Last year I went on over 100 flights. I got to see Mt. Rushmore, zip-lined in Costa Rica, photographed wild horses in Wyoming, and was 100 feet from a blue whale off the coast of Cabo san Lucas. Also, along with speaking to thousands of college students around the country and in Canada and Mexico, I got to do a keynote for General Electric and American Express. Oh, and I fell in love…no big deal.
Maybe you saw my life in snapshots on Instagram. Or perhaps you read about some of the cool people I met on airplanes. Did you catch my Snapchat travel diaries? Cool, cool – I watched them, too. Looks like I had a heck of a 2016!
But what you did not see were my tears in my weekly counseling sessions. You missed self-loathing stuff I typed into a note in my phone from time to time. Also you didn’t know that while you were kissing the person you loved or a random stranger at midnight on New Years I was apologizing for ruining the night because I could not get out of my own way and spiraled into a dark place for a few hours. You didn’t catch that one of the reasons I was traveling so much was because I was ashamed that I moved back into my childhood bedroom for 6 months at the age of 33 because I was going through a divorce that I still believe was 90% my fault. I did not let you see my shame, my guilt, my low self-esteem. I did let you see my coping strategies, however. I guess social media is funny like that, eh?
I recently had a conversation with my friend, Kelly. Kelly is happily married and has three wondrous children. I was her RA before she transferred to a school closer to home with a better theater program. We have remained close and whenever I am in her state I make it a point to visit. On a recent catch up call with her she was telling me about her life. The fun things she has been doing with her kids, the way they make her laugh, and how she has to fold laundry while we are the phone because when the children are awake she gives them her attention. She told me about her husband’s new administrator position in the local middle school and how they go on dates to college basketball games every once in while. She skims over her life’s details and rushes through telling me about her world and then at the end says, “I’m sorry, I know my life is boring.”
My life is different than Kelly’s. It is different from yours. It is not better. It is not worse. It is just different. We are all allowed to want unalike things. I talked to Kelly about how just because she has three beautiful kids and I travel all of the time, or because she lives in a large beautiful home in suburbia and I reside in a “cozy” apartment in New York City, that neither of our lives is more fulfilling than the other’s. Social media has given us an exceptional platform to compare ourselves to others. This is not healthy, though.
We cannot allow what we see on social media to be the barometer for our self-worth.
We can be whomever we want on the internet. People post pictures of themselves next to cars that aren’t theirs, with tans they haven’t had in three months. But just because we can pretend to be something we are not, does not mean we will feel proud of that inauthentic choice.
Kelly and I kept talking and she said something like, “Well, I am going to keep posting pictures of my kids doing silly things and if people get sick of them then too bad, because my they make me smile.” Please keep doing just that, friend. Post about the part of your life that makes you happy, not because you think it’s going to make you look cooler. Being cool went out of style in high school.
Kelly is living the life she always wanted to live and she is super happy doing it. What more can we strive for in life than that? I would love be that happy in life. I am getting there but, as you read earlier, I have some action items to take care of to get there.
My life is better than yours because you think your life is not fun, exciting, busy, productive, or beautiful enough when compared to others. So yeah, my life is better than yours, but only because you think it is…not because it actually is. Keep doing you, boo.