I brought this topic up in one of the Behind the Screen posts at the very beginning of the year. I have been thinking about it a lot in 2016 and I actually mentioned it again in another post in January and the topic seemed to be something that resonated with you guys as well.
I wanted to write about this in an actual article and let you guys know what I have been doing to combat these feelings of online jealousy or insecurity.
I am not proud of feeling jealous or sad. In fact I hate it! I want to be a positive person not a negative person. I want to be happy for friends or family that experience wonderful things. I don’t want to compare myself to others and feel like I don’t measure up. Yuck!
These days social media just inundates our lives. You constantly see what everyone else has going on and it can be hard to take a step back and not feel sad that you don’t have the perfect backyard or the child that made the All Star team or the 5 Star vacation.
I actually work in social media as a blogger and that makes things a bit trickier. I have the personal and the professional side of social media to contend with. It is very hard not to feel inadequate when I scroll through Instagram and see other blogs doing amazing work, highly professional photography, huge brand partnerships and super loyal tribes of readers, spectacular growth… I want to be the person that cheers them on but when I am completely honest with myself, it can be so easy to reflect back on my own work and say- well I will never be as good as they are. And it goes downhill from there…
But I really believe you have a choice to either change your mindset or sit and feel sad in this life. In 2016, I set a goal for myself to be a cheerleader on social media and to cancel any and all pity parties.
I still have my moments from time to time but overall here are a few things that have worked well for me:
Stop Telling Yourself Stories.
I will confess I didn’t quite get Brene Brown*. Everyone loves her and quotes her and has read her books… I liked listening to her but never quite got it. She finally clicked for me on a podcast I was listening to when she explained the stories we create like this: She was driving past a neighbor’s house and waved happily at the neighbor. The neighbor turned and walked inside the house ignoring Brene. So now Brene’s mood was darkened and she started to think in her head- did I do something wrong? Did I offend her and she is angry with me? On and on these thoughts were spiraling in her mind and she was obsessing all day. Finally she gets home and has now worked herself up enough that she walks over to confront the neighbor.
What was the neighbor’s actual problem? I don’t remember the specifics but it was something silly like she had a headache that morning and was focused on getting Tylenol or whatever and hadn’t even seen Brene drive past 🙂 . This type of thing happens ALL THE TIME to me especially in social media. I will see something and invent a story in my head and then go down a long path that does not benefit me in any way whatsoever.
So I think it is important to recognize when you are inventing stories in your mind. Sometimes I see a party I wasn’t invited to or a group of friends that did something together and we weren’t included and my feelings get hurt. If I am feeling especially sulky I might start on the stories in my head- everyone else is happy and no one wants to be my friend, why wasn’t my kid invited and on and on. Super mature right?
So when these things happen and I start to feel a pang of jealousy, I try to take a step back and stop telling myself stories. No everyone doesn’t hate me and not want to be my friend. Perhaps I wasn’t invited to the party because the person already knew we had something going that day. Or perhaps a handful of people just happened to be going to the same event and decided to meet up. Who knows! The important thing is to step outside my own head for 5 minutes and look at something for what it is. “That sporting event looks fun, I should try to get tickets next time. I am glad those families were able to go and posted about it so now we can go too.” That is a very different message to send to yourself than “Everyone else does fun things and we are never included.”
*Brene Brown is a storyteller, researcher and author. Her TED talks about vulnerability are amazing, she has several books that everyone from Volkswagon to my yoga teacher quote and here is the podcast that finally clicked the message home for me.
Give Yourself Permission to Unfollow.
This isn’t a total solution but I know there are certain people that just get to you. Do you have that one person that just makes you feel bad? Maybe they are posting about amazing vacations and you are struggling to pay the mortgage or maybe they seem to have perfect children and yours are struggling through some issues at the moment- maybe you have gained weight and have someone that makes little digs or does those posts that pretend to encourage but really feel condescending or insulting? Perhaps the solution is to just unfollow that person. You don’t have to make a scene about it or even let them know. In Facebook you can highlight the person to unfollow but stay friends or hide posts. At the beginning of the year I cleaned out Facebook. I had a handful of friends that just complain or rant or share negative things or make me feel inferior. One of my friends from years ago would occasionally share these stories of animal abuse from the news. Seriously that stuff haunts me and and I just can’t watch it. So I didn’t want to be mean or hurt feelings but I simply unfollowed. She will never know and I don’t have to see the political tirades or think about the puppy that was subjected to unspeakable acts every time I look at my own dog. On the note of jealously in particular, we have a number of friends that are doing very well financially. Most of them are wonderful people that deserve every bit of success they have earned.
