Do you ever get on Facebook, just to see what’s happening? As you are scrolling, do you ever tumble down the endless rabbit hole of despair as you look at everyone’s documented picture-perfect life? Do they appear happier than you? Do any of the comments in your mind sound like this?
That’s great! She’s an artist, and she’s opening up a gallery. She must come from money.
Disneyland? What a cute little family! How did they afford that when they don’t have that kind of money?
Oh, that’s a gorgeous wedding, even though that’s his third, and he’s not a widower.
Oh, wow! She finally had a baby at her age. That must have cost a small fortune.
She looks terribly skinny. Must be Lap-band. Lucky.
After being on Facebook or any other social media for that matter, do you ever leave after five minutes or an hour feeling like everyone is happier than you are? If you do, you may be carrying those feelings around for the rest of your day. Don’t feel bad. We all do it. All the time.
And then to make matters worse, out of habit or boredom or both, we do it again a few hours later to see if anything else has changed. And since it hasn’t, we still feel crappy. How do we stop this daily madness of curiosity, lack, and unhappiness?
We can choose something different and lean into these four steps.
Beware of the Online Fanfare
Although comparing our lives to others isn’t new, more studies such as that from the Stanford researcher/psychologist Dr. Alex Jordan are showing that it’s more prevalent and easier to become unhappy at other people’s perceived happiness. In fact, research shows that we overestimate our peer’s happiness and underestimate their challenges or unhappiness.
We habitually overestimate other people’s extreme happiness because we are only viewing the happy snapshots of their lives as their entire life. Then, we maliciously use this picture to compare it to the imagined lack in our lives. This is not reality in either case.
Don’t Stare and Compare
When you were younger and were staring at someone who was different, older, or disabled, you were told by your mom that it was not nice to stare. This wisdom still holds true. It’s not kind to stare at other people’s lives and compare them to yours.
You are a different human being with a different soul and goals. If you try to compare your life with others, it’s not like comparing apples to apples. It’s more like comparing a fork to lobster. Don’t do it. As the wise Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön says to use your freedom to “choose something different.”
Be Aware and Take Care
Doing something different can simply be the act of awareness that you first are comparing yourself to others, and it may not just be on social media. Notice throughout your day, where you compare yourself to others at work, at the grocery store, or in your neighborhood. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just be mindful of the act.
If there are areas in your life that you don’t feel satisfied with, then find someone you can trust and talk to them about your feelings. Also, if you notice yourself getting into a funk when you log on your social accounts, log out and take a few breaths. Then reflect back on yourself and ask, “What do I need in my life right now at this moment to bring me peace? If your mind says,“nothing”, then ask again. “What is the one small thing I could do at this moment to bring joy to my life?” And if you come up with nothing again, don’t panic.
Think about one thing that you like or love about your life. Next, think about what you are grateful for in your life. If you are coming up blank, look down at your hands. Think about how much they serve you and take care of you all day. Feel the gratitude that you can see your hands with your eyes. Then take a breath. And then another.
Take a moment to be grateful for your heart that is still working inside of you; that’s keeping you alive. Put your hand on your heart. Feel it rise as you breathe. Remember your heart is capable of many things. One of them is to keep you alive. The other is to share it with others. And this leads us to step 4.
Declare to Share
Chances are if you compare yourself to others there are millions of people who do the same and feel crappy. The fastest way to happiness is to share your new experiences. With new eyes of awareness, you will be able to notice others who are doing the same thing. Share your wisdom. Share your heart. Remind them why they are special to you. And by doing so, you come out of comparing and into love. And this is your happiness in action that will always be worth all the “likes” in a lifetime. Namaste.