Acorns to Oaks #12 – The Unhealthy Act of Comparison – and how to stop it.

Last night I saw two quotes on social media. They started a blog thought process that you are now about to read. They very much reminded me of this picture that I’d seen a while back, somewhere on social media.

Outside vs Inside

One of the quotes said, ‘The reason we struggle so much with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlights reel’ (Steven Furtick) and the other one said, ‘Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides’ (Anne Lamott).

Then this morning I had a conversation with a friend about how social media can be, ‘a slippery beast’, in that we get a lot from it but it can also make us feel so insecure and inferior. This was all followed this afternoon by a networking friend posting, ‘Part of the reason we struggle sometimes is because we compare our insides with people’s outsides’.

None of this is a coincidence, I’m sure of it, especially as three Emotional Freedom Technique and Coaching clients have this week also shared with me how seeing others’ lockdown lives on social media is making them feel anxious, emotional and, sadly, inferior and a failure.

Normally, I’m a positive, upbeat kind of person. I’m also a purveyor of those positive memes that encourage us all to look on the bright side of life. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But it’s not always a helpful or healthy thing either, to be only sharing and encouraging that side of life.

So, I’m not going to lie to you, this week has been tough. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve spent a lot of it in tears and wishing I could find a warm furnished cave somewhere, and just hole myself up. And I’ve been honest about it on my own personal social media pages, and in the groups I run, one being The Rising Oak – For Resilience, Wellbeing and Empowerment (come join us)

I reached the stage on Wednesday, hump day of week 4 of Lockdown, where as much as I love my children and my partner, I just wanted to be alone. I wanted to do nothing other than just sit and be. So on Wednesday I did. I sat. And I did absolutely nothing for 2 hours, in my car, on my drive, by myself. I was mostly crying, reading a bit and listening to a podcast for a bit more. It was honestly the most cathartic thing I’ve done for myself in three weeks. So much so that I’ve just got back in from another hour of car time, but this time without the crying!

A lot of how I felt on Wednesday was borne out of feeling very lonely, mourning the death of my grandma on what was the 12th anniversary of her passing, and the pressure I was putting on myself to be ‘the strong one’. I was also comparing me and mine to what I was seeing on social media.

My partner and I are both key workers (Social Worker and Substance Recovery Counsellor) and we spend a lot of our working life supporting people through these roles. I am also a Wellbeing Coach which I love and wouldn’t change for the world. But, it has meant that short of going for walks, making a cake 2 weeks ago, and helping my son make a small bath sized raft, we haven’t exactly been home-schooling-home-cleaning-tik-tok-videoing-art-and-craft-Goddesses. Our sons are having a grand old time doing work set by school on their tablets, playing in the garden, playing Lego and Imaginext, and riding their bikes…but our parent guilt has been high.

And much of this has come from looking at all the wonderful things that we keep seeing all over social media! I think the thing that tipped me over the edge was seeing a timetable of ‘events and activities’ that an acquaintance posted. It was enough to make me want to clothe myself in sackcloth and flog myself for being a bad mother!

And on Wednesday I broke. But during and after breaking, I realised several things. I realised that despite being a Social Worker and a Wellbeing Coach, and therefore supporting people through these difficult days, I am allowed to be human. I am allowed to be honest about how I feel, good or bad. And I am allowed to just be and just accept that that day was a ‘meh’ day. I am also allowed to say that today was great, and last weekend we had the best Easter we’ve ever had. I should not feel guilty for saying any of that. I can just be me, and let others be them, without inducing guilt in any of us.

When I posted this on my social media, two things happened. One was that I received a lovely amount of support from both group members and friends. The second was that people thanked me for being honest, and shared that in being so, I had enabled them to be honest too, which one person described as being, ‘a welcome release’.

But, isn’t sad that so many of us are feeling like this? What’s going on? And what can we do about it?

Honestly, I think that the perception we have of both mental health (which is largely negative) and the portrayal of life via social media (which is largely just the shiny bits) play a huge part in all of this. And that’s where we start to have the issues. Its a vicious cycle; during the tough times we feel shit, so we feel shitter when we see shiny lives presented before us. So we then post the shiny bits of our lives to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, and we feel fear and anxiety that we can’t show the cracks because we think we’re the only ones that have them. Then others just see our shiny bits, and so the cycle just continues for them and theirs, and so on and so forth.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am in no way saying don’t post your shiny bits. We absolutely need to see them, and I for one love seeing people’s successes and happiness. And I am also in no way saying just only post your cracks (there’s a few jokes in there I’m sure!) because that would make for a very depressing world.

But, maybe, just maybe, it’s about getting a balance. And that balance is called ‘being human; the good, the bad and the ugly’. It shouldn’t be ‘refreshing’ to see someone being honest and human. It should be absolutely normal. We shouldn’t be avoiding social media because it makes us feel depressed and inferior to see what others are up to. We should, and could, just share us, the real us.

Because we all know that what we present to the world sometimes is very, VERY different to what we feel or do in our bigger picture, behind the scenes. Wouldn’t it be lovely to enjoy seeing what others are up to, and empathising with and celebrating both their downs and their ups? To be able to say, ‘yes, me too’ when things get tough. To be able to say, ‘phew, I’m not the only one’ instead of feeling like we are. To be able to say, ‘fab idea, I’m doing that’. Or to be able to say, ‘fab that you did that but I’m fine not doing it’. And we should be able to do any and all of this guilt free.

Let’s take the pressure off of ourselves. And off of others. Let’s just be, and let others be, who we and they are; shiny bits, warty bits and everything in between.

In March, I wrote a blog called Coronavirus: Tips for Mind, Body and Spirit. You can view it her

If you’d like more information or to explore anything I’ve discussed here further, or some support as you navigate and manage Coronavirus or other issues, and your response to them, please feel free to contact me on 07523830377 or email acornacademy@btinternet.com. I offer a free half hour chat to see if coaching/EFT is for you. And check out www.acornacademycoaching.com for previous blogs, current services, and further information about both Wellbeing Coaching and Emotional Freedom Technique.

And above all, take care, be safe, and keep well

3 thoughts on “Acorns to Oaks #12 – The Unhealthy Act of Comparison – and how to stop it.

  1. Love this post. Keep doing what you’re doing! Can’t wait to catch up once this is all over. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Amy. And back at ya. Xx

      Like

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