store deciding between shampoos.
They’ve waffled between 6 critically acclaimed, award winning, culture shifting movies and ended up binge watching both seasons of The Ashlee Simpson Show. Again.
They’ve spent 40 mins banging out paragraphs of contrary view points, laced with vitriol, in an email or a text message only to delete it all and type “ok that’s fine.” as they grind their teeth to nubs.
They also can’t parallel park without help.
They’ve, on a whim, followed a recipe to a T. They took no photos and put in no pizazz, and the recipe turns out great. They repeat the same recipe to a T on a staged surface, photographing everything, only to have it turn to shit.
They’ve almost shit their pants in public. They’ve had a side booger and no one said anything. They’ve felt frumpy and old standing next to someone better dressed, or someone who took a shower that morning. They’ve worked or are working bull shit jobs, they’ve been or are still being rejected. They’re facing heart break. They’ve felt small and neutered. They’ve known that this wasn’t their best, but they did it anyway. They’ve watched loved ones deteriorate from bad decisions or bad luck. Shit, even Beyonce was cheated on.
We are all people. And there’s no escaping the bullshit.
*they’ve also made an entire blog whinging about First World Problems, that, when compared to say, a child kidnapped and forced in to war, are probably the best problems to have.