There is one family though that just makes me feel like it is a competition. I am sure they don’t mean to or perhaps I am inventing things in my mind but it just feels like you get a new Honda and the next day they have a new Porsche. You book a trip to Cancun and they are taking the summer off to holiday in the South of France… You get the idea. I felt childish when I first unfollowed them but honestly that particular family doesn’t bring joy to my life so I think it is OK to take a step back. So stop for a second and evaluate your social media- does it do good things for you or bad things to you? Do you see a few funny jokes, find a delicious looking recipe and congratulate a friend on her pregnancy and then sign out? That all sounds super positive to me. If you log out instead feeling inadequate and sad and discouraged… well maybe it is time for a break.
Again this isn’t a solution for everything but if there are one or two people that just feel negative it does not make you a bad person to unfollow or hide their activity. I have to tell you since I unfollowed that family on social media I have so much more patience and grace when I encounter them in real life.
You are in charge of you.
The truth of the matter is that ultimately no one can control how you feel except you. Is Eleanor Roosevelt right on or what? You have to allow people to make you feel bad. Ultimately I believe some people are born to be a bit more optimistic or positive in life and some people make the choice to be more optimistic and positive. Make the choice to see the bright side. When you are feeling like complaining or being sad or feeling jealous try to take a step back and think about all the wonderful things in your own life. I guarantee someone on Facebook feels envy from time to time when they see YOUR beautiful life.
In the case of our acquaintances that are always flashing about with money- I did unfollow on social media but I still encounter them frequently in day to day life. I secretly tell myself a little mantra “I am blessed and have more than I need” or something along those lines when I see them. In the past I would see them and say “Dang. Is that another new car? That one looks so swanky. I will never have a nice car like that. My car is old and ugly…” and on and on. I couldn’t help it! My mind would be off the races and all the sudden a happy day was a sad day!
I have found by changing my inner voice with positive affirmations helps a lot in how I react and how I feel about myself. I really believe what you say brings more of that into your life. Talk about abundance and joy and more abundance and joy will come to you.
So before you start feeling sad about what it looks like others have, try to change that inner voice from being jealous to being grateful for what you do already have.
Recognize the filters. Everything on social media is out of context. You may see a family smiling happily for the camera on some fabulous beach somewhere but honestly you have no idea what is really going on. Maybe they are in massive credit card debt to pay for that trip or maybe Mom is at her breaking point with bickering or maybe the resort isn’t what they hoped it would be or maybe they really are having a wonderful trip. Who knows what is really going on but I guarantee those same smiling faces have the same battles you do on a daily basis. You just don’t see it. Mountains of laundry, unexpected expenses, work stress and so on. Understand that I am posting good things on my Instagram. You will see the little bouquet of wildflowers my daughter picked for me. You won’t see the parking ticket I was furious about or the sink full of dirty dishes or my 8 year old sobbing because little sister broke something important to her. 😉
On a super personal note, I used to follow a certain blogger that really seemed to live the life. Tons of (I think) free trips/vacations, beautiful blog content, tons and tons of social media followers, expensive products that companies seem to just send her etc… I wound up sitting next to this blogger at a family event by chance and I was excited to see what seemed to be a perfect life in person. Well. I have to tell you she was incredibly unfriendly to me, the kids and husband that were always popping up with smiling happy faces on IG – she completely ignored, spent the entire meal on her phone and honestly that particular event was moderately fun. I enjoyed myself but it certainly wasn’t in a highlight reel for my life. In fact it didn’t even occur to me to post something about it on Facebook or Instagram.
