Thursday, March 6, 2014

Social Self Esteem

Everywhere you look, everyone is so happy!  They are going on vacations, eating amazing meals, getting fantastic gifts, seeing unbelievable places, starting new relationships, getting engaged, getting married, having babies, being praised by their spouses... the list goes on and on.  It can seem like everyone is having an incredible life except you.

Sometimes, everything that's happening in the lives of the people around me can get quite depressing!  Sure, I'm happy for that cousin who just started a new relationship.  I'm excited when a friend gets engaged.  I mutter something about sleep going out the window when there is a new birth announcement.  I complain to my husband about the woman who won't shut up about the amazing new diet and exercise program she's doing and I role my eye's when someone announces that they will be going on their 67th vacation this year (I might be exaggerating a little bit).  Then, someone will post about how wonderful their spouse is and how much they love them and, I must admit, I get jealous. 

Yes, there are some things I absolutely love about social media but there are some big things I hate about it too. 

When you are a person that struggles with your self esteem, seeing pictures of that gorgeous friend looking perfect and flawless can be just as difficult as walking past the fashion magazines at the grocery store.  Actually, in many ways it's harder because even thought the standards aren't quite as exacting, you know that Facebook friend is real and that they ACTUALLY DO look that good.  Hearing all about their perfect life with tagged pictures to prove it can be a little overwhelming. 

The problem with thinking this way is that even though we know these people and what they show us of their life is fantastic, it's only half of the story. 

I know I don't tend to see status updates like:
Cried myself to sleep last night.  Fighting with my husband again.  Sometimes it just seems so hopeless.  #iwantadivorce
I can't stand anything about how I look.  I feel so incredibly unattractive, there is no way someone could truly love me.  #eatingdisorder  #depression  #iwantplasticsurgery
Or how about,
My husband and I haven't been intimate in over a year.  Our marriage is a sham.  We don't even hardly look at each other anymore.  #heishavinganaffair
I know there are some people (you must have at least one FB friend) that posts far to much information about their life.  I'm pretty sure a few of my friends are hypochondriacs, or if not they might be dying, since they seem to post about going to the hospital almost every week.  Sometimes there can be string of conversation between friends that makes you a little uncomfortable as it gets more and more heated.  But, can you imagine what social media would be like if everyone used it as a forum for airing all their dirty laundry?  How depressing!  However, when things are the other way around and everything is always perfect and pretty....that can be hard too.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that there is more to people's lives than what we see on Facebook.  There are difficulties in every one's life even though we might not hear about it. 

There is one woman in particular on my Facebook that I struggle with being jealous of.  She is slender, confident, beautiful, popular, incredibly talented and has a handsome husband that regularly does amazing things for her.  In short she has all the qualities and characteristics that I wish I could have, all wrapped up in a perfect package.  I know her life is not perfect and that she has, for sure, had her share of hardship but that doesn't stop that little twinge of envy when I see another picture of her looking incredible. 

I believe that envy and low self esteem go hand in hand.  It's hard to hate something about yourself and not be just a little bit jealous of someone that has it.  This is why social media can be particularly difficult.  It is a constant barrage of all the best parts of the lives around us, polished and perfected and waiting for us to lust over. 

There are good things about social media though too.  It's wonderful to be able to reconnect with friends when the distance has grown between where you live.  It's amazing to share a laugh over something hilarious that a friend's kid has said.  I enjoy a good debate now and then over a hot topic of conversation.  I've also tried a few recipes that have been posted with great success.  The problem is how to balance the good and the bad. 

The only way to, for sure, reduce our level of envy is to improve our lives in the arias that we are envious about but in some instances that just isn't possible.  I quite often find myself thinking of the serenity prayer. 

At different points in life the portion of this that I struggle with most changes.  Sometimes I have absolutely no wisdom and I wind up thinking that I am totally stuck with something that would be quite easy to change.  Other times I do the opposite and try so very hard to change things about myself that are impossible. 

Courage can be quite difficult to build up when it come to confronting issues in our lives, especially when they involve the people we share life with.  Often the things they do will impact our lives in a very dramatic way but we have no control over their choices.  Even though their actions may not be a thing we can change, there can be a lot of value in speaking up about the things that are causing us discomfort.  That is where I usually struggle with building up courage, and instead of treating the situation as one where change is possible, I attempt to stir up some serenity and treat the issue as unchangeable.  Not so wise, if you ask me. 

Serenity tends to be the part of the prayer I struggle with the most.  I have a lot of trouble accepting some of the things about myself that just are not going to change.  It's taken me a long time to realize that even if I were to completely alter my way of eating and dedicate a vast amount of time to exercise I will never have the body that I have always coveted.  It's just not possible for me.  I have a larger frame and I store fat easily.  I know that I could be in better shape than I am now but it is not possible for me to ever reach what we think of in our culture as ideal.  Also, the amount of time and dedication I would need to commit to that pursuit would pull away from the time I could be devoting to much better endeavours.  Though I know this in my head, the serenity about it is taking a lot longer to develop.  I am getting closer though.

My husband told me that he had a conversation with one of his coworkers the other day about the illusion of social media as well.  They see people they work with, that they know make the same amount of money as they do, buying fancy cars, big houses, all kinds of toys and going on grand vacations.  It leaves them wondering, "what am I doing wrong".  Then harder times come along, they work less hours and take home smaller pay checks and suddenly they are in a panic.  They are finding they have cut things so close with their finances that they are in danger of ending up in real financial trouble.  I try to keep this kind of thing in mind when I see the picture of the new car that so and so just bought, or when the sunny vacation pictures pop up on my feed.  We don't know the whole story of that persons circumstances and, even if we did, who are we to judge.

There is always going to be someone out there that has something we would like.  It is not my job to go out and get those things though.  My task is to be content with what I have, whether that is a little or a lot.  I should be setting my eyes on the things that truly matter, people.  The relationships I make and the love I show is the only lasting thing of worth I am able to invest in.  I must strive to look not towards those that have more than me but to look instead at those that I can invest in.  I try to remember that even though the lives of those around me might seem to be perfect, their hearts are hidden and could, quite possibly, be hurting. 

So, I will strive to, instead of hoping to make myself seem enviable, become a source of joy and encouragement though social media.  I will attempt to see the underlying truth of the hurt that people hide and be a healing agent for them.  My hope is that social media can be used as a tool to bind us together in community and allow us to support on another through the tough times instead of pulling each other down for our failures.  I will try to be funny, to bring a laugh into the day of someone that desperately needs to smile.  I will attempt to dispel the lies that sometimes circulate in a manner that is tactful and not mean spirited.  I will attempt to be a real friend, instead of just a Facebook one. 

I know there will be times when a picture will still create a little twinge of jealousy or self doubt but I will do my best to squash that thought before it takes root and grows.  I believe that social media can be good and helpful, but only if we use it in a good and helpful way.  I have been quite pleased to note that, for the most part, the people I am associated with are already doing a lot of these things and there have been many times when I have been greatly encouraged by their support and love.  Now it's time for me to pay it forward. 


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