There is a sinister menace lurking in the background of all our lives; one that is causing huge amounts of psychological harm and pain. Would you like to know what it is?
First of all, let me ask you something: how much of your true life and self do you reveal to the outside world?
When someone asks how you are, do you launch into a tirade about how you hate your nose, how you wish your partner was more considerate, or how you fear the passing of time and the emptiness of death?
When you are on Facebook, do you post photos of yourself crying, do you discuss your loathing for the job you’re in, and do you admit to the sense of loneliness you feel?
For most of us, the answer is no.
People generally seek to project a more serene appearance; a veneer of positivity and joy that they wish others to see.
But herein lies the trap: while you have complete knowledge of your own life and the flux between positive and negative, you only get to see the smiling outward faces of others.
The result? Untold opportunity to compare yourself unfavorably with the rest of the world.
And to the untrained eye, life appears far rosier for others than it does for you.
This behavior is hardly new, but it has reached epidemic proportions in recent years thanks to our ever greater access to the lives of others. Facebook and other social media channels have a major part in this evolution, but so too does the rise of reality television and the ever-growing cult of celebrity.
While, once upon a time, it was only your neighbors, close friends and colleagues with whom you compared yourself, you can now see into the lives of billions of other people.
And whereas your neighbors, friends and colleagues were all likely to enjoy a similar (relatively speaking) standard of living, the internet gives you access to those in completely different spheres of society.
Suddenly it becomes all too easy to see your perceived position in life drop rapidly as you witness the polished exteriors of the lives of others. And the more we are bombarded with picture-perfect moments captured and shared in real time, the more our self esteem comes under fire.
But here’s a truth worth remembering: when you look past the romanticized view we all project to the world, you’ll see that real life is actually quite uniform.
We all suffer anxieties and insecurities to some degree, and we all have ups and downs as we walk our paths through life. We all have to go through the banal motions of everyday existence, such as cleaning, cooking, planning, and organizing.
So, when you look at the lives of other people through the lens of social media or television entertainment, for example, you are making totally false and hollow comparisons.
You are not comparing apples with apples; you are comparing the knobbly, misshapen, blemished fruit of real life with the shiny, golden, prizewinning fruit of fantasy.
Do you see how meaningless such a comparison is?
If all you ever do is wish you had what other people have (or show you), then how could you ever learn to appreciate the wonderful things your life already contains.
If you could read the minds of other people, you would find that they are not so different after all. Regardless of their monetary wealth, their looks, their possessions, or their jobs, they are still just like you in many ways.