Why You Never Win Playing the Comparison Game

I love social media. It’s brought me some neat opportunities. But, like anything, it has a bad part, and the bad part is that it’s, for the most part, a highlight reel. We see only the most exciting moments.

The other morning, I checked Facebook, where I saw someone’s engagement announcement. And photos. Photo after photo. The down-on-one-knee proposal, the sparkly ring, the smiling faces, the inundation of hugs from well-wishers. Everything perfect, everything beautiful, everything happy. I was thrilled for the couple. I enjoyed seeing their special moment, and yet I felt this twinge inside. I tried to ignore it, but the more photos I clicked on, the more this twinge grew. Ten minutes deep into social media, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I was consumed by jealousy. Ugly, raw, yucky jealousy. Instead of sharing in their joy, I wanted it for myself. I wanted their story, their happiness, their love.

In that moment, I transitioned from their engagement  story on social media to everyone in my life who is married. I began thinking about my friends who are, in my mind, so much further along than me, friends who have their own homes, children and a life filled with all the things that come with marriage. Then there is me: Single. No kids. No husband. No house. 27 years old, getting closer to the irrationally dreaded – 30! – each and every minute. And I felt this panic rise up inside me, the panic of feeling left behind while everyone is walking further and farther away into somewhere good and beautiful and warm. How would I ever catch up to them? Then, just as I was about to completely lose it, I took a deep breath. And just stopped. Stopped my mind that was racing 5,000 miles ahead of myself into depressing territory, where I imagined I’d be an old gray lady all alone in a cold room rocking back and forth knitting with no one around but my cats.

I reminded myself that everyone has a different story, a story filled with ups and downs and in-betweens. The problem with social media is that we don’t see the whole story. We see only the best. I reminded myself that no one’s story looks the same, and not one is better than another. Some day, I’ll have a special story to share about my own journey, about waiting, hoping and trusting that something good is ahead even when I cannot see it. The panic dissipated, and in its place I felt something else entirely: peace. My story, like everyone’s, would be my own. Yes, other people are where I want to be, and where I thought I’d be by now, but jealousy wouldn’t get me there any faster. It would just eat me up from the inside, consuming the most precious commodity a person has, which is joy. So, in that moment, I posted something on my Facebook wall that wasn’t a highlight. In fact, it was downright real: “Really battling today with the comparison game,” I wrote. The comments on that post reminded me that I’m not alone in this struggle. And for that, I’m really grateful.

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