“You can spend your effort and energy endeavoring to prove yourself to yourself as well as to others. Whether or not the payoff you receive from that effort is worth it or not remains a question. Instead of expending all of that precious internal resource of energy on endeavoring to prove you are valid, validate who you are by growing and developing in your skills, capacities, and competencies. Set goals for yourself that bring out the more in you that you’ve yet to express and watch others pay attention.”
— Dr. Mark Chironna
This Facebook post was perfect timing for the ‘ah-ha’ moment I had yesterday. Social media and networking has been a useful little tool over these past couple of years of transition and growth for me. Almost like holding up a mirror to my own life and insecurities. On good days I could see the highlights of my digital companions and laugh, interact with and celebrate the accomplishments of others – weddings that were more glamorous than mine, new family additions, vacations to places I long to visit, new home or car purchases, achieving degrees more advanced than my own, among countless other things.
However on bad days, those exact same highlights would cause me to look at my own life and compare my circumstances to them [insert ginormous gasp here! ]. A tad bit insecure, perhaps? Yes….and I, the overcoming perfectionist, admit it. After all the first step is acknowledging you have a problem.
For most of my life I have been driven by this insatiable need to feel like I had it all together though deep down inside I knew I didn’t. Somehow learning to be a good kid in pleasing parents, teachers, and authority figures growing up morphed into something unhealthy as an adult.
I needed to feel like my family, friends and acquaintances perceived me as someone who had my life together for the most part. Seems like I had a ‘goody two shoes’ complex that I wasn’t aware of.
Whether people perceived me as such – I’m sure they all didn’t. Either way, I wanted to project the most ideal version of myself to the world. Social media is the perfect platform for everyone to do that nowadays. There is the exception of those who show up in our newsfeeds with nothing but drama (thankful for the unfollow, unlike, hide and unfriend features). For the majority of us, we like to share the best parts of our lives.
The comparison game is worthless and futile. The same people who post something you admire have their own difficulties they struggle with behind closed doors that they choose not to share. Knowing that still didn’t keep me grounded in reality when bombarded with posts of so many good things while struggling with my own personal problems. The happy posts probably looked much better than they were which made my issues seem worse than they actually were in my mind.
Then there are the sad posts and bad news. As a highly sensitive person, it is also easy for me to be empathetic to a fault and absorb the emotions of others. The posts about a sick or recently deceased loved one and the high school friend posting photos from a hospital bed soliciting prayers and well wishes would dampen my mood for the day.
Then I would realize the fallacy of thinking my life is worse than it is when I see others dealing with things more difficult than my own first world problems and consequently kick myself for being so shallow and ungrateful. There are actually many studies and articles about the affects that social media has on self-esteem and how it can be an unexpected source of depression and anxiety. In my ‘I have it all together’ attitude, I never thought I would be affected by it or even publicly admit it, yet here I am.
So as you can see I’m a mess. A mere mortal human with faults and flaws. There is no shortage of shortcomings here. Of course any sensible person reading this knows that, but I needed to put that out there for myself…like ripping off a band-aid. The good thing is that I’m learning to embrace the glorious mess that I am and in this process I’m opening myself up to healing and renewal (thanks to author Elizabeth Gilbert for this simple, but beautiful quote that speaks volumes). Let’s face it – life itself is messy!
The upside to all of this is that I belong to Jesus so I’m God’s mess and I thank him for taking me as I am and cleaning me up regularly. In my ah-ha moment it dawned on me how truly special that I am, but not in a narcissistic way. We are ALL special in our own unique way. Each individual has something good to offer if they tap into it. So it is a disgrace for any of us to compare ourselves to others. I’ve known this intellectually for a very long time, but my soul and emotions had a harder time grasping this concept, apparently until now.
It is our unique journeys and struggles that makes us who we are and that’s nothing to be ashamed about if you’re striving to be better than you were the day before. I believe that God in his infinite wisdom and abilities uses every highlight and especially the lowlights of our lives to make something beautiful and purposeful out of our existence on this planet if we allow him to.
When you understand that your messiness has a purpose, it makes it all worth it. I just hope that my gifts and quirks can help or inspire someone and make them feel a little less alone in this crazy world. To do that successfully, I’ll have to disconnect from being online more often in order to reconnect with what really matters – God, family & friends (face to face), and myself.
And I’m perfectly fine with that.