It’s very easy in this world of constant digital access to other people’s lives and photos and boasts to feel that every single one serves as a direct comparison to your own life:
Have you had a delicious homemade brunch today, Charlotte? Hmm, well, @someoneyouwillprobablynevermeet has. Why is your morning time consumption so inadequate? Did you even think about taking a picture of your food before you put it in your face? Where are your priorities?
Hey, Charlotte, have YOU just landed yourself a sweet book/magazine/film/four-album deal? Hmm, well, @somedudeyoudontevenknow has. Why do you even bother conditioning your hair for this world if you’re not going to take it seriously?
And this all feels so much more personal because we’re having these words and pictures delivered straight to our phone and laptop screens whilst we sit at home watching old episodes of Not Going Out and eating, well, everything. It’s like these people have come round to our houses to tell us directly how well things are going for them, had a scathing glance at our peeling wallpaper and overflowing bin and then danced off down the street with their 300,000 followers trailing behind them. I mean, who does that?
But, of course, that isn’t what’s happening. Firstly, you opened the door. In fact, you invited them round to stay for as long as you’ve been following them which, if you joined Facebook back in 2005 like all the cool kids, is a chuffing long time. And you know that you could have them off your screen in a micro-second if you wanted to but that isn’t the point. It’s you that you need to feel OK with – your life, your achievements, your consumption of photograph-worthy brunches and cocktails – and then none of this will touch you. You’ll just give ’em a little ‘like’ or a ‘favourite’ and be on your way, rather than adding them to your personal file called ‘Reasons to believe I am fundamentally failing at life’ which, if nothing else, is a very long name for a file.
It’s easy to forget that people rarely use social media to acknowledge the baby steps it takes to make real progress towards realising your goals. You don’t get many updates that say “Sent a few emails out last week. Got a couple of replies saying no and one maybe, so we’ll see what happens” because that would be a) pretty boring b) who is going to retweet that? and c) nobody likes to admit just how much hard work goes into getting things done.
The loyal readers among you (Hi mum!) may remember that in January I wrote this post about my intentions to spend 2015 being much less afraid. And it is this very thought process that made me realise that I haven’t been doing so well at it. But now I think I know why.
Because I forgot that other people’s lives and successes have no bearing whatsoever on our own. And because I forgot that if you want to do something difficult – like get your teeth fixed (no, I still haven’t been to the dentist), or get more writing work, or attempt to do anything else which means making you vulnerable – it is going to feel a bit scary but that can’t be a reason not to do it. In fact, it should be all the more reason to go and bloody give it a try – because imagine how good it’ll feel when it turns out to be completely worth your while.
And if nothing else, any success you do get will make for some excellent social media posts. But remember not to be fooled – it’ll only ever be half the story.