Later on IG I was seeing beautiful photos of the exact event I was at that just made it look like so much more than it was. I was literally on my phone looking at these photos and thinking ” Man she really lives the life.” and then checked myself and realized that was my elbow in the photo! I WAS there. I really live the life too 😉 This particular person just has a gift for making things look amazing on social media. So again, keep in perspective that what you see is the best foot forward, filtered and edited.
Surround yourself with positive people. There are so many people in our lives that bring out the good. I love this quote from Jim Rohn and remind myself of this frequently. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you have positive, happy, productive people in your life it is so much easier to be positive, happy and productive yourself. Joy and gratitude are contagious as are sadness and misery.
I have a wonderful friend that just lost 25 pounds and I know she worked hard to hit that goal. I happen to be struggling to lose about 5 pounds so I am ready for summer but I feel so proud and happy for her. It didn’t occur to me for a second to feel jealous, instead I feel encouraged and motivated to reach my own goal. Why? Because of what she brings to the table as a person. She is lovely and open and friendly and doesn’t make it a competition so it is easy to feel happy for her. Those are the types of people that make me a better version of myself and the type of people I want to have in my life.
Success has no limits.
The one thing I have tried so hard to drill into my children is that we don’t bring people down, we lift them up. Recently both of my children started playing on a soccer team together. They each had an amazing game and one of them scored (4) goals and the other was a beast on defense and scored a goal of her own. I was absolutely bursting with pride because I know they have both worked hard and both tried hard and it showed that day. Instead of coming home to celebrate their success, my little girl starts to cry in the car “Mom! That was MY day and Addy tried to steal the spotlight by scoring all those goals!” And my older daughter was a little patronizing “Hey you scored one!” So not really genuinely proud of her sister. Sigh.
I tried to explain to the kids that there is enough spotlight for everyone. Mom and Dad have endless amounts of pride and love for them to both be wildly successful. There is no limit to the joy we feel when they are successful. Those of you that are parents know exactly what I am talking about right? You had no idea how much love you were capable of until those little tiny people came into this world. There is truly no limit to the joy your children bring.
I am trying hard to come from that place of abundance in my own heart when I interact with others on social media. Just because this blogger gets an amazing opportunity with a brand doesn’t mean there is nothing left for me. In fact it means other brands might open up to that possibility, it gives me a chance to strive to do better work. It opens the door for new and maybe even better opportunities. So I guess the bottom line is that someone’s success doesn’t take away from what I have or what I can achieve.
Limit your consumption of social media.
I read recently about a college university that decided not to offer a scholarship to a young athlete because they checked his social media accounts and determined he was tweeting, Facebooking and Snapchating sixteen times per day. They decided he wasn’t focusing on important things because he was clearly obsessed with social media.
I really took a hard look at myself and decided I was really getting lost in Instagram and Facebook far too much during the day. I had a constant habit of clicking the Facebook app whenever I picked up the phone and I might waste 10 minutes or more mindlessly scrolling. Do I have that kind of time to waste? Nope. I have 8 million other things that I should be doing instead. So to break the habit of constantly checking Facebook, I just took the app off my phone. I can still check it by opening a browser and searching Facebook but that is more work than just clicking an app. I find the same on my laptop. If the tab is open on my computer, I check it often and lose my train of thought and my productivity is in the toilet. If I close the tab on my computer, I usually forget about Facebook entirely until it comes time to update things for the blog.
So I guess the last tip is to just evaluate if certain social media sites are just taking over your life. If you are constantly checking for the number of likes or getting notifications for every single friend that updates or whatnot, maybe ask yourself if this is healthy and if this is taking away from more important things you could be doing.
I am not suggesting you quit social media by any means but maybe just an honest check in with yourself to see if you really are spending a healthy amount of time on things. If I check Facebook (6) times a day and get sucked in for 10 minutes each time, well that is an hour I could have spent at the gym. Or cleaning my house. Or taking the dog for a nice walk. Or tickling my girls. All things that bring me more joy.
These things have helped me to become a little closer to the person I want to be. I hope they help you as well!
Our stories might not be the same but this era of social media is something that we are all navigating together. Do you have any other tips to share on how to combat feelings of jealousy online? I’d love to hear them!