“If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.”
-Charles de Montesquieu, writer/philosopher
I recently started reading a book called “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter-and how to make the most of them now” by Meg Jay. I started reading this book at a time that I have really been struggling with just life honestly. If you read my previous blog post, you know that I am graduating college in just 5 short months and doing that thing called growing up and getting a real job. This has gotten me thinking a lot lately about what I want for my life and who I want to be. And quite honestly, I’m exhausted. I’m so tired of trying to make my life seem so great. Don’t get me wrong, my life is great and I love my life, but I’m tired of trying to make it SEEM so great for other people. I know from talking with people and from reading this book that I am not alone in this struggle. Since the invention of social media the last decade, we have entered a new era of connectedness, but also of isolation. We feel the need to post about everything and have people validate us and tell us that we are making the most of our life. We get on social media and we scroll and scroll and simultaneously we feel worse and worse about ourselves. Why doesn’t my life look like that? She looks so much happier than me. Why can’t I look like her? Why can’t I have that? The comparison goes on and on. But remember my friends, social media is only our highlight reel.
I have to remind myself of this fact constantly. Social media was invented to share about the good things going on in your life and to be able to keep up with friends and family. Naturally, people selectively share on social media when good things are happening or when they do something fun. But what you don’t see is all the other things going on behind the scenes in their life. I know this is true because my instagram looks like I am just living my best life all the time and while I do believe I am making the most out of my time, there are a lot of things I struggle with that you would have no idea about by just looking at my profile. Someone might look at my profile and say I wish I was her, I wish I had her life because it looks so fun. But what you don’t see is the days I feel lonely, the days I’m crying, the days I feel so overwhelmed with life. I’m not saying we should start sharing this sad stuff on social media because I don’t think that’s the point, but we do need to remember that social media is a facade in a way. When we compare our lives to what someone’s life on social media looks like, we have to remember that their life probably isn’t as perfect as it seems.
This brings me to the quote I started out with. That’s the issue. We want to be happier than someone else. We want to have a better life than someone else. Instead of just caring about whether we are happy or not in ourself, we seek validation from others online to confirm that we are happy. We look to other people’s profiles to confirm that we are happier than they are and we are doing better. And when we see their highlight reel, we falsely believe they are happier than us. We think the grass is greener over there. If I could just have this, I would be happier. If I just looked like her, I would be so much happier. But if you actually talk to that person, you’ll realize they are struggling just like you are. The grass is actually the same shade of green. I saw a quote the other day talking about how we always say once I get this, then I’ll be happy. Once I graduate college and start my first job, then I’ll be happy. Once I get married, then I’ll be happy. But that’s a lie. We can all have hopes and dreams for the future, but we have to choose to be happy with our life right now. And we have to choose to be happy with living our life for ourself. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I don’t need to prove to the world that my life is so great. I just need to be happy with my own life and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
Now why do I feel this way? Why do so many people in my generation feel this way? Because of the shift that has happened over the past few decades and generations. The book goes more into detail about this if you’re interested, but I’m just going to talk about it briefly. In the past, the societal expectation was after you finish school to start your first job right away and soon after get married and start a family. There was no time in between that. But in the past 20 years or so, the societal standard has shifted. In some ways, this is good. For example, more women are being educated and having careers which is great. What has shifted is that now the 20’s are thought of as a time to have fun, live your best life, and have no responsibilities. The world will tell you to not rush into a career because you have your whole life to work. The world will tell you be carefree, to travel the world, to make the most of your 20’s. This is the struggle I was battling recently (and still am). I wanted to “live my best life” and “make the most of my 20’s” because these are supposedly “the best years of your life”. And while I agree, that while you are young and not tied down, you should take the opportunity to travel and grow, but you shouldn’t avoid responsibility. Despite what the world might tell you, the 20’s are not the time to live it up and have no responsibilities. The decisions you make in your 20’s matter and a lot of those decisions in this decade will determine how the rest of your life goes.
Society tells us that 30 is the new 20. They tell us that you can have fun in your 20’s and live carefree and then you can settle down in your 30’s. But it doesn’t work that way. You don’t just magically wake up one day when you’re 30 and suddenly have your life together. You can’t go from living recklessly and with no responsibility in your 20’s and expect to suddenly be ready to settle down, get married, and take on responsibility when you hit 30. Here is another quote from the book that really stuck out to me and honestly kind of shook me to my core.
“It is figuring out that while we were busy making sure we didn’t miss out on anything, we were setting ourselves up to miss out on some of the most important things of all.”
While we might have temporary enjoyment and satisfaction in our 20’s by “living our best life”, when we get to our 30’s and realize we don’t have the things we actually want in life that are going to bring us lifelong enjoyment and satisfaction, it won’t be a good feeling. Obviously, I’m not speaking from experience but I can see how this might happen. And the book has many anecdotes of people who testified feeling this way. And for me, realizing how much my 20’s do matter and will impact my life really goes hand in hand with my social media problem. Because I want my life to look so great on social media, I realize that it motivated me to be a person that I didn’t necessarily want to be. I thought I wanted to be that person because that’s what I saw others doing on social media and I wanted to “make the most of my 20’s” and have zero regrets. I realized at a recent event I was at, my main motivation for taking cute photos with my friends was solely to post on instagram and show the world what a great time I was having. Yes, of course I take pictures to have the memories to look back on it, but if I really look down deep into myself the motivation is more because of the desire to post and show how fun my life is.
And so like everyone else, I’m working on it. Awareness is the first step to growth and I’m so glad I have been increasing my self awareness lately. The timing of reading this book was perfect because I had been feeling exactly all these things I have been mentioning, but couldn’t put the words out there to describe how I was feeling and why I was feeling that way. But then I started this book and it just hit the spot. The author spoke directly to me and put into words what I’ve been feeling lately. I have to shoutout my life coach as well for my growth lately because I wouldn’t be where I’m at today or be so self-aware if it weren’t for her amazing coaching (linked her website here in case anyone is interested!).
And so with this knowledge, where do I go from here? Well just like the rest of us, I’m working on it. Small steps. I’m working on changing my mindset. This means reminding myself that I don’t need to post about everything I’m doing. It’s okay if the world doesn’t see this. I’m having a fun time and my life is fun regardless of if other people see. I’m also attempting to limit my social media use. I’m not sure if you have ever checked the stats on your iPhone for how many hours a day you are on social media, but the results might shock you. I know I was shocked to see how much time I was wasting on social media everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media in some ways. I’m not against social media at all. We just need to develop healthy boundaries with our social media use. I need to develop healthier boundaries for myself, my growth, and my sanity. My goal is to only have 30 minutes of instagram/facebook use per day. I’ve been doing it for about 2 weeks now. Most days I have done pretty good and stayed within my boundary and sometimes I find myself breaking the boundary. But I’m practicing and growing and it’s okay to mess up (any other enneagram 1’s/perfectionists out there who absolutely cringe saying it’s okay to mess up?).
So anyways, these are my thoughts. It was a lot. And if you don’t agree with something I said, that’s okay! I’m just sharing my reflections based on this book and how I have personally been feeling lately. Please know if you are feeling this way, too that you’re not alone! As for me, I’m going to keep taking it a day at a time as I start doing these things called “growing up” and “adulting”.
Just do today and remember, your life should not look better on instagram! You are in control of your life and at the end of the day what matters is that you are happy. And if you’re not happy, you have the power to change that and live the life you truly want to be living. Not the life that girl on instagram is apparently living. Not the life you think should live. But the life you truly, deep down in your soul want to live.
Texan On The